Kamel Mennour

Michel François

03 Sep - 08 Oct 2016

View of the exhibition, kamel mennour (28, avenue Matignon), Paris, 2016
Photo. Julie Joubert & archives kamel mennour
Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris/London
3 September - 8 October 2016

At the Biennale d’art contemporain in Rennes, Michel François is presenting a work at the end of September with a title as poetic as it is ambiguous: Scène des abandons [Stage of abandonments]. This retrospective installation, with which most of the objects in his third solo exhibition at kamel mennour are in dialogue, is a space for catalysing a collection of finished objects and unfinished processes, a sort of laboratory of ideas and experiments. François has produced spaces like this before, with Bureau augmenté (2000) and Le Salon intermédiaire (2002). Each time there has been an identifiable kind of space, by turn connected to work (the office), waiting (the waiting room), and now the theatre (the stage). One could remark on the fact that over the last fifteen or so years the artist has gone from an augmented office to a stage of abandonments. The principle of voluntaristic growth in the work-place has given way to a theatrical letting go. But the abandonment here is not psychological in the sense of a resignation or a renouncement. It is rather a sort of letting go in respect to the intrinsic resistance of his materials, an attentive observation of their capacity for taking shape by default. It is this capacity that he wants to bring to light.

In the living system that is Michel François’ œuvre, growth and decay have always cohabited as they do in nature. There are upsurges and collapses, projections and flows, erections and detumescences, contaminations and retractions. Throughout his work, there is the question of production, value, growth, and circulation, but just as much, and simultaneously, of inertia, devaluation, decomposition, loss, dissemination. Control and chance mix together on the best of terms. This ‘letting go’ suggests a more intimate footing with time than even nature takes in the bestowing of form. ‘Let the water disperse in the plaster. Let the vinegar dissolve in the marble. Let the ice cubes melt. Let the rain plow ravines. Let the soap shrink. Let the fire warp the sheet metal. Let the sea wear away at the wood. Let the molten bronze flow over the floor. Let everything stiffen under hard water. Let your sweaters wear out at the elbows. Let the sun shine. Let the spiders spin their webs. [...]’, writes Michel François.

François creates a form of continuity between what is and what is not (yet) art, proposes a definition of art as a moment, with gestures giving the impetus and forms the result. The forms are immediately fixed, as if frozen in their movement. For instance at the 28 avenue Matignon, the web made by the bronze when it is thrown over the floor is lifted onto the wall, where it forms a painting, like an arrested explosion. The sheet metal, where an insistent blowtorch has made a constellation of eyes, is covered in chrome and becomes shimmering, untouchable, as if cooled down. Concretions of plaster, randomly extracted from a basin in which a watering hose has been fed, are patiently sanded and sliced. For François, the legitimacy of these forms, issuing as they do from empirical protocols, must not be made to depend on a myth of process. Their existence has to triumph in the form of finished objects. This is where the staging comes in, as a way of arranging the gaze, bringing within the scope of the viewer the very artificiality of interrupting the continual flux of metamorphosis in the materials.

François Piron, August 2016

Born in 1956 in Sint-Truiden (Belgium), Michel François lives and works between Brussels and Paris. His work has been shown in numerous solo exhibitions at Chateau de Rentilly on an invitation by the Frac île-de-France, at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, CRAC in Sète, CCC in Tours, IAC in Villeurbanne, SMAK in Gand, MAC’s of Grand Hornu, at De Pont in Tilburg, at CCA in Kitakyushu, at Vox in Montreal, at the Gulbenkian museum in Lisbo, at the Kunstverein in Münster, at the Kunsthalle in Bern, at the Haus der Kunst in Muncich, at the Witte de With in Rotterdam, at the Miro Foundation in Barcelona, at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels; as well as group exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, at the maison rouge, Paris, at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan, at the Mamco in Geneva, at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussells, at Casino and Mudam in Luxembourg. He also participed to different biennales in Istanbul, Seoul, São Paulo and Johannesburg, and the documenta IX in Kassel. Michel François represented Belgium, with Ann Veronica Janssens, at the Venice Biennale in 1999. His work will be soon presented at the Biennale d’art contemporain in Rennes (France), curated by François Piron (October 1st - December 11th, 2016).

Tags: Michel Fran, Michel François, Ann Veronica Janssens