les presses du réel

Le Travail de rivière

(p. 230-232)

By way of introduction to this book, I wanted to set up what I call the stroll. To choose to treat it in black and white is a way of expressing the essential. It is an important part of Travail de rivière. It has showcased the correspondences between my research, my notebook and the work of artists that forms its pedestal, its essential foundations. Instead of words I preferred to deliver an introduction in images. I chose to exchange the words with Hélène Meisel.
Thus there is no introduction in the strict sense of the term but rather a stroll in images and a simple postface, so that the different readings of the project remain possible, as they were in the exhibition itself. Different hypotheses continue to develop, just as different paths took shape for the visitors who ranged over the show.
Before I mounted Le Travail de rivière in Ivry-sur- Seine in 2009, I had written a kind of preface in Geneva in 2007 with Les Roses de Jéricho (The Roses of Jericho). Today the project enters a new phase in Istanbul with The Garden of Forking Paths.
The rose of Jericho is a fossil plant. An archaic species from the Middle East, it soaks up water at the first rainfall and comes back to life. To me it suggests eternity and persistence.
The “work of the river” is a symbolic expression that conjures up the shaping of raw materials and the importance of the work done by water. The premise of the show was to bring together the temporary and hence fleeting collection of the show's curator. A “collection of sand,” as Italo Calvino writes: “ To assemble a collection the way one keeps a diary, that is, a need to transform the flow of one's own existence into a series of objects saved from being scattered, or a series of written lines, crystallized outside of the continuous flow of thought.” The hint of the Wunderkammer, the cabinet of curiosities, isn't simply a matter of choosing a form; it also comes down to recalling that understanding the world occurs in the inventory of the materials of the perceptible through the three kingdoms, animal, vegetable and mineral.
The Garden of Forking Paths takes its name from a Borges short story of stringent brevity. The show and the short story are based on a temporal maze. In Borges's fictional tale, a secondary story is grafted onto the main one. This secondary story deals with an ancestor of the protagonist who is the creator of a book and a maze.
I was invited to put together a show in Istanbul and my discovery of that city made it possible to carry on with my exploration of notions that lie at the core of my interests and projects: the maze, where everything seems to repeat, corridors, crossroads and rooms; the enigma of the work of art, which cannot be reduced to a single meaning; the layers of memory; the sedimentation of ideas; revelation through analysis; entropy, the science that measures disorder, which is synonymous with transformation and degradation; origins, whether buried, forgotten, revealed, fantasized, virtual or invented, the starting point and conclusion of the human adventure. I chose that title for the final episode of the trilogy because the word “garden” also evokes for me the spatial and temporal territory of an exhibition in which each visitor can follow the path they choose, to understand the world but also to lose themselves there.
These three shows betray a form of anxiety before the fragility of the world while bringing to light in the work of contemporary artists a resurgence of timeless, universal subjects embodied in archetypal forms.
Like an ultracontemporary symptom of protection and resistance.

Claire Le Restif

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