Axelle Stiefel: la chambre d’écoute @ Corner College, Zürich [vom 4. Februar bis 4. März]

Axelle Stiefel: la chambre d’écoute


55
4.
Feb.
 
- 4.
Mär.
18:00 - 19:00

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Corner College
Kochstrasse 1, 8004 Zürich, Switzerland
hosted by Corner College Axelle Stiefel Stan Iordanov BPS and other noises

An exhibition by Axelle Stiefel
4 February – 4 March 2018

Opening: 4 February 2018, 18:00

Opening Hours
Thu/Fri/Sat 16:00 h – 19:00 h
or by appointment

Ein Festmahl war es, ohne Frage,
Nichts fehlte, was das Herz begehrt,
Doch plötzlich wurde das Gelage
Im besten Zuge jäh gestört.

Ein Lärm von draußen, welch ein Schrecken!
Es poltert an des Saales Tür.

The project is part of the Corner College platform Transferences: The Function of the Exhibition and Performative Processes in the Practices of Art – Questions of Participation, initiated by Dimitrina Sevova and Alan Roth.

This exhibition on our website: corner-college.com/Veranstaltungen/1517698800/1293

In the context of this exhibition, see the conversation with Axelle Stiefel by Dimitrina Sevova (with images): materials.corner-college.com/2018/201802/20171218-axelle-stiefel-conversation.html

Also printable as PDF, 3.20MB: materials.corner-college.com/2018/pdf/20171218-axelle-stiefel-conversation.pdf

Here's an excerpt from the conversation:

Dimitrina: In your practices you deploy temporally extended repetition and displacement. And in your performances you create continuous frequency environments of loops, resonances, and synchronicity that produce multiplicity for the duration of the performance and open up a space of collective aesthetic experience at Corner College?

Axelle: Repetition, yes. If I start from la chambre d’écoute (The Listening Room) – which is a painting by René Magritte depicting a green apple occupying the whole space of a room – then if I say I have been working with repetition, I want to stress that I don’t necessarily produce new content, or new objects. I have a principle in my work by which I reuse things that have existed before. I let them have their life, and just accompany their change of place which means changing the paths in which they become localisable and recognizable. When the place changes, the meaning enlarges. With my practices I try to occupy this very space of movement.

There are elements of the exhibition I did at Forde in Geneva that I am interested in re-using for the exhibition project at Corner College. For instance the “curtains”, pieces of fabric I hung at the window of the exhibition space. Those large pieces of fabric are linen that I folded and dyed in blue indigo color. As I tied them with a rope and dyed them in the washing machine, they left a white trace. So you still have the image of the fold that is behind it. You have that mark. I was intrigued, because the feedback I got after the show was, “I liked it. I could have liked it more without the piece of decoration.” I’m interested in how this perception can be destabilized. I think it has to do with the fact it was hung right in front of the window, though not in place of the actual curtains. It seems to me that the art viewer wants to recognize works of art. Perhaps they disregard what has an impact on the light, what gives an atmosphere, some elements that look like they have a function. They tend not to take them into account. They don’t perceive them as art. This has kept going on in my head that probably there is something I can change in the display, in a way that will further underline their presence in the space. Or through repetition. Whether I take them down from the window to the ground or across the space changes everything.

I’m still looking for a solution, for a way to prevent those pieces from being misperceived, to re-display, re-frame them somehow, without a frame, and define them more precisely. This is my starting point for my exhibition project la chambre d’écoute at Corner College. The thing I have been interested in is that the fabric has two sides. When you put them at the window you see one side from outside, and the other from inside. Even if there is some transparency, in the exhibition space the viewer forgets that it is two-sided, because they recognize it as an image, and look at it only from one of its sides.

How would I present the fabric pieces in order to make this double-sidedness, this back and forth active? I think of a circle that enables the fabric to stretch, but the fabric doesn’t have the shape of a circle. So if I make a circular structure and bend the fabric over it, there is still fabric all around it that is not part of the circle. And it can still move around. It doesn’t have the function of a frame, or a canvas on the wall. It can be suspended. It can be put on the floor. It can move, actually. It can take any shape, and still have a formal frame, the circle, or the fabric within the circle. So that would be a possible item, or character, in the exhibition.

