Natasha Northam
The new Flesh of Mimosa Echard, 2018


The People (2017) is set in the village where Echard was raised, in southern France. Echard used a vast personal archive of mini-DV sequences shot between 2004 and 2008. She superimposed the totality of the tapes on top of one another into a two hours-long stream of images, where there is always more things happening simultaneously that you can follow, at least consciously: the dashboard of a car; a deer; breakfast cereals and Sunday morning cartoons; tulips, daffodils; a closeup of a rat, maneuvering inside a cage; blinking LEDs on a sequencer; men with forks, cleaning up a stable; a child in a hammock, all set on a distant rave soundscape.

There is a documentary subtext to the film, that one could read as an index of countercultural imaginaries in rural France (new age, rave culture, agricultural practices), or of what is left of this tradition; as well as a document of three generations of semi- communal and extended-family life. In spite of this, and although it assembles swathes and fragments of Echard’s personal memory, The People doesn’t evoke any sense of nostalgia; it’s a glimmering, shape-shifting tapestry of daily life, which like it feels simultaneously mundane and wonderfully strange — and present. This makes it an exhilarating viewing experience, at once tranquil and endlessly stimulating (the sort of steady energy invented and perfected by rave music and techno), which effortlessly extend for the entire duration of the loop.

In Echard’s mental map, her own village is mirrored by iDEATH, the dream-like, post- apocalyptic version of a North-California hippie town imagined by Richard Brautigan’s in his 1968 story, In Watermelon Sugar. A great deal of the culture and daily life in iDEATH revolves obsessively around the culture of watermelons; watermelon sugar, in particular, provides the material for a lot of usual objects, as well as most buildings — although pinewood and trouts are also used. Each day has a different-coloured sun, which brings different-coloured watermelons; at night, the houses are lit in the gentle glow of burning watermelontrout oil.

These trippy surroundings are also haunted by undercurrents of discord, violence and death. Among many other things, In Watermelon Sugar reads as a bittersweet fictionalized recollection of the time Brautigan spent in the fiercely reclusive community of Bolinas (whose inhabitants are famously known for removing roadsigns so repetitively that the local authorities renounced to replace them). It belongs to a tradition of hippie elegies, along with Death of a Hippie, the mock funeral parade organized by the Diggers in October 1967 to signal the spiralling decay of the Haight-Asbury area (once the global nervous centre of the Summer of Love); and Paul Thek’s The Tomb (1967), a meticulous recreation of the resting place of a hippie man, painstakingly modelled after Thek’s own body.

Echard borrowed the name of iDEATH (in which, it should also be noted, all public monuments represent vegetables) for an 2016 exhibition that featured her series A/B: a series of large Plexiglas trays holding a myriadic and dizzying assemblage of natural and artificial elements, including insects (wasps, butterfly wings), flowers, barks, leaves and fungus, lichen, moss, kombucha biofilm, snails and mussels shells, drugs blisters and packagings, Coca-Cola, and pills (vitamins, fertility and lactation supplements, and a second-generation contraceptive).

Like The People, A/B (2016) proceeds by coalescing all these components into a fluid, watermelon sugar-like, all-embracing medium — in this case, depilatory wax. It has a light skin tone (others are green, yellow, or the colour of smoked salmon), which behind the Plexiglas has a synthetic gleam and lush precision reminiscent of self-enhanced telephone pics, cosmetic tutorials or high-resolution porn imagery; various registries of a 21st- century flesh. The same material is used in a group of objects (Nymphes, 2016), beautiful counterforms cast in the plastic case of a Fairy wand vibrator.

It also echoes horror films prosthesis and the entire aesthetic field they invented — a rich mental landscape which evolved into the refined, elegant machines of David Cronenberg, or the gonzoid hysteria of Society (1989) where alien creatures disguised as conservative notables coalesce into a magma of throbbing flesh at an orgy in a Beverly Hills mansion — in an intensely perverse inversion of pastoral hippie communalism, and its maximally nightmarish counterpoint. (It also has great dialogues: “How do you like your tea? Cream, sugar? Or do you want me to pee in it?” — “You’re a class act, Clarissa”). Echard used prints of several screen captures of the scene in a series of paintings (Deadbrain and Braindead, 2016–18) where they are made to diffuse into metallic acrylic paint.

“As technology accelerates and evolves, it tends towards liquidity, and towards plasticity”, Kodwo Eshun explains in an interview; cosmetics should, therefore, be understood as “an extremely advanced form of technology”. They tend to a kind of symbiosis, a strange yet effective form of the sort of all-embracing relations fantasized by the cybernetics theoreticians and poets of Brautigan’s generation.

In Echard’s work, these bodily technologies are combined with the competing chemical dynamics of plants, fish eggs and other potent natural artefacts, into strange kinds of stabilized, Pollock-textured monsters. Like the mosquito frozen into John Hammond’s amber cane, what they hold retain their exuberant vital forces so that they can be released into new, combinatory forms of life.



