John M Armleder “à rebours” at La Salle de bains, Lyon
Since December 2016, the Salle de bains in Lyon has developed a new program of exhibitions based on a triple invitation to an artist to present an exhibition in three halls “elongated” in time and space. While experimenting with new exhibition formats, the Salle de bains continues the association founded in 1994’s mission to produce and diffuse significant works by international artists in Lyon.
To open the fall season, the Salle de bains is pleased to invite John Armleder to create a new project from September to December 2017.
One should not look too hard for meaning in the title, unless it is to consider the force of the negation of the circumstantial compliment of opposition without circumstance, like a declaration of the retreat of the artist announced for the umpteenth time. For the titles in the oeuvre of John Armleder, like the shapes and colors, respond only to the laws of contingency. But let us admit that, short of explanation, faced with a work that denies any and all symbolic or narrative intention, a work that claims to do nothing but enumerate equivalent propositions made eligible to be considered art by circumstances exterior to itself, it is tempting to turn to literary reference. The mocking banter of Huysman’s novel is called to mind, overused in art since its proclamation of modernity’s end, when, following the example of other esthetic pretexts, it became a motif…if, from certain angles, the oeuvre of John Armleder does share with the avant-garde author a liberty in the variation of style and mode of address, or cultivates an analogous interest in introspection, or in combining a theory of decadence with a discreet use of the comic, it is above all the novel’s main character who, despite himself, embodies the fortuitous citation. One therefore summons, amidst the most oft-used and antiquated of themes, the hollow image of the aesthete cut off from the world and from any possibility of adventure, turned in on himself in refined introspection, all of his efforts and ingenuity consecrated to satisfying his own senses…
backwards presents a decorated interior – or rather, three consecutive decorated interiors – the common denominator of which is the new wallpaper created by John Armleder for the occasion. The wallpaper will also appear in spaces exterior to those of the exhibition, where it will continue to function as decoration in rooms not dedicated to celebrating art. One may take for a Fluxus gesture this indifference to the placement of the work in the context of art or in that of everyday life, although John Armleder has always taken into account that the fate of any work is in interior decoration. As is often the case in the work of John Armleder, the spectator is left to guess at the unknown origin of the motif used, and it is this that allows the motif’s fatal resemblance to an already seen image or its copy. It makes no difference if it came from a William Morris tapestry, the background of a cartoon or from a shower curtain; its sole ambition is to have an effect on the spectator.
In addition to the three consecutive spaces of the exhibition at the Salle de bains and the diffusion of the wallpaper in different areas of the city, John Armleder will give a duo performance in Lyon in November. Further information about the event will be communicated in the future.
at La Salle de bains, Lyon
until 15 January 2018