Dimitrina: In your practices you deploy temporally extended repetition and displacement. And in your performances you create continuous frequency environments of loops, resonances, and synchronicity that produce multiplicity for the duration of the performance and open up a space of collective aesthetic experience. What about your exhibition at Corner College?

Axelle: Repetition, yes. If I start from la chambre d’écoute (The Listening Room) – which is a painting by René Magritte depicting a green apple occupying the whole space of a room – then if I say I have been working with repetition, I want to stress that I don’t necessarily produce new content, or new objects. I have a principle in my work by which I reuse things that have existed before. I let them have their life, and just accompany their change of place which means changing the paths in which they become localisable and recognizable. When the place changes, the meaning enlarges. With my practices I try to occupy this very space of movement.

There are elements of the exhibition I did at Forde in Geneva that I am interested in re-using for the exhibition project at Corner College. For instance the “curtains”, pieces of fabric I hung at the window of the exhibition space. Those large pieces of fabric are linen that I folded and dyed in blue indigo color. As I tied them with a rope and dyed them in the washing machine, they left a white trace. So you still have the mark of the fold that is behind it. I was intrigued, because the feedback I got after the show was, “I liked it. I could have liked it more without the piece of decoration.” I’m interested in how this perception can be destabilized. I think it has to do with the fact it was hung right in front of the window, though not in place of the actual curtains. It seems to me that the art viewer wants to recognize works of art. Perhaps they disregard what has an impact on the light, what gives an atmosphere, some elements that look like they have a function. They tend not to take them into account. They don’t perceive them as art. This has kept going on in my head that probably there is something I can change in the display, in a way that will further underline their presence in the space. Or through repetition. Whether I take them down from the window to the ground or across the space changes everything.

I’m still looking for a solution, for a way to prevent those pieces from being misperceived, to re-display, re-frame them somehow, without a frame, and define them more precisely. This is my starting point for my exhibition project la chambre d’écoute at Corner College. The thing I have been interested in is that the fabric has two sides. When you put them at the window you see one side from outside, and the other from inside. Even if there is some transparency, in the exhibition space the viewer forgets that it is two-sided, because they recognize it as an image, and look at it only from one of its sides.

How would I present the fabric pieces in order to make this double-sidedness, this back and forth active? I think of a circle that enables the fabric to stretch, but the fabric doesn’t have the shape of a circle. So if I make a circular structure and bend the fabric over it, there is still fabric all around it that is not part of the circle. And it can still move around. It doesn’t have the function of a frame, or a canvas on the wall. It can be suspended. It can be put on the floor. It can move, actually. It can take any shape, and still have a formal frame, the circle, or the fabric within the circle. So that would be a possible item, or character, in the exhibition.

Dimitrina: You used a tie-dye technique. A resist dye process, a bit like batik…

Axelle: Yes, exactly. I have one here that I can show you, if you want to see the fabric. It’s very modest, in and of itself, not something extraordinary. It has a certain heaviness.

Dimitrina: The intensity of the monochromatic color is striking. In itself, it gives this affective mood. It is so atmospheric.

Axelle: What I like in batik is that everyone has some basic knowledge of the technique. For certain people it’s more an ornament than art. It further refers to a trend in the 1960s-1970s related to the hippie movement.

Dimitrina: Regarding this back and front that you would like to make equally visible, it can be applied to the folding and unfolding process of its making, too. On the front and the back of fabric, you have the same quality of the image and intensity. Like in a plane or a Moebius surface that has no back and front, unlike a stamp or painting, which has only one side of representation confronting the viewer, while the other is an empty back of non-representation. Can the repetition of the patterns, how they remain uncolored, be seen as a kind of mark of resistance?

