|Cabinet d'Amateur. Paris, France. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce|
Lille- Hors les Murs, a collaborative show with Jef Aérosol, Mimi the Clown, Mister P, and David Veroone, at Cabinet d’Amateur from March 27th to April 18th, offers a diverse exploration from Lille artists of small format experimentation in gallery-based street art. The idea of street art being located in a gallery may seem contradictory at first glance. Street art, historically, in France, functions as an intervention into the street, a critique of order, a spontaneous outbreak of public communication that is immediate and raw. Over the past forty years, however, street art has come to achieve a relatively established, although still peripheral, place in the French art scene.
|Jef Aérosol Piece. Jimi Hendrix. Cabinet d'Amateur. Paris, France. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce|
At the vernissage I had the opportunity to speak with David Veroone and Mimi the Clown.
David produces what he calls “urban calligraphy,” text based works that he develops from a process of “automatic writing” or “écriture automatique.” He explained:
“I read something that I find interesting all day, and then I write a phrase or idea, all mixed up, through automatic writing, over and over again…this expresses the emotionality of the day.”
|David Veroone. Sans titre. Metale. Cabinet d'Amateur. Paris, France. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce|
Largely based on a handwritten cursive style, David’s works invoke the power of the handmade to contain traces of affective charges. Yet, they are only ever traces. One can glimpse an energy or urgency in David’s texts, but they only exist as a visual residue, not a conative field. He dispenses with punctuation, spacing, and sometimes even word order, making the works opaque with regards to the texts from which they are derived.
|David Veroone. Close up. Sans titre. Metale. Cabinet d'Amateur. Paris, France. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce|
In addition to stencil (pochoir) and printed works, the piece of which David is the most proud is one of his metal installations. This work required intense labor, carving out curling letters to allow the words to take on physical and (limited) dimensionality.
Mimi the Clown was in fact dressed as a clown: but not your sweet, stupid, children’s clown. He is a clown that is acerbic, from a Comedia del Arte and punk lineage, a clown that reflects the farce of the political moment and throws it into relief as precisely that: mere spectacle.
Speaking with Mimi while he smoked a cigarette he embodied the very clown he represents: a little sad, with underlying uneasiness. What he described as a clown who was "énervé et triste," pissed off and sad.
Mimi the Clown has a variety of works on display: canvas pieces, prints grocery leaflets, francs and dollar bills, all of which are marked by the visage of the clown who is leering, laughing, manifesting skepticism, with the kinetic scratchings “MIMI” in the background. These works on canvas are also studies in color for Mimi who usually works in “black, white, and red.” But “for a painting to be a true painting, it must have color.” The canvasses offer an opportunity for “intellectual” work on color in preparation for an upcoming show in 2015.
|Mimi the Clown. Paint and stickers on canvas. Cabinet d'Amateur. Paris, France. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce|
Both David and Mimi the Clown’s works play with what it is to transform something ordinary, be it a word, a phrase, a dollar bill, an advert page, or a series of letters, into an object. The elevation of that which might be merely read, or discarded with the mail, to the level of a work of art is highlighted as a process that requires the gallery as a sanctifying context.
The two artists’ works, however, work at different levels of political specificity. Veroone’s refers to an almost ontological capacity for human expression, recognition, and needing to leave a trace in dwelling spaces.
Mimi the Clown’s work, on the other hand, asserts a reactive, historically specific critique of the spectacularization of politics that renders us all clowns (in the bad sense of the word) as dumb, stupefied, and silly without being critical. His works on canvas which bear the frenetic scratches of his personality’s name, faces contorted and pushing outward from their two dimensional plane, bespeak a more contingent need to work against forces of order. I noted that his figures, with shaved head and upturned chin, evinced a punk aesthetic.
Mimi the Clown. Canvas and paint. Cabinet d'Amateur. Paris, France. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce
“Have you heard of the Berurier Noire,” he asked? I had not. “They were a super well known group in the 1980s, critical of the FrontNationale. They often had clowns on stage with them, with the red noses of pigs.” The exhibit, which opens three days before the end of Mayoral elections which are heralding a radical increase in rightist, specifically Front National sympathies, points to a (returning) need to be critical of forces of policing, domesticating thought.
|Spectacle. David Veroone. Cabinet d'Amateur. Paris, France. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce|