The first memory of her room was tied to the feeling of uncontrolled expansion: the one that catches onto the fabrics of the world, causing commotion. Radiating beyond her skin, it led her three-year-old arms to fling her bed onto its side: excess energy recomposing the room to which she had fled for security. Surprised, her affect on the surroundings led them to imprint into her memory. Encompassing more than her own body, heat pushed the circumference of her experience beyond her fingertips. She hid, assessing the affect of her emotions from behind the temporary battlements, listening to her mother’s footsteps –which had followed the bang signalling the room’s new constellation– coming closer.
Now she’s several cycles of seven further and has been reading 1930s, 1970s, 2010s essays about women writers and artists. With each finished chapter she feels a kinship: each friction-filled moment in situated life prickling warmly. Volatile, experience leaves her wondering if the heat comes from still-burning embers, or from an abstracted emotion passed on through the words of these decades-old pages. Essays as a torch. Reading becoming the window through which oxygen comes to feed it. She falls asleep to Lucy Lippard. Wakes up to Isabelle Graw. Reads well into lunchtime (re)consuming the words of Virginia Woolf. But with Virginia, she suddenly feels meek behind her battlements. Like a parent, she warns her not to binge on rage: it will not lead her to poetry. She stops and looks. She has a room of her own: space and time to idle and digest. She has the ingredients. Hours upon hours filled with yellow-edged darkness. Boredom collected under her fingernails.
But is she using it?
Experiments between body, bed and bedclothes are made. Can a body fit in a pillowcase? How many insides to a blanket? What variety of wearings can one nightshirt yield? Like the eye of a camera, each nerve on her skin’s edge remembers her child body, the one now shed, tucked snugly into the rectangle of a pillow. An embodied memory transferred. A shadow.
Joan Mitchell raged through painting, but now enjoys posthumous retrospectives. Her firsts, her lasts, her biggests, all on show: the space beyond her brushes coming straight into the centre. Joan was three when Virginia wrote that rage barred women from writing poetry. Perhaps Joan, while Virginia scribbled idly on her notepad, musing on the different tones of voice between her favourite and least favourite poets, was throwing beds or hitting walls with fingertips and knuckles. The first outer gestures. Imprints into space; the realisation that inner movements can recompose surfaces and objects.
Perhaps pens and paintbrushes have different temperaments. The brush yells into a void: each mark recognising its relation to the next until it dives into concentration. The pen, starting as a slow print gaining speed into a scribble whispers words that blow out into a whirlwind of meaning. Lines through thought found in the pen’s linear journey. Diving down the page: summoning the snake to come bite its tail.
But these pictures are brown and green. They contain calm squares. They murmur of puzzles and playtime. While Joan raged in her studio, Jade Fourès-Varnier and Vincent de Hoÿm blend children’s hands with their faces. Squiggles on plates wait to dance with spaghetti. The floor becomes a game. Its representation an abstraction. Abstraction pertaining to Jackson, pertaining to America, pertaining to Joan, pertaining to Paris. Joan pertaining to studios pertaining to hours spent awake pretending to be sleeping. Creating bed compositions. Home compositions. Bodies elongating into squares. Bed squares. Pillow squares. Painting squares.
Jade Fourès-Varnier & Vincent de Hoÿm live in Paris.
Together the two artists founded and continue to run the non-profit artist space TONUS.
Their first exhibition took place in 2014 and since then they have exhibited extensively both in France and internationally. The podium for these shows ranges from other artist run initiatives to galleries and to institutions.
In 2017 their work was included in Thursday Best at KW’s pogo bar, In Clermont-Ferrand’s In Extenso, and even in Paris Internationale. More recently they had a solo show in the Berlin gallery PSM titled “Hotel Jacent” in 2018.
It was shortly after this that Clemence and I met Vincent in the Tonus location while visiting Paris. The space showed traces of prolific and intense making. Bottles of glaze were aligned neatly next to their personal kiln. While Vincent made us a coffee he explained the future of Tonus and how they would soon be moving and that the upcoming show would be the last of this particular location. Coincidentally it was then that Dee arrived to the space too so as to get an idea and impression of the space for her own personal research into artist-initiatives in Europe.
