Tatiana Trouvé: The Great Atlas of Disorientation at the Petach Tikva Museum of Art, Petah Tikva, Israel.
On view June 7 through September 29, 2018.
The first notions that come to mind when thinking of Tatiana Trouvé’s oeuvre are an extreme delicacy, restrained violence, and an overwhelming sense of ephemerality, which cannot be reconciled. In her work, Trouvé investigates the relations between time and space through the creation of enigmatic environments that rely on logical, architectural, and material disruptions. These environments are given expression both in large-scale drawings and in large-scale, mostly site-specific installations. The constant vacillation between the drawings and the sculptural and architectural installations creates a sense of flow from one medium to another, of the reflection of one action in another, and of the commingling of ostensibly disparate worlds. The various spaces created in these works contain the concept of time in various ways – spatially, semiotically, and poetically, as if attempting to map what has vanished and no longer exists—perhaps even oblivion itself. These spaces could be said to constitute containers of memory, by means of which Trouvé seeks to momentarily grasp the transience that is immanent to the passage of time. The presence of the body is clearly evident in her works, though the body itself is never present in the space.
The exhibition at the Petach Tikva Museum of Art features two large-scale installations by Trouvé that are each site-specific in their own way. Upon entering the first space, the viewer comes upon a cracked, broken surface on which several sculptural objects are scattered: temporary shelters of sorts cast from used sheets of cardboard in bronze, aluminum, and copper. Affixed to the sides of these structures are old diaries, various objects (a soap, a compass, and so forth), and additional material elements. Some of these surfaces bear the imprint of Trouvé’s actions in the form of maps and signs, which refer to a wide range of time periods and cultures. So, for instance, in the work Somewhere in the Solar System (2017), the roof of the structure is imprinted with a map created in 1704 by the 17th-century adventurer Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri. This map, which charts the imagined trajectory of migration taken by the Aztecs, is superimposed upon maps that delineate contemporary migration routes. Another work, whose title is identical to that of the exhibition, The Great Atlas of Disorientation (2017), features celestial navigation maps, a geological timeline, a phylogenetic evolution chart, a timeline for the end of the world, a mandala drawn by Carl Jung, and more. Other works follow the tracks of a mission supposedly sent to space by NASA in 1973, maps of the solar system, and numerous additional elements—a wide array of intellectual and cultural associations that assume a material dimension.
The works trace historical events that actually took place, while also producing memories for events that may have never occurred. In this sense, they oscillate between history and fiction, a general stance and a particular stance, while existing as both conceptual representations and narrative carriers. Much like the doubts that accumulate concerning the reliability of the sources of information or the described events, the weight and materiality of the works are elusive. At first glance, they appear light, ephemeral, and made of cardboard, whereas in fact they are cast, welded, and composed of especially heavy materials.
From a structural perspective, these sculptural objects are basic, minimalist constructions, which offer only partial shelter. They are not entirely closed off from the outside, and thus do not produce an actual interior, but rather an interrelated exterior and interior that invade one another. In this sense, the works offer a series of new perspectives on the world—partial, changing perspectives that swirl and emerge out of one another, offering a fundamental contrast to the omnipresent gaze offered by the structure of the panopticon, for instance. As mentioned, the various sculptural objects are scattered throughout the space, set on a cracked, broken surface, due perhaps to the passage of time, or to some apocalyptic event. The surface imbues the space with a degree of disquiet, a sense of implicit danger, that arises both from one’s awareness of the geological movement of the Earth, and from the care that the viewer is required to exercise while moving through this post-apocalyptic sphere. The body of the viewer thus reacts directly to the works and is denied the seemingly neutral position of spectatorship that is historically related to the concept of the white cube.
The space carries the tension between softness and rigidity, permanence, and transience, catastrophe, and utopia—as well as between past, present, and future. Above all, it raises questions concerning perspective, time, and memory. The suggestion embodied in it is conceptual, meditative, and inevitably also political since the exhibition explores the concept of home and raises acute questions concerning displacement, immigration, and the quest for a larger cultural context and meaning.
