A few highlights from Zou5# 22-23 of August 2015.

30/08/2015 § Leave a comment

Lucy Lippard, once said that we can generally understand the history of modern art as a series of ‘escape attempts’ where the desire of the artist is to short-circuit and outwit the established modes of institutional display that sustain the bourgeois art system. These ‘escape attempts’ are employed to try and recapture a lost immediacy of experience and transcend materialisation which strangles our modern life with its various forms of distraction and deception. By circumventing the gallery or market, the work of art would be able to free itself of the corrupting influences of commodified reification and various ideological preconceptions and provide viewers with an unadulterated vision of the world otherwise unavailable in everyday life. LN Le Cheviller and Michel Gayout seeking this latitude set up the Hammeau de La Brousse in 1993 in the valley of the Échelle river, Sers.  The perfect setting to bridge what Robert Rauschenberg called ‘the gap between art and life’.

Three times a year LN and Michel host ZOU an exhibition which celebrates art in all its forms.  This year a talented group of artists came together to exhibit interventions, installations, land art, music, film, drawing, embroidery, painting, photography, sculpture and performance.

Now in its fifth iteration ZOU works like a collective with democratic governance.  Every artist shares skills to make the exhibition come to fruition; from designing the artwork and creating a web site, to installing the works and the running of the bio cafe.  There is a friendly welcome from everyone exhibiting in the gallery/cafe space, park and gardens.

The first exhibit is a work by LN Le Cheviller entitled Déchets (Waste)  A large expertly clad building made from recycled bark. It is the ideal opening piece as it immediately tackles head on the tie between artistic creation and environmental issues. A sui generis eco-gesture which echoes through out the whole exhibition for those artists concerned with sustainability.

Zou installed a pop up cinema in a cave.  Four diverse respected animators; Emma Vakarelova, Cécilia Pepper,  Marie Bouchet and MIKA entertained audiences with engaging and compelling stop motion shorts the whole weekend. Screening the moving images in the cave was a nice nod to the valleys ancient ancestral past where images of horses and boars were discovered carved into the stone walls nearby.

Before her performance Brigitta Horváth prepared herself by meditating in a wooden shelter by the stream. She then signalled viewers to come in.  She was lying on her shoulders with her legs overhead and arms resting on her ankles.  She lay there quietly for more than five minutes. Then moving extremely slowly in organic evolving contortions she allowed her body to take different forms as she moved around the space.  She occasionally  twitched like an insect. Thoughts of birth and growth went through my mind as she nestled her face against the soil.  Above all the artistic mediums the body is the best at portraying the immediacy of the emotional state.  The performance which lasted 1/2 hour was a breathing space for the viewer and a comment on the peace to be had by really looking and being absorbed in the moment.  Brigitte exited the shelter arms raised and spine arched as her body lead her to the stream.  She slowly lowered herself down and crept amongst the foliage.  The water flowed over her body as she sang.  It was a stunning and intimate performance.

Traditional methods of viewing art focused mainly on artists and their style. In contemporary thinking there is a move away from this cartesian model to a wider remit which encompasses many methodologies; how art is made; art as process; art theory, visual theory and cross disciplinary innovation.  The result of this recalibration continues the discussion around  ‘what is art’.  There is a full scrutiny of the materiality of visual objects, of the corporeal effect, an architectural and spatial awareness,  political and ecological considerations and most importantly the theory around its cultural reception.

The artists at ZOU are part of this new contemporary thinking raising these issues through their work.  By paring back materials, ideas and form to essentials the artists spark memories allowing the viewer in to complete the piece. For me the resonance of these works lingers long after the exhibition is over and speak of canonical themes: the embroidery treasures connotes the feminine;  the glass circle of formalist gestures connotes ancient ceremonial stones; the hanging stars, the cosmos;  the pool of coloured glass, the elements;  an animated dissolving woman, transformation;  the musical improvisation, the energy of the space. ZOU artists revitalises and stimulate our engagement and aesthetic experience and create new collective democratic kinds of cultural identification.

I was very happy to be amongst the exhibitors.

Amandine Arlot, Michel Bastian, Catherine Vagnat, Coline Gaulot, Michel Gayout, Mickaël Gréco, Brigitta Horvath, LN Le Cheviller, Trisha McCrae, Cécilia Pepper, Thomas Petit, Caroline Shmidt, Emma Vakarelova, Web Age, les miels Emile…

by Trisha McCrae

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