Canada : Jean-Pierre Gauthier


[. . .] cleaning, to me, is a paradoxical act. Each time I mentally condition myself to put things in order, I inevitably activate a chaos-inducing process. The most interesting part of the work is therefore part of that in-between: between beginning a major clean-up and finalizing a specific project. At each extreme is found the OBLIGATION to act. On the one hand, there is a task to be performed; on the other, an intention that must be made concrete in order to deliver the expected goods. Between the two lies the freedom to arrest a process and to establish changing connections; incompletion as a healthy state. To me art is born of the tension between the obligation to act and the freedom to stray.


Jean-Pierre Gauthier
Le grand ménage, November 1998


"Goods fall into two classes: those which we use, such as motor cars and safety razors, and those which we use up, such as tooth paste or soda biscuits. Consumer engineering must see to it that we use up the kind of goods we now merely use." (Ernest Elmo Calkins, quoted in Ellen Lupton and J. Abbott Miller, The Bathroom, the Kitchen and the Aesthetics of Waste : a Process of Elimination, Cambridge, The MIT Press, 1992, p. 6)


Consumer society has led us to use a whole armory of tools, devices and products to obliterate any trace of human activity that does not conform to the rules of cleanliness. Le grand ménage proceeds in reverse: it is human activity (the presence of visitors) that causes tools designed for hygienic purposes to self-dissolve, to provoke a disorganisation, and to cover the walls and floor whit a growing accumulation of fine layers of soap. Curiously, certain objects become eroticized by the change. They suggest ejaculation, marking, staining. This installation evokes living and the organic. Time's effect on objects is factual: their wearing away must be seen from the perspective of routine, repetitive action that causes them (and individuals as well) to wear away. It is true that time also transforms these objects as they dry out, but the goal for me is to generate a variety of dissimilar objects starting from an identical mould. For instance, three identical bottles cast from the same mould, reproduced in soap with varying degrees of dilution, will change and result in three very different objects, while retaining, obviously, their original references. These references are to life and otherness rather than to the passage of time and the effects of aging on the objects.

Functioning obsessively, the machines perform cleaning operations in a repetitive, absurd fashion, inefficient and even unnecessary : piling up, spraying, absorbing, dissolving, wiping out, rubbing, sweeping, foaming. The devices are triggered by the movements of visitors in the exhibition space as well as by movements detected in nearby areas; each action by one or more persons in the gallery offices or building corridor sets off several systems, including that which activates the process by which the objects (toilet paper rolls, detergent bottle, plunger) are transformed into hard soap. Thus each component of the installation is affected by the activities unfolding in and around the exhibition space. My goal is to introduce into this set of systems an uncontrollable and unpredictable factor that helps create an impression of disorganization in the established order of events in the installation. This same factor is involved in making objects moulded in soap - detergent bottles, toilet paper, rolls of paper towels, plumbing elements - as they dry. Water is automatically sprayed over these objects, transforming them, each time a visitor passes.


Jean-Pierre Gauthier


"Wandering through Jean-Pierre Gauthier's environment is like walking through an English garden that, although organized, seems to have been left to grow wild. The mechanisms that inhabit it seem to have become carried away in a life of their own. This garden is a world where excess heralds a breakdown, and explosion appears imminent but never happens. Even though the mechanism is tightly set, the aleatory elements involved give it an uncontrolled aspect. The fluctuations are never the same, and the rhythm is constantly syncopated and spasmodic, as it suddenly stops, slows down or pumps. Some would see in this collection of squirting, polishing, spitting, melting and leaking objects a pleasure room, a domestic orgy, a joyful and libidinous profusion of rubbings, discharges and noise. It is as if the artist makes material those desirous and overflowing spheres of the psyche but without the mechanisms that usually control them. In this piece time is relative, indeed, multiple. The rhythms and transformations of each object fluctuate. This unpredictable bacchanalia could worry the stroller, for its true purpose is purely expense and exhaustion. Instead s/he is quickly amused by the scene that takes place before his/her eyes." (Francine Lalonde, Anne-Marie Ninacs et Carl Trahan (trans. Thomas McLennan and Melody Young), "Strolling, Eroticism and Melancholia / Déambulation, érotisme et mélancolie", in : skol@yyz, Montréal, Skol, 2000, [n.p.])



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