The titles of the works attest to a persistent and ongoing quest for possibilities and alternatives involving multiplicity and contemporaneity. Thus, for instance, History Map of the Interworld (2017) presents us with a state of expansion and transgression. It produces an additional, ex-territorial sphere, which is at once present and absent. The Great Atlas of Disorientation offers a system for the cartographical mapping of what cannot be mapped, cannot be ordered. Thus, the tension between knowing and not-knowing, between existence and potential, runs through these works as it does through Trouvé’s overarching artistic strategy.
In many of Trouvé’s exhibitions, an object titled The Guardian is located near the entrance to the space: a cast chair into which a long copper pole is assimilated as if sunken into the seat—replacing the human presence that is supposed to occupy this space and effectively impeding the functional use of the chair. Other objects that frequently reappear are ones related to the human body—a mattress, pillow, or blanket—objects that are supposed to provide it with support or protection, yet are all isolated, detached from the body, and fossilized. In this exhibition, The Guardian is not present, and the space appears as an abandoned, emptied non-place in which there remains nothing to guard. The present-absent dimension of this missing work, as well as of the temporary structures scattered throughout the space, calls to mind the notion of the uncanny, whose very essence involves a recurrent concern with boundaries and especially with their crossing.
The entrance to the first exhibition space is akin to entering one of Trouvé’s large-scale drawings—works featuring a vast open space in which smaller, circumscribed spaces are both demarcated and invaded—as the spaces in Trouvé’s drawings always offer multiple possibilities, involving fluid movement among different worlds.
The transition to the interior space, which features the work Prepared Space (2018), amplifies the sense of immersion within the work, since the action of drawing that was already identified in the temporary structures, such as The Great Atlas of Disorientation, seems to have expanded in space, covering the entire floor and walls and totally enveloping the viewer situated within it. The entirely white space is marked by trajectories, long slits into which spacers, borrowed from the world of architecture and construction, are inserted. The various trajectories intersect and come together to form an abstract navigation map with several vanishing points, which is in fact a mathematical drawing that always includes a set number of trajectories. The spacers inserted into the work usually serve to fix supporting beams prior to the casting of concrete, and are assimilated into the cast as it is made. In this work, they are stripped of their function and remain exposed to the gaze as they punctuate the space.
Whereas in the work 350 Points Toward Infinity (2009) Trouvé made use of a pendulum, which is activated by the Earth’s magnetic field, and repeatedly diverted it to create an alternate field of tension, in this work she makes use of a simple, widely available, and familiar tool, which she transforms and converts by casting it in bronze while simultaneously detaching it from its functional context. These small elements thus vacillate elusively between the readymade and the unique, the found and the produced, the functional and the conceptual, as they are transformed from a concealed element in the construction process to a significant element, which carries and organizes the entire work.
The work Refolding (2013), which is located almost inconspicuously in one corner of the space, is a bronze and concrete cast of a pile of folded emergency blankets and cardboard boxes, which appear ready to be disposed of after use. Both the blankets and the boxes, which are designated for wrapping and containing, are transformed in this work into rigid and condensed surfaces that are folded in upon themselves, acquiring a different formalist meaning. Surprisingly, however, they are still imbued with an awareness, or memory, of the softness they carry and the tactility they represent.
In his book The Road (2006), Cormac McCarthy repeatedly describes the few blankets remaining in the hands of the father and son, nameless figures making their way towards the sea and leading the plot, in a timeless time following the end of the world. At the conclusion of the book, upon the father’s death, one of the blankets serves as a decisive narrative means of creating a new horizon of hope. Here too, in the exhibition space, the blankets offer a form of solace; a kind of possibility, or chance, of active human presence.
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Website: Petah Tikva Museum of Art | Trouvé