The Exhibition Formerly Known as Passengers: 2.12 Aurélien Froment

August 04, 2009 to August 29, 2009

The French artist Aurélien Froment works on a diverse range of artworks, such as films, photographs, and books that address ideas of how narrative, whether documentary or fiction, can be constructed. In the film, Théâtre de Poche (2007), a magician weaves a cyclical tale by presenting a series of card tricks and images that are suspended in a black environment. Stills from popular films that include recognizable actors are presented as though taken from a stack of family snap shots. A wide variety of images, from ancient artifacts to patterns of bricks, float across the black background and invite the viewer to infer meaning in the spaces between images. The carefully constructed theatricality of this film is navigated with a precise use of sound that follows the movement of each image to gently lull the viewer into another world.

by Jens Hoffmann

As the final participant of The Exhibition Previously Known As Passengers, French artist Aurélien Froment does what might seem a logical conclusion to the 24 month-long exhibition, especially when one considers his analytical and self-reflexive approach to art making. Froment will stage what one might call a retrospective, or perhaps even an unauthorized biography, of the entire exhibition. The artist is recalling fragments of some of the art-works presented over the last two years and using remains of the permanent exhibition structure-walls, signage, benches and pedestals-to create his own exhibition.

Froment is interested in understanding this final episode of the exhibition as the start of something new, rather than as something to provide a concluding argument. He views the various incarnations of the exhibition as an index of wide-ranging heterogonous contemporary artistic practices, which allow his show to become a portrait of the exhibition by disassembling and remixing parts of its components, objects and gestures. Froment plays with the twists and turns that Passengers has proposed over its run and incorporates the curatorial concerns of the show into his overall concept: the exhibition's hybrid nature of simultaneous solo and group exhibition, its orientation towards process and constant change, as well as its heterogenic character in regards to both the type of work shown (film, sculpture, photography, installation) and the diverse cultural backgrounds of its participants.

It would be, however, wrong to assume that Froment was plainly recycling materials without any further thought. In fact, the larger part of the exhibition incorporates artworks created by him in response to the above-mentioned concern. The closest we ever come to actually seeing any of the artworks from previous shows is in his piece Modèle d'exposition (Exhibition Model) (2009) based on the popular children's memory game in which a number of square cards are placed on a table and turned over repeatedly in order to find a second identical card. In Froment's version, we see 48 pairs of cards, with which the audience is invited to play, displayed on a specially constructed table. Another piece titled Index (2009) is a rubdown transfer onto a large piece of paper of the participating artists' names from the vinyl letters at the gallery entrance that chronicle the progression of the Passengers exhibition. Other works include Dance Lessons (2009), 50 black wooden footsteps that trace the various paths of the visitors through the show, as well as the two-part photograph Panama, Pacific, International, Exposition (Palace of Fine Arts) (2008), which refers to the San Francisco museum built as a temporary structure for the 1915 San Francisco World's Fair to celebrate the completion of the Panama canal but has since become a permanent place for exhibitions and other cultural events. All these works strongly relate to the history of Passengers yet also closely relate to Froment's overall oeuvre when one considers his interest in archives, museology and theatrical devices.

At first glance, other works seem less related to the Passengers exhibition, but when viewed in the context of this show their connection is quickly revealed. The silent, six-minute video, Rabbit (2009) speaks about the idea of literally tying things together. The film is about nautical knots and based on the format of instructional films for aspiring sailors. Froment presents eight different knots; each one is accompanied with a rhyme (presented as subtitles) that explains in childlike terms how the knot is made i.e. 'Build a well, A rabbit comes out of the hole, Circles around the tree, And jumps back into the hole.' While this particular rhyme is well known and refers to the so-called Bowline knot, Froment adapted it to create rhymes for the seven other knots himself.

The work Debuilding (Case Study # 8, Pacific Palisades) (2009) is perhaps the most indicative for an understanding of Froment's associative practice and his interest in overlapping narratives and seemingly unrelated historical events. Consisting of an inkjet print depicting an image of the famous Eames House in Los Angeles and a series of 65 painted wooden blocks, the piece is based on an anecdote that describes the building and design process of the house in relation to the shortage of building materials during World War II. To get around the problem, the architects constantly adapted to the changing conditions and began building various elements of the house from the same basic materials, which led to a breakthrough in regards to modular architecture. The small bricks that accompany the photograph are painted in a color chart based on the image and are a remake of the famous children's building blocks created by the German 19th-Century pedagogue Friedrich Froebel, who also pioneered the concept of the kinder-garten. Another American modernist architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, who the Eames admired and often spoke of as a great influence on their work, got a set of Froebel building blocks as a gift from his mother in his youth that supposedly triggered his interest in architecture.

Passengers 2.12: Aurélien Froment is kindly supported by Etant donnés: The French-American Fund for Contemporary Art, a program of FACE.