French people over thirty will probably remember that on a Saturday night, the pay TV channel Canal + used to broadcast encrypted films for adults. The image was scrambled and all you could see was an abstract spectacle, the colour of flesh bizarrely vibrating to the sound of a machine-like crackle.
Like a distant memory of pop culture in the 1990s when television reigned supreme over people’s free-time, Mimosa Echard’s piece plays on the different aspects of encryption using a transparent water wall that conjures up visions of those fountains found in the lobbies of corporate buildings. Except that this water is slightly tinged with yellow. This “liquid and authoritarian” frontier separates the space into two zones. The first is inaccessible, we can only look, and the second is void of works but intended for the bodies of visitors. This architectural gesture echoes the models of suburban housing developments designed by Dan Graham in the early 1980s, which created a tension between private and public space, the inside and the outside and stimulated our scopic pulsion.
There are three screens behind the wall, each showing a video. And finally, on the back wall, a montage of pictures acts as a horizon. The montage is in fact a composition of adverts taken from magazines of different eras, mounted onto hand-made lace and disappearing into the layer of acrylic paint. Some of them boast oestrogen replacement therapies now known to be toxic.1 But we cannot see any of these details. The installation is facing frontward like a cinema screen. And, similarly to the work of the Neo-Impressionists, it’s our eye that creates the synthesis. Everything going on behind the wall is blurred by the flowing water, a perfectly analogical encryption producing a large liquid image.
This act of looking is central to much of the artist’s work. Her art practice stretches from the most physical to the most immaterial registers (sculpture, bas-relief, painting, collage, books and fanzines, video, video games), and is always concerned with assemblage. She brings together plants, medicine, tiny relics of the tech society, popular or personal images, to create infinite visual or conceptual dynamics. From a distance, her A/B series, for example, seems to offer the pictorial illusion of abstraction with expressionist tendencies. Close up, it plunges us into a universe seething with unidentifiable elements, where natural and synthetic, living and non-living, waste and precious objects, personal and collective, visible and hidden, alienation and emancipation are juxtaposed together.
This room is dominated by the same deconstructive principle as all forms of binarity. Lachrymal and urinary, the continuous circuit of flowing water evokes bodily fluids, “sublime waste”. The resulting loop equally recalls the fluid circulation of information, an electronic trance. From a distance, the screens resonate with an optical experience commonly seen in towns, proliferating in shop windows rather like captive animals. As for the advertising images, they are the cast-offs of a material culture, the abandoned bodies of capitalism who find a new value here, because they are reinjected into a visual and economic circuit. Both an optical device and a grand body-reproducing machine (a hint of Duchamp?), libidinal mechanism and commentary on the merchandization of the hormonal and emotional condition, this piece reveals “the monstruous complexity of our reality”,2 the network of physical and immaterial organisations we move about in, the grand dance of matter and information. To quote the xenofeminist manifesto of the Laboria Cuboniks collective: “Ours is a world in vertigo. It is a world that swarms with technological mediation, interlacing our daily lives with abstraction, virtuality and complexity.”
NB: the title is taken from the artist’s unpublished notes. The quotes are taken from unpublished conversations with the author.
On this subject see Donna Haraway, “Inondée d’urine. DES, Premarin & respons(h)abilité multispécifique”, in Vivre avec le trouble, Les Éditions des mondes à faire, Vaux-en-Velin, 2020 ↩
Laboria Cuboniks, “XENOFEMINISM, A Politics for Alienation”, 2015: https://laboriacuboniks.net/manifesto/xenofeminism-a-politics-for-alienation/ ↩