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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Review: Indirect Articles

Les Lettres Tristes, an exhibition by Lucas Ajemian and Julien Bismuth at Foxy Production, does not ask for your focus, but for your distraction. It could take weeks to wade through the tide of information presented. In addition to four floor sculptures, a series of diptychs, two video projections screening several short vignettes, a directional audio piece of the artists reading statements, and, in the back room, a fetish to the creative process, the artists are distributing an eponymous weekly newspaper, Les Lettres Tristes.

The title’s reference to Lettrism, Isidore Isou’s proto-Situationist movement, seems to end at the amusing play on words. Although, to see this show one must not look straight at the work. All references are oblique, jumping-off points. The cacophony of sound and conflation of visual-textual elements are best observed askance in distracted snatches. The guiding motif of the exhibition is an unfinished feature-length film starring people-size signs of the letters of the French alphabet carried about New York City.

Entering the gallery one is met by the Set Pieces, four chroma-key green, powder-coated, steel floor sculptures, each accompanied by a two-channel video projection. On perpendicular walls, the eight fugue-like vignettes play through two projectors in a discombobulated call-and-response.

Opposite the projections, are four nearly identical diptychs each titled A Hole in Copenhagen, which include a collaged New York Times image of the World Trade Center pit, another guest appearance of the color chroma-key green, and act II, scene III of an unfinished play. The directional audio piece, Les Lettres Tristes—a work which also encompasses the weekly newspapers—is directly beamed at A Hole in Copenhagen. With so much emphasis on the spoken and written word, reading/listening is a trial of concentration, as every artwork draws the viewer’s attention away from the others.

The installation is an informational hall of mirrors. Though it poses as an exhibition of discreet artworks, everything overlaps and is the subject of reinterpretations. Described by the artists as “reportage on the road to an idea,” the exhibition rushes past the observer, and then loops behind to the beginning. If you stick around long enough you will eventually see the whole show, but it will never appear complete.

Les Lettres Tristes
Lucas Ajemian and Julien Bismuth
Foxy Production
21 November 2008 – 10 January 2009



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