press release

Villa Arson is holding a major one-man show by Austrian artist Martin Walde from January 25 to March 30, 2003 along with three individual exhibitions by young artists: Jean-Baptiste Ganne, Arnaud Maguet and Viginie Barré.

MARTIN WALDE was born in 1957. He lives and works in Vienna and will be artist-in-residence at the Villa Arson in 2003. Walde seems to perpetuate something of the tradition of Informal Art from the sixties in his works which operate by accumulation of materials shaped by chance, entropy or chemical reactions – be they ropes (Tie or Untie, 1999-2001), plastic tape (Nature’s own Flexible Facsimile, 1997), frogs (Frogs, 1997-2001), worms (Worm Complex, 1997), or slowly melting wax (Shrinking bottle/Melting Bottle, 1994). But Walde does not totally eschew the narrative dimension in his work. He inserts his mysterious jellies and fluorescent latex in the circulation of common sense like so many wacky transitional objects, like artifacts that have escaped from a postiche Land Art reserve. They bid visitors to act as experimenters rather than spectators, to touch, smell, and listen to them. Some even invite visitors to assemble or handle the objects, to manipulate soap (Jelly Soaps, 1995-1998), weird sails (Siamese Shadows, 1997-2001), or puncture patches in an inner tube repair shop (Aftermath the Garage, 1999-2000). Clips of Slips, presented in this exhibition, was produced by the Kunstverein of Salzburg, Austria.

VIRGINIE BARRÉ was born in 1970. She lives and works in Nantes and Douarnenez, and was artist-in-residence at Villa Arson in 2001. Barré has kept the most morbid aspects of her early works of sculpture in which the body, even though it was covered by metaphors, already held a predominant place. She now sketches and stages friends and strangers in altogether unenviable positions: dead bodies with dislocated limbs in pools of fake blood (for instance), chance actors in a news-making story. Barré’s installations are not sculptures. She plays at positing that something took place, but she does so in the joking tone of a simulacrum, complete with elements from crime novels and figures of style from B movies. The titles themselves partake in this form of dramatization: Cache-cache petit mort (Hide and seek small death, 1994), Petites funérailles (Small funeral, 1995), Corps morts (Dead bodies, 1996). Her installations act as reminders that nothing and nobody is going to leave here alive and unscathed, certainly not the narrative plot which the sole climax has ousted from the scene. Barré’s works «do not tell stories, [they] contain them.» The catalogue to this exhibition is published jointly by Parvis, Centre d’art contemporain, Ibos and Villa Arson, Nice.

JEAN-BAPTISTE GANNE was born in 1972. Formerly a student at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de la Villa Arson, he now divides his time between Nice and Amsterdam. Ganne collects «weak images,» images without qualities – floral compositions abandoned on old postcards, matchboxes depicting cyclists (Les Objets, 1998), women on the street seen from behind (Prolégomènes, 1999). Picked from the stream of stereotypical images that no longer catch the eye, he charges them with new meaning by the way in which he reframes, crops and enlarges them. Since 1988, he has been working on illustrating Marx’s Capital chapter by chapter. The text becomes the synopsis of an immense picture book on the visibility of commodity relationships and their effects, and at the same time a reflection on the rhetorical duplicity of the photographic image. After all, Ganne is first of all a photographer. And, countering the current trend of pictorial sampling, he is a photographer intent on producing pictures of his own. In doing so, he is not trying to underscore his status as an author. To the contrary, his photos display no stylistic distinctiveness or subjective vision; they even look as if they could have been made for the mass industry of photojournalism. Their aim is not so much to let us see the world as to try to grasp how the world is given to be seen. This exhibition benefited from support from the École National de la Photographie d’Arles.

ARNAUD MAGUET, born in 1975, was formerly a student at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de la Villa Arson, and now lives and works in Nice. Maguet’s videos and installations impose themselves pell mell on the senses and the mind like a movie whose beginning you’ve missed and whose end you think you’ve long known. They skirt around the narrative, shower it with respect, skim off its color and foretaste, and then get rid of it with a Vulcan pinch. Maguet always keeps a certain distance from his own work, intent on the foam that, at the summit of the pint of triteness [«Careful, no higher than the top,» says the umpteenth customer to the barman], invariably seems to want to rise over the brim. The luxury with which he treats the most trivial detail is inversely proportional to the importance that this detail has on the checkerboard of ethical and aesthetic imperatives. Arnaud Maguet practices a Las Vegas-style pop art of self-parody and virtuosity, escorted by a whole parade of historical rock ‘n’ roll figures, the smell of Martinis, a few heroines from trash movies, and most of all chaperoned by the shadow and icon of Elvis Presley who may just be living somewhere under a false identity and who is most probably bald. Maguet’s flashy modernity (which, to be perfectly frank, sometimes verges on kitsch) is clearly that of retro-futurism (or «How do you see the year 2000 in 1963?») These projects received support from the Drac Paca, the Conseil Général des Alpes-Maritimes and the Conseil Régional Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.


only in german

Martin Walde


Jean-Baptiste Ganne, Arnaud Maguet, Virginie Barré