In 2015 in Berlin, some peers and I organised a group exhibition in an abandoned building and Jade and Vincent participated - I remember we were setting up their work and having to go to pick up some wine and a german sausage so to display on a plate they painted - it was to be placed just near a bed. This bed was complete with sheets and pillows upon which they had painted ears of wheat with simple black lines and stains / patches of colour.
A Room of One’s Own was the first exhibition at Plat- where the subject matter eclipsed the form; where rather than looking outwards I dove in, letting the proposition of the exhibition pull me into a spineless body of activity that led me to physically reside in the room, but took my mind down a track that spiralled elsewhere. Rather than looking at the works, I pursued series of drawings and readings that sprawled unsystematically from one notion to the next until I found myself entangled in a myriad of loosely connected thoughts that stemmed from, rather than investigated, those proposed by Vincent and Jade. Perhaps this is what it meant to act in A Room of My Own: hijacking the ‘one’ like a parasite, eating it from the inside out until it embodied my own subjectivity.
The exhibition was confronting because it felt frictionless. Balanced. Not many tensions arose either in living with or hosting it: co-living came with few minor adjustments and visitors were immediately presented with worlds to dive into –the space-depicting, narrative-carrying paintings acting as windows into fictional spaces. Close enough to the corners of the room to retreat into privacy, detailed enough to build walls of concentration. Visitors invested much of their time looking, maybe even more than I; the awkwardness of stepping into a stranger’s living room melted.
The idea of Plǝt- was to mark out a time and space from which to reflect. To be able to see an exhibition’s back, front and centre. To know it inside out. This of course, proved too idealistic: the idea of proximity as a key to understanding, to secret knowledge, to inner perspectives, was at most a full-blown romanticism, at least the shadow of a modernist idea. An artwork presents an opaque surface, a lifeless body, keeping us at arm’s length with its outer edges. It does not voice its inner consciousness. It will not whisper a truth in the middle of the night or over an early morning coffee.
And yet the idea persisted. When Jade and Vincent’s work resisted opening further than the initial transparencies –when their anecdotes of making no longer keyed open new perspectives– the temptation to ask for guidance from other voices arose. Kathy Acker, Chris Kraus, Kate Zambreno, Jean Rhys, Anne Carson, Julia Cooper, Koleka Putuma. Each underlined paragraph promised an entrance into the work, the room, but all it created was an insatiable hunger. I began to inhale rather than chew. Marc Augé, Isobel Graw, Maggie Nelson. All their lines of thought so clear, so set in print, even when their style was fractured. My perception dissipated. With my attention tuned to a thousand stories, sleep refused presence unless lullabied into the room by more stories told by recorded voices; endless streamers of narrative colourfully sweeping around me until I became dizzy. I would fall into unconsciousness rather than sleep. Dreamless. No self-cultivated narrative grew, not even a conspiracy theory. I attempted to create lines by piecing together fragments of others’ voices, a singular puzzle out of unrelated sets, but the body of thought remained inanimate.
I have spent two years at Plǝt- stringing together narratives about the exhibitions. But now a panic grew. Unable to hear my own voice over the chorus that I was reading, I began to spend more time as the exhibition’s resident. In some way, Virginia Woolf was right: a room of one’s own is conducive to fiction. Isolation –experience without the reference of others’ perspectives- cultivates doubt. Memories begin to blur, to warp, to mutate, under the pressure of emotions. A room of one’s own allows one to lock the door, to align the room with the inside of one’s head, staying in and mulling things over. Picking through every detail until it transforms.
Trying to ram the spin into a stop, I began attempting to conclude; but kept looking for permission to begin writing: intellectual permission, situational permission, contextual and content-driven permission. The space proposed itself as a set from which to write and perform homegrown scripts; but the characters outgrew the stage, overshadowing each other without a hint of Nosferatu-style. I felt sapped of all energy. I began to desire the ability to drop out, to expel myself from the room that was making my head spin.
But then the exhibition ended. I peeled the words ‘A Room of One’s Own’ off the door, a gesture that paradoxically turned the room I had been sharing back into my own again. Yet while the royal we of the exhibition space dissolved, the room continued to host the I,I,I,I,I,I,I’s that I’d spent the six weeks of the exhibition reading.
