"My horizontality" at the Until Then gallery in Saint-Ouen – a show that stands up for itself
With her summery exhibition "My Horizontality", on show until 23 August, curator Julie Boukobza invites us to see the world from a different perspective, be it our bed, our hammock – or our grave.
For freelance curator Julie Boukobza, the horizontal begins in bed. Or, to be more explicit, with sex. “To start with, I even imagined calling the show My Horizontal Life, in homage to the book of the same name by Chelsea Handler, in which she recounts her sex life,” confides Boukobza, who’s already had successful exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo and the Google Cultural Institute. At the Until Then gallery in Saint-Ouen, just outside Paris, where she’s showing works by a dozen artists, sexuality is most definitely present: Caroline Mesquita’s brass animals – sloths lying in suggestive positions, somewhere between acrobatics and hysteria – might well represent an animal orgy, all the more so in that they’re displayed in an intimate space, just in front of a work by Maxime Thieffine in which the fly of a pair of jeans is about to open to reveal a male member that would only excite yet more the assembly of mammals opposite.
But reducing horizontality to animal or human sexuality would be to miss the point, because the power of Boukobza’s premise lies in its ability to develop a simple idea – “Let’s look at the world from a horizontal position” – in a whole eclectic range of experiences. In other words, it’s about seeing things in a different way. “From your bed, for example,” suggests Boukobza. “For many writers, like Proust, bed was a living space and a work space, a place of creation and imagination.” Simone Fattal’s many teapots, displayed on high, echo this idea of the art of living and of thinking… “But a bed can also evoke the idea of a banquet, or in its deck-lounger iteration the idea of lazy afternoons by the pool…” At the gallery entrance, an admirably laconic work by Émilie Pitoiset – just a cigarette and a glass – immediately transports us to a holiday atmosphere. For the horizontal is also a way of taking time out from the hectic pace of life, so as to allow a calmer mode of reflection.
“The horizontal position is the first and last that we experience, at both birth and death,” Boukobza continues, philosophically. Death: this is the theme at the heart of the exhibition. The wonderful piece by France Valliccioni, showing a ceiling covered in cracks, couldn’t express it better: a cracked ceiling, the last image our retinas register on the threshold of death… Meanwhile, the huge mural by Anthea Hamilton showing a sleeping body and giant cigarettes seems to be more about sacrificed youth than the charms of Morpheus. And indeed, just opposite the diptych showing a dead young soldier (an image taken from Luchino Visconti’s film The Leopard), the hazy imagery takes on a more mortiferous dimension. The same can said for Laëtitia Badaut Haussmann’s Daybeds, which make reference to a Charlotte Perriand-style decorative piece (a mosaic-covered stele) as much as to a tomb, among all these pieces that are more macabre than estival.
From death to resurrection, there’s but one step – at any rate this is what Jean-Marie Appriou’s installation Prophétie n° I seems to be saying, with its two child figures, one lying down, the other standing, as if the death of the child, or childhood, were followed by the possibility of a new life, upright, an elevation to another world. The horizontal is anything but a finality.
By Thibaut Wychowanok
My Horