“again, again and again” – Eric Baudart solo exhibition
Edouard Malingue Gallery, (Sixth Floor, 33 Des Voeux Road Central, Hong Kong), Apr 24 – May 30
Even though “again, again, and again” is French artist Eric Baudart’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong, it nevertheless offers a comprehensive view of his distinct personal style—anyone familiar with the history of modern art will note the connection between Baudart’s work and Duchamp’s readymades. Beyond that, as suggested by its title, this solo exhibition showcases the meticulous nature of the artist’s work in recent years－his diligent striving to describe the casual, easily neglected and repetitive experience of everyday life.
Entering Edouard Malingue Gallery, one’s eye is instantly drawn to a sequence of installation works called Atmosphère－an ongoing series the most prominent components of which are aquariums filled with oily liquid within which ordinary objects are placed. In earlier iterations of Atmosphère, Baudart was accustomed to “leaving blank”—providing these ordinary objects with unobstructed spaces like the two speaker phones placed separately on display in the exhibition; what is surprising is that these two “prisoners” in the aquarium produce alarming, continuous and monotonous sound. On the other hand, though it is not a deliberate gesture on the artist’s part, Hong Kong in the aftermath of the Umbrella Revolution imbues the two speaker phones and their alarming sound with a metaphorical tone. Another, larger-scale Atmosphère, situated next to the window, is oddly filled with ten vintage fans. Jammed together and silent, their blades slowly turn in the viscous fluid, causing subtle waves on its surface.
This technique of intensively employing readymade objects, constantly expanding them and increasing their volume might remind one of the Accumulation with which Arman Fernandez, another French artist, was so fascinated during the 1970s. Arman also collected abandoned readymade objects of consumerist society, breaking them away from their original functions to produce an “emancipation of identities” through incision, destruction and accumulation. In this sense, despite differences in approach, Baudart’s and Armon’s creations are similar in terms of their underlying philosophies and their results. The gilded and shiny Concav looks very much like a hanging decoration at first sight, but is in fact composed of many street posters collected by the artist which have been overlaid and lacquered. Occupying a central position in the gallery, Cubikron 3.0 is a cube of several spring mattresses intertwined together, the bent and staggered coils tangled in such a way as to create a vibrant and novel visual dimensionality.
What is most memorable about Baudart’s readymades is that he has no intention of intervening in or altering the inert quality of daily life; on the contrary, the regularity and repetitiveness of the mundane are precisely what spawn his alternative aesthetic perceptions; this explains the temporal character that permeates “Again, Again, and Again”. In “Paillasson”, two used doormats are mounted in metal frames, making them look like two solemn ornaments, while the fact that their rust-like mottles are simply the traces left by repeated trampling, contamination and weathering can only be discovered through close observation. Similar to this is the abstract effect presented by “Papier Millimetre”, which was actually obtained by scraping the surface of blue-and-white architecture blueprints on a daily basis.
In his solo exhibition “More”, held in Paris, 2013, Baudart exhibited an empty laundry detergent can, the color of which had faded due to long-term exposure to sunlight. In this exhibition, he simply makes concrete this process with the installation “Solarium”－more than ten empty detergent cans are placed on a sun-bed. It is as if these cans had lives of their own, which adds a sense of humor to the exhibition. If the revolutionary significance of Duchamp’s readymades lies in their power to “liberate art from the aesthetics of halo and myth” (Benjamin Buchloh), then for Baudart, the value of today’s readymade art is to reveal ordinary objects’ potential for rebirth, thereby forcing the audience to reconsider and reconstruct their own relationship to the surrounding world.