What grew from A Room of One’s Own was then less a novel than a body of inverted fragments. Rather than a whole in pieces, the exhibition brought together pieces into the space that, in the time they were given, did not grow together. With seeds planted far apart, the spindly ideas that grew from the exhibition struggled to grow into a singular body: the forest never emerged, remaining instead as a collection of trees, a room full of carpet and paintings.
I hope this finds you as well as I, sitting here amongst your paintings :) It’s been a busy few weeks here, but with enough pockets of time to stop and look at, and think about, the paintings. Sometimes the table paintings have taken small excursions in our wallets, to the museums, to work, to film screenings. Other times, I’ve been looking at them here, walking around the circumference of the room, observing the different sized brushstrokes that can be seen between their backgrounds and foregrounds. This detail is one I return to often, as this one, for me, seems to be the most material detail that speaks about two scales. The background strokes pertain to a larger canvas they once belonged to; and this, in combination with the pictures clearly being miniature versions of larger paintings, lets their scales slide in my mind’s eye. We’ve detected some cracks in a couple of the works; thumbed their backs and fronts, flipping them back and forth mindlessly though out conversations; and shown people their enlarged, digital versions to compare. And so, there seems to be a to-ing and fro-ing continuously happening around them.
The discussions we had about female nudes and skin while you were here collided with a discussion I was having with curator and editor Clément Gagliano. Clément and I were talking about art and flesh, and this collision of topics has led to a very beautiful parallel program. Every Saturday we have been screening two video works of different artists dealing with ideas of skin, surface and representation. The first Saturday was still heavily connected to ideas of the nude and female representation, and led to screenings of videos by Martha Rosler and Andrea Fraser. However with Fraser’s work, Little Frank and his Carp, we were already coming back to a more material idea of surface, as her critique of the Guggenheim museum Bilbao led her around the atrium caressing its walls. Then last week, a beautiful pairing between Ariane Loze’s video Décor and Marie Cool & Fabio Balducci’s Untitled - Scotch tape, water, cotton thread, desktop, took this one step further. In this pairing, representation of artworks in houses was explored by Loze, treating a building, and the collection of art works within it, like a skin. In her video, an almost non-sensical narrative played as an excuse to see the works represented in the background, winding in and out of focus with the narrative: sometimes directly addressed, other times shimmering like colourful shadows. And then a very literal, direct, poetic idea of surfaces was explored by Cool & Balducci. What has been really interesting about organising these video screenings has been the conversations around them and realising through experience, as you yourself also said, the most interesting proposition in the exhibition being about the scales and surfaces and representations. With these three words in our minds, we are in continual discussion with Clément, exploring arrays of video artists that touch upon these topics. Throughout these discussions, every now and then, I stand up from my computer (Clément is participating from Paris) and take a pause by looking at one of the paintings. And these trips around the room, funnily enough, confirm that my favourites are still, and increasingly so, the still lives.
A couple of weeks ago I was at the van Gogh museum who, unbeknownst to me, have hanging there a Fantin-Latour. It is a medium sized still life of a vase of flowers. I was actually on my way to Rijksmuseum to see if I could find a Peter Lelly painting, and so this one came as quite a surprise. But there it was, large, and on closer observation, heralding a textured, painted surface. I guess all paintings’ content falls apart into colours and textures when up really close. I guess this is one of those beautiful things about painting.
A picture has been coming to mind recently which is drawing parallels between the experience stemming from your exhibition and language. If thinking about each artwork as a word, then it feels that what we are doing here now is stringing your words into sentences. By treating your paintings as a base -a vocabulary set on the tips of our tongues- we are continually conversing with (a range of) other artists who speak similar words but with different voices. And while programming activities within the exhibition we are ever-careful about the meanings that our sentences send, when stumbling across thoughts throughout parallel experiences, the sentences and meanings are allowed a spontaneity. For example, the comparisons, and range of vocabulary found, when seeing your paintings in relation to the tiny etchings by Rembrandt currently on show at Rijksmuseum. Or when placing your painting side-by-side with my colleague’s work-desk nicknacks. I feel I will never get tired -never loose the element of surprise- of the effect recontextualisation has on artworks. It seems like such a simple ‘trick’, and yet each time it pulls together such playful moments. The experience is like dislocating words into nonsensical sentences and, in sense’s place, finding poetry.