Mousse Magazine
Mimosa Echard “Pulsion Potion” at Cell Project Space, London, 2017


moussemagazine.it/mimosa-echard-pulsion-potion-cell-project-space-london-2017



Jill Gasparina
Text for iDEATH, 2016

“There is a delicate balance in iDEATH. It suits us.”
Richard Brautigan

Long before Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Caning, the 17th century Dutch painter Otto Marseus van Schrieck was making still lifes that were considerably more alive than still. He is known for his luxuriant and detailed compositions portraying insects, serpents, amphibia, mushrooms and wild plants. Marseus van Schrieck collected and kept small animals in terrariums, allowing for lengthy periods of observation; it was this practice that earned him the somewhat derisive nickname of “The Sniffer”. He delighted in the pleasures of trompe l’oeil and in a pioneering act of appropriation even pasted real butter ies onto some of his works.

For iDEATH, Mimosa Echard has appropriated dead and living matter, following a mannerist formula which plays on both an illusion of the living and a skilful dosage of poisons and their remedies (she explains that epoxy resin tends to wake lichens up from their hibernation period). Just as with mannerist art, our vision of the works evolves as we near their proliferant surfaces.

At first, one enters the exhibition to see a visually coherent corpus whose interplay of colours and shapes radiates a calm picturality.The novel In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan comes to mind; it is from here that the exhibition title, iDEATH, originates.The story relates the trippy life of an imaginary commune who build most of their environment and objects from watermelon sugar. Here too, Echard seems to have employed unvarying materials to produce the entirety of the works.

An overarching gaze allows one to apprehend each work in its totality.Their composition exudes softness and balance. It is delicate. Upon the very gentle and pale pink background small, shiny shapes are scattered alongside large, dark orange circular stains and green drips.The works emanate a visual and chromatic harmony. All gestuality is controlled.

A third way of viewing the exhibition would be to get as close to the works as possible so as to observe the components one by one and - as if reading a text - follow the twists and turns of an imaginary line running from one element to the next.This study could be extended ad in nitum as each individual item within the overall composition is identi ed: mushrooms, marbles, pills, packaging, insects, dried plants, coloured wax. Our rst impression fades to allow the works’ fundamentally composite nature to surface: we are not dealing with paintings but with sculptures, assemblages or even micro-assemblages. Indeed the title A/B is owed to this sculptural dimension.The perfectly smooth, visible side encased in Plexiglas has a reverse; a B-side swarming with little elements trapped in resin like creatures frozen in ice.The surprise that occurs when observing the pieces at close range is similar to the experience had when looking at works by Michel Blazy, with whom Echard shares a studio in Ile-Saint-Denis. What at first glance appears to be traditional ne art supplies is revealed as a peculiar mix of all things organic and synthetic.

The last way to contemplate this series would be to consider the list of the elements as a work in its own right, like a strange conceptual poem: algae, lichen, kombucha, phallus indusiatus mushroom, ginseng, clitoria, verbena, summer savory, St John’s wort, camomile, brambles, achillea, helichrysum, heather, egg shells, ies, dried bees and butter ies, Diet Coke, marbles, wrapping, false nails, car body debris, Leeloo Gé contraceptive pills, Echinacea pills, brewer’s yeast, dietary supplements for skin, fertility, lactation or tranquillity from Boots and Schaebens, hair removal wax, epoxy resin.

If one happens to possess the rudiments of botanical and medical knowledge (in my case to compile this list arduous research was required on herbal medicine websites whose content was totally unfamiliar to me until now), it is possible to notice that the works contain myriad active elements whose purposes are opposed: sedatives and stimulants, fertility increasers and contraceptives, living things and dead things, phallus mushrooms and clitoria flowers, hair removal wax and dietary supplements to promote hair growth, intact fake nails and chewed up real ones, yeast to offset the harmful side effects of car body debris ingestion, Echinacea to fight off colds and the packaging whose fabrication pollutes our atmosphere with irritants.

Each plant is collected in the artist’s native village in the Cévennes mountain range for its pharmacological properties as well as for its visual appearance. Despite this underlying botanical knowledge, the act of collecting and composing is not solely linked to a fascination for appropriated matter (and a possibility of being infected by it). Staged here are the effects which are actually also characteristic of all works of art: the products whose ultra-contradictory side effects are impossible to control, simultaneously provoking ecstasy, anxiety, annoyance, feverishness, irritation, rejection, love or desire.There is no aspiration to wellness here and no possible therapy. Only the tumultuous experience of sensations, emotions and contradictory thoughts persists. While we await the commercialisation of stimulant sleeping pills, excitatory tranquilizers, fertility-multiplying contraceptive pills and hair removal wax boosting regrowth we can take time to think about the perfectly opposed ideas of composition or formal gesture on the one hand and conceptual practice on the other.

It is keeping this in mind that we can better understand the exhibition title. In Brautigan’s novel the commune organises itself around a place named iDEATH. Had the book not been written in 1968, one would immediately take this as a parody of a new Apple product. Instead, as it is so often the case in Brautigan’s writings, we are invited to contemplate the way in which humans, animals, artworks and technological objects could possibly live together. In his renowned poem “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”, the writer imagines a “cybernetic meadow” where all species coexist. Mimosa Echard offers up the surface of her works as a communitarian model, a delicate balance with death ever visible on the horizon. “There is a delicate balance in iDEATH. It suits us.”