|RERO. "The invisible is in the visible beyond the look." Backslash Gallery, Paris. February 2014. Photo credit: Caitlin Bruce|
RERO, a French street artist, is known for his strike-through text, inscribed within (and upon) prestigious art institutions such as the Centre Pompidou and the Grand Palais, as well as abandoned spaces (Backslash Gallery Exposition Summary). His current exhibit at Backslash Gallery in the 3eme arrondissement explicitly experiments with the perceptible, the imperceptible, and the erased. Arial style font inscribed upon metal, paper, wood, and wallpaper, witty phrases taunt, tease, and escape the viewer (and their camera). Through difficult to read color combinations, or the actual use of physical barriers, RERO makes it hard to access his various texts.
|RERO. "From word to deed..." Backslash Gallery, Paris. February 2014. Photo credit: Caitlin Bruce|
First, RERO's use of physical obstacles in the gallery space transform it from a space of pleasurable looking, to one of uncomfortable deciphering.
|RERO. Long view, upper floor of gallery. Backslash Gallery, Paris. February 2014. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce|
|RERO. "Je vous attends dehors..." Backslash Gallery, Paris. February 2014. Photo credit: Caitlin Bruce|
|RERO. "La nature prefere les ____ aux impasses." Backslash Gallery, Paris. February 2014. Photo credit: Caitlin Bruce|
In a recent Artforum piece, Lauren Berlant explores the ellipsis:
Oh yes, the ellipsis! I’ve been working on ellipses as infrastructures of relation. When I saw the black balloons in Forlesen, I had to laugh, because they appear as a kind of exploded ellipsis, and Ellipsisturned out to be their title. Pope.L was playing with the flesh’s thingly temporality. At the opening, all of the black balloons were inflated, and by the end the helium had gone out of them and they were all on the ground—shriveled, sexual, uncanny and more, but not identical. That’s part of the show’s orchestration of negativity too. The balloons look like afterthoughts, the way they are scattered, because they don’t take up the same kind of concentrated monumental space as the big wooden cock. And yet…The thing about an ellipsis is that it has a set of contradictory meanings.An ellipsis is a sentence that I don’t end because…I don’t know how to.An ellipsis is a sentence I don’t end because…you know what I mean.An ellipsis is a figure of return that isn’t symmetrical.Ellipses might be a figure of loss or plenitude: Sometimes it is more efficient to go dot dot dot. Sometimes it’s also a way of signaling an elision. Sometimes the referent is beyond words.The ellipsis, Berlant muses, serves as an "infrastructure of relation," that "has a set of contradictory meanings...a figure of loss or plenitude" that sometimes may be "beyond words." As a reading method for thinking relation in a way that allows thought to continue to move and grow, the ellipsis can serve as a visual sign of the not-yet-finished, a signal of an idea's non-sovereignty, or a space of reduction or "efficiency." In "Error in the Title," RERO's pieces leverage ellipsis in the context of charged normative (struckthrough) terms, such as "ESCAPE" but also in more enigmatic, seemingly less risky contexts.
Ellipsis, for RERO, also figures as a space of suspension, literal and affective. Many of the texts are suspended in a plastic laminate, white on white, only distinguishable from slightly protuding from the page, and difficult to capture with camera, as they attract the florescent gallery lights and cause glare.
|RERO. "I can't believe in my words." Backslash Gallery, Paris. February 2014. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce|
A similar gesture is adopted in the piece adjacent:
|RERO. "Don't tell me the truth." Backslash Gallery, Paris. February, 2014. Photo credit: Caitlin Bruce|
|RERO. "Something will happen here..." Backslash Gallery, Paris. February 2014. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce|
The piece above notes: "This work presents a landscape in which swarm toxic things and pollutants: Their invisibility is not an indication of their non existence. Their realities play in all manner of ways in the sphere of the invisible, and it gives to their presumed presence a space that is quasi-unlimited..."
The invisible is not the non existent. The invisible creates an unlimited space of play, but also toxicity, the deadly pollutant. Positioned next to a (seemingly) empty canvas of burlap, in juxtaposition the space of apparent emptiness is referred to a space that contains a landscape of pollution, invisible but real.
In the exhibition write up, the curator quotes Pascal Quignard: "To write is to hide a message, to confide to external memory that which does not make any noise, that which buries the words, as if they sleep, in a space for waiting, reserved for that one who will find them because he knows the code that allows him to bring them back to life."
"Ecrire c'est cacher un message, le confier à une mémoire extérieure qui ne fait pas de bruit, qui ensevelit les mots, comme endormis, dans une attente, résérvés à celui qui saura les trouver parce qu'il connaîtra le code permettant de les faire revivre."
As a closing ellipsis, a piece that directly signals RERO's attachment (however ambiguous) to a graffiti lineage is disclosed.
|RERO. "Une contradiction pour chaque graffiti et chaque graffiti a sa contradiction..." Backslash Gallery, Paris. February 2014. Photo credit: Caitlin Bruce|
It observes: A contradiction for each graffiti, and each graffiti has its contradiction...
A repositioning of the Marxist law of contradiction, of materialist dialectics, the phrase points to the repetition and becoming, rule of identity and difference contained in any and every object. "Development arises from the contradictions inside a thing," Mao Tse Tung notes, attempting to explain historical change outside of a bourgeois frame. RERO's mobilization of the law of contradiction could be read to align him with Marxist ideology. It can also be read more ambiguously as a textual strategy, being and non being, writing and striking out, that is concluded in an ellipsis or a gesture towards a future thought that may (or may not) be the undoing of the prior thought. Mobilizing graffiti style across spaces in a way that undoes its own polemic, RERO uses legible text to create a site of laborious reading and uncertainty, working against its seeming transparency. Using the space of the gallery as active participant, RERO also draws attention to the protocols of visibility and invisibility that shape spectatorship in a high art venue. Strike throughs and ellipses render unstable polemical interpretation, as well as the sovereignty of the viewer. Pleasurable, frustrating, and hard to locate, "Error in the Title" is a provocative meditation on signification, invisibility, and the potential.