For the first time, Joëlle Flumet will be working with Andreas Kressig. The two artists have proposed an on-site intervention on the second floor of the Center for the Contemporary Image. Their collaboration, which involves a series of drawings by Flumet and a series of animations based on the drawings by Kressig, is meant to play with the venue’s architecture and its possibilities.Flumet’s drawings plunge us into an odd domestic universe. At the center of her strange world lies the object: a mirror, a folding screen, an armchair, a table, a wall, objects or architectural elements that are functional first and foremost and whose use, on the face of it, harbors neither secret nor surprise. And yet…
These large-format drawings depict figures in indoor settings which are easily identified thanks to the stereotypical furnishings (living room, kitchen, office, and so on). Flumet’s use of the clean-lined vectorial drawing and the broad areas of saturated color offers a clear-cut view of the situation; surfaces are sharply delineated while no details clutter up the scene, suggesting restraint and rigor.
Yet this apparent legibility, tinged as it is with a certain decorum, is quickly disrupted, unexpectedly contradicted by the odd position of the figures or their strange activity, making us reread with a fresh eye the theoretically harmless activities in a context that has now become incongruous, and vice versa.
If the situation does become singular it’s because the action taking place there is decontextualized (people don’t normally practice abseiling while blindfolded and in an office!). That singularity is at odds with its representation, which is squarely situated in a generic or typological register. And the opposite holds as well. An interesting tension arises from this dual movement for it pokes fun at the very idea of leeway or discrepancy, and inevitably engages the viewer’s critical eye (1).
Flumet likes to work by series. In each, through a precise, minimalist mise en scène, she introduces a possibility of incompatibility in the use of the object. Her Mobilier (Furniture) series from 2004 plays havoc with our expectations by offering us situations that are uncalled for to say the least… That woman, for instance, shown scaling her bookcase or the couple comfortably installed in their living room, each of whom is armed with a hunting rifle.
Then there’s Voyance (2004), which features a range of preposterous situations in which the very term “voyance” (clairvoyance) enriches its semantic field with new beliefs by playing on the association of ideas. We see a woman and a man in a suit bent over a crystal ball in a stately room that looks like a presidential office…
Aménagement du Territoire (Town Planning), another series dating from 2004-05, makes use of the idea of compartmentalization and its opposite. The piece forces into one and the same space, or rather onto the same plane of reading, two dissimilar spaces. By weaving a decorative-like visual link between the inside and the outside (which we see through a window or broad picture window), the represented space merges not only interiors and exteriors, but also the representation devised for them.
Flumet generates a displacement of surfaces, a shift of planes, which create an unstable domestic world thanks to the proximity she engineers: a garden pavement spills into a living room, or wallpaper with decorative bird motifs adjoins wood panels on one side and a French door on the other that opens onto a sham exterior. The viewer no longer knows where exactly the wallpaper begins and ends.
As for Flumet’s series Hors-Limite (2005), by associating tidy, spic-and-span office interiors with extreme sports, the piece emphasizes even more the break in the tenuous connection that seems to link our activities with our surroundings and validate their pertinence. Hors-Limite thus invites us to broaden our horizons or at the very least become aware of their narrow confines.
These unusual combinations between an activity and a context evoke an unexpected chain of relationships which the eye quickly catches and the imagination seizes on in order to envisage the resulting critical force and measure the dramatic potential. Picking up on the detail that doesn’t quite fit, the viewer is thrown into a loony story and realizes the fragility of the connections making up the surrounding world. The merest trifle and the whole thing suddenly tips over into a new state.
Joëlle Flumet, Sans titre (securitas), série I would prefer not to, 2007
Flumet certainly has a sense of humor and can, without seeming to, mercilessly tear into a dominant way of living and doing that is touted as the norm.
There is then a norm or norms in force which, if they exist, inevitably refer either to something beyond the norm or to a fringe, marking out both deviance and freedom. And it is that interstice that Joëlle Flumet explores, testing the effect of the minor discrepancies and shifts that she orchestrates with intelligence.
Isabelle Aeby Papaloïzos
(1) …my drawings attempt to render something that has both the singular and the common about it, that contrasts the complexity of the particular case with its generic, categorized representation. I question these two points of view by testing the elasticity of that margin: at what point is a certain behavior considered deviant?” Joëlle Flumet
Sans titre (fête),
série I would prefer not to, 2007