Axelle: I think one can feel the gesture that makes it. It’s really an imprint of a gesture, of an action, of a fold, of many folds. The immediacy, the readability of the gesture in the fabric is very interesting to me. And then, if I can stretch it over a circle – I have three other pieces of fabric –, the whole question is how I can bind them together. There is a technique of embroidery named Calado from Cartagena in Colombia, which originally is a method for embellishing wear in the fabric, to put back some regularity in a defect. It can be used to assemble pieces. I could imagine applying that technique. For the circle I’m thinking of material for building tents, arks, pieces you put together to make a tent. Those pieces are flexible. You can make an arrow, a line, but you can bend them to a circle, too. They could be connected to make the circle.

Dimitrina: Following your idea of the circle, what about the possibility to reverse what is the materiality of an image and what is a frame? As you make the circle you will inevitably get this shapeless kind of frame made of the fabric that remains around the circle. It would be like in making a map. It has to be framed by free space around it. When a three-dimensional form has to be represented in two dimensions, it always needs a frame, a part that remains outside of the representation. There is no cartography that is not framed by these empty spaces around it, a leftover that remains around the partial image, as a kind of ambiguous non-territory of material potentiality, or invisible support. If the map is a kind of two dimensional, flattened representation of a sphere, in a way like the fabric stretched in a circle, the opposite of this would be folding these two dimensions to produce a three dimensional body that is already embodied in the traces of the patterns.

Axelle: I hadn’t thought about that. But in a symposium about design research, I met a young woman scholar – Julia Mia Stirnemann – who had developed a program for generating new maps. These maps are an image of the Earth, but if you change your point of view, if you change the zero point and start for instance from Lucerne, if you make a new image of the world according to this new focal point, you get a different shape. You still have these borders, but the play of the border with the map of the world totally changes. She did this also to trigger our thinking, to displace our point of view and make us realize that things we take for granted are also in constant movement.

Dimitrina: The unframed surface of the fabric will move like the surface of a lake, something entirely contingent and shapeless. Without intending to necessarily make such a direct association between your idea about the fabric stretched in a circle and the title of your exhibition, it makes me think of the green apple that can really fill the entire space, and at the same time be a kind of silent hole, rather a blind spot or a quickly growing gap, like in René Magritte’s painting. Can the circle also be understood as a form that cuts transversally across the space of the room with another plane that opens up a hole to an ambiguous dimension?

Axelle: That’s exactly the point. And it’s also where the sound comes in. When you enter a space to do a performance, you have to work somehow on the environment, on the scenery – the views and the multiplicity of planes there. How can I create attention? What remains after the peak of attention? If I could have that kind of confrontation of something quite simple, but present, it could also be read in the light of the experience that can happen through the exhibition, or the performance, for example. It could really mirror what we do with sound, with words, sucked like the dye into the material of the fabric. It’s like a point of reference.

Dimitrina: Why did you decide on this indigo blue? Does impregnating the fabric with it have a symbolic dimension?

Axelle: At that time, I was thinking of the ocean, and that was the first color I linked to it. Water. Deep water.

Dimitrina: It makes me think about the imago, the Lacanian image stage and the mirror, though here it is a non-reflective mirror that is a kind of trap for the words, sound and gaze of disinterested attention. Deep water like in the ‘oceanic feeling’ of the Freudian pre-Oedipal mode of being. This blue ‘other’ jouissance – a disturbance that unsettles the boundaries of the self in the feminist poststructuralist psychoanalysis as a mystical beatitude beyond speech. For me this blue invites the viewer to experience a desire that calls the structure of the unconsciousness – the return of the object of desire petit a, these unconscious dreams/thoughts, and at the same time the patterns play the emergence of primary individuation, like in the so-called primitive lines in biology, produced by the folds or the process of interlacing, which here are the traces of the gestures of the rolling folds and knots, uncolored curls like the beginning of a consciousness or an inorganic structure that gains a kind of morphological aspect in itself, an interplay between chance and repetition in which certain patterns start to overlap and a structure occurs in it.

I think your idea of the circle of stretched fabric is a certain way of organizing a hole, which is already a kind of cut into the length of the fabric. Paradoxically, the circle emphasizes an empty space in the object-itself, an emptiness that is not there at first glance, an emptiness/silence that slowly opens itself up to the object’s surface and sucks in the gaze and the sound to reveal a gap that can alter, unsettle everything in the space, in a new becoming.
Diskussion
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