Which brings me to the last part of the exhibition that I have not yet mentioned. The 7 paintings on their own explorations into other domestic settings. Safe, sound, but still silent, Diego and I are extremely excited for them to come back and to hear their stories. For us, Plǝt- is so much about caring, building and conversations, and for us being able to extend this gesture to our regular guests and extended networks, is such an honour. For us, this really makes us feel that working with you has allowed us to continue our explorations with this project of playing, reflecting and sharing. And so I’ll sign off here with another thank you, concluding that the first three weeks of this exhibition have been incredibly enriching, and we are so excited that we still have three more to look forward to.
Hope all is well in Madrid.
Best wishes to you and Cristina,
Diego and Dee
It’s Monday, two days after opening A Room of One’s Own, and the room is filling back with my own belongings. Jade and Vincent, whose practice stems from ideas of the gesamtwerk –the total work of art– often make work that inhabits entire spaces which, in this case, meant the room was emptied of everything except for the table, some chairs and a lamp, to give space for their installation. Consisting of nine paintings, a sculpture and a collaged carpet, the installation of Jade and Vincent turned the space into a warm, but barren, room. Now, two days further, plants, paintbrushes, pencils and books are making their way back, returning back into a space that is living.
The orbiting point of Jade and Vincent’s previous installations have often been domesticity, aiming to bring daily life into the exhibition space. Therefore inviting them to exhibit at Plǝt-, a living room dedicated to cohabitating with contemporary art, seemed to be a gesture that could accommodate this even further. However, perhaps rather than it being an encouraging space for such a practice, it was rather a space that already embodied elements that they usually harness as material. Their work often takes the form of furniture on which to sit, for example, or dinners around which a space is made. But at Plǝt-, the furniture and act-of-living is already present, and perhaps because of this the resulting exhibition that Jade and Vincent made became the most stripped back installation they have made so far.
Rather than their work being pieces that build a space at large, in this exhibition the works of Jade and Vincent present other spaces in which to dive into. Oscillating between shadowy, empty geometric spaces depicted in pastels and bright, imagined spaces that host family moments, the works of Jade and Vincent become windows into other, fictional worlds that they themselves –along with their children and their fictional dog– inhabit as characters. Plǝt-, empty except for the most essential furniture and a collaged carpet that encompasses the edges of the room, becomes something similar to a waiting room, or a corridor that leads to other worlds.
To live in this space then feels to be something like living on the platform of a stairwell. Kind of connected to the house, but definitely not inside it, Plǝt- now feels closer to an in between space than a living room. Not quite committing to taking over the room, but not just paintings on the walls either, the exhibition has stopped spreading midway –quite literally– by touching all but a small square of the space in the centre dedicated to the act of living. While initially I spent hours idling on the installed carpet around the periphery of room –reading, writing, talking, looking– for some reason, since Jade and Vincent have left, I have stayed put by the window, or in the tiny square of wooden floor in the centre. In doing so I feel like I’m skirting away from the edges, avoiding the part that I’m not used to.
But maybe there is quite a logical reason. As I sit writing this, room restored to an equilibrium between living room and installation, sun streaming in the window, I realise that during installation the spot which I am sitting in –the one I most often occupy– was continually used to deposit tools and wrappings. It was the one part of the room that did not move; the part the exhibition did not try to extend into: the ignored space and therefore the corner where ephemeral materials were temporarily moved.
Now the need of tools and materials are gone, potential works to be hung have been brought back to Paris, and this corner is once more free to occupy. So maybe, in a sense, it’s kind of fitting that it is this corner of the room that I migrate back to, rather than sitting on the carpet. Situated at the edge of the room, it is the corner from which most of the exhibition can be viewed: a place to be in the room without necessarily acting in it. A place from which to observe, one from which the room can be viewed as another space created by Jade and Vincent. I look at the room’s composition: it’s kind of occupied, kind of empty. Objects show movement but with no body present. The objects and the installation bring together different movements, spaces and intentions. Kind of constructed. Partly lived in. A cross between Jade’s inhabited spaces and Vincent’s empty ones. A collaboration.