…her practice can be described as an ongoing interrogation of political impotence and the crisis of singularity that seem to define contemporary art today. But if the artist itself is the subjective equivalent of a urinal or a Brillo box – as displaced, deprived of her use value and exchangeable as the products she makes – there is always the possibility of what she calls the “human strike.” Claire Fontaine uses the freshness of her youth to become a singularity and an existential terrorist in search of emancipation. It grows among the ruins of the function author, experimenting with collective protocols of production, diversion, and the establishment of various mechanisms for sharing intellectual property and private property.
– Translation of Claire Fontaine artist statement/bio via Google Translate (the lazy French-reader’s friend)
This is one of the things I am most excited about at PICA’s TBA:11 festival. Kristan Kennedy’s curated French collective Claire Fontaine into the visual arts exhibition at Washington High. I’m familiar with CF’s writings-as-art works, but for TBA I understand matches are involved. Lots of matches. And if they want to set things on fire, I say, let’s do this. Here is an excerpt from Claire Fontaine’s “Dear R” suggests why fire makes sense:
I read somewhere the story of a philosopher who had ended his days in an asylum because he had understood that his books were a series of letters written to communist proletarians who would never read them. The intellectuals were the only ones reading his works and they were simply commenting on them.
He surely must have felt inside a silence similar to this one, like an all powerful objection to what we can say about our present.
His body must have filled up with people that never speak. People that have nothing to say about their lives at the limit of the alphabet, on the margins of the law, that no language shelters, and about which there is nothing to explain.
And then you strike the match. This frustration, this trap in which the philosopher finds himself, is a smart analogue for the predicament of the contemporary artist seeking political engagement, n’est-ce pas?
And you don’t have to wait for the festival to start. Claire Fontaine will lead a pre-Festival salon discussion on their current installation and their broader practice this Friday, August 26 at 6 PM at Washington High.
Their art enacts an ideological bait-and-switch, referring to familiar artworks and constructs to expose the underlying impotence of our current society. Alongside their sculpture-based and installation work, Claire Fontaine have a robust theoretical writing practice, and have penned manifestos, philosophical treatises, and historical examinations of revolutionary legacies.
For TBA:11, the artists will map the United States of America in over 100,000 matches embedded in a classroom wall. Join us for a behind-the-scenes artist talk and see the piece in-progress—by Festival time, it may or may not have been burned. Then, follow us to Hal’s Tavern for beers and a wide-ranging conversation about art, capitalism, modern identities, and the future of societal revolution.