31.01 – 01.03.2014
Carlos/Ishikawa Gallery, London

By Bianca Baroni

They love you all

“…They love you all anyways…(…) they also don’t really care of who you are …” is what Marie Angeletti tells us in the recorded track played at the exhibition’s opening and now re-iterated every time a visitor walks in the show. Her voice enters the gallery space as a sort of announcement or mumbling confession. Simply conceived as an acoustic appendix to the body of works featured in the show, this soundtrack stands somewhere between a voice memo and a fragmentary speech, between a disorienting statement and a series of distracted comments Angeletti formulates around her own practice. As manifestos are usually defined through a set of ideas and values being negated in order to embrace new propositions, then the claim Angeletti makes against “everything that is original” might present this piece as a sort of manifesto condemning the general notion of originality.

A reading that doesn’t seem so inaccurate after all, as Angeletti’s acoustic intervention somehow complements the experience of the viewer in finding her way through the dense body of pictures inhabiting the gallery space. A carousel of different images, arranged one after the other along the same impalpable horizon, traces the perimeter of the room, articulating the gaze of the viewer and suggesting a kind of browsing movement through the sequence. Perhaps if one were to walk into the show without knowing anything about the operations and experiences behind those works, the act of appropriation and re-contextualization being performed might not even be detected. Perhaps there would be no reason to look for any other voice besides that of the artist. The way in which pictures displayed inform the very mode of looking at them, it reminds me of the experience of surfing through Google stock images, or lazily scrolling pictures on a touch-screen. Under such circumstance the individuality of the single image is flattened out within the more general visual category explored by the user. Every image is equal to the other and there’s not necessarily a reason that motivates the act of retracing it back to an origin: within digital territories authorship is a relative concept, originality a dissonant one (if not even unconceivable!). In other words the format of the show seems to allude to ways of disseminating and experiencing images that nullify any physical or conceptual hierarchy differentiating them, therefore undermining notions of originality and univocal authorship.

Then when saying “…they also don’t really care of who you are …” there is a chance Angeletti might not be addressing the audience as one might naturally assume. Perhaps those who are being at once loved and ignored are ultimately the images themselves or, better yet, the multiplicity of voices, stories and gestures underlying each one of them.
In a sense Angeletti’s speech classifies as a rhetorical stratagem, a way to perform through language her position regarding contemporary modes of visual reception. However, given the syntax of the exhibition and its relation to Angeletti’s conceptual positions, what is the nature and role of the specific images being displayed? Most of the works currently on view at Carlos/Ishikawa originate from Fabricants Couleurs (2013), a project that developed from a collaboration between the artist and a group of people working for the colour manufacturer Pébéo. After approaching the workers based in the company’s two main factories in China and France, the artist started working closely with employees who were themselves engaged in a creative activity of some sort during their spare time. Besides inviting them to produce pieces for the residency’s final show in Marseille, she also documented them while undertaking their hobbies and photographed some of the outcomes of their practice.

Angeletti articulates her artistic gesture through various modes of appropriation concurring to inform the visual economy of the display on different levels. The pieces produced by Pébéo’s workers infiltrate the exhibition both physically and through photographic documentation. While some of their paintings are directly re-positioned in the gallery space, other images of their creations are visually appropriated and manipulated through an endless process of editing, copying and relocating, concealing any tangible link to the original. These are then exhibited along with other pieces including portraits, stock images, pictures digitally modified or assembled, objects being photographed and re-positioned within a different visual configuration, as well as imagery related to the artist’s own memories and experiences. As a consequence the encounter with this fragmented corpus of images makes it impossible for the viewer to discern among the multitude of voices involved. Not only each piece is constituted through several layers of intervention. The display as a whole seems to function like a hermetic device, frustrating any attempt to retrace each work back to a univocal authorial source. Indeed the physical structure of the show concurs to further entangle this setting, hinting at possible patterns of signification behind the selection and position of each image. Most artworks are conceived as the arrangement of two or more pieces installed, suggesting the presence of potential relations among images, leaving the task of negotiating visual narratives in place up to the viewer.

Again, as there is no perceivable discontinuity among pictures composing each work, with this structure the artist re-affirms a horizontal approach to ways of producing, distributing and consuming images. Like in the case of TLYA 09_Duck CCTV/ TLYA 10_Duck painting, where the photograph of a monitor and the painting portraying the same image featured on screen stand within one diptych, questioning any plausible gap between one format and the other. The same goes for TLYA 13_Tourists/ TLYA 14_Parrott/TLYA 15_La Novice/ TLYA 16_SR 2014, where the artist has implemented within a group of heterogeneous figures the digital print of a poster connected to her childhood memories. Furthermore this one has been transposed on the leaflets printed for the show and available for all visitors at the entrance of the gallery. As a result one visual fragment of the artist’s personal biography enters the circuit of the gallery’s audience, becoming directly assimilated to the particular project on view and loosing track of its semantic origin.

Given what I have said so far I can still see the scope of the project going further beyond considerations on shared authorship and circulatory patterns peculiar to contemporary visual culture. Considered both autonomously and in relation to Fabricants Couleurs, They love you all implies many possible discursive and narrative layers. Let’s not forget that most of the works being shown in the present project are the direct result of a collaboration initiated among the walls of an industrial plant. The nature of this context has certainly played a central role in determining the structure, the content, the dominant aesthetic as well as the core questions arising from the present exhibition. Angeletti has navigated the plausible parallel between the reality of the factory and the present state of artistic production,  instigating a reflection on the status of the artwork and that of the artist in relation to capital. How does the progressive globalization of the art markets impact contemporary artistic labour? How is the latter constituted in relation to processes of valorisation and commodification? And, most importantly, what defines the artist and the artwork as such in the digital era, so much characterised by open-source frameworks and notions of collective authorship? These are only few of the interrogatives emerging as Angeletti plays with the reciprocity between her role as an artist at work and the position of the workers making art. Ironically Marie Angeletti seems to be looking for individuality within a place designated for mass industrial production, employing an amateur eye as a template to disarticulate and disperse her own authorial voice across the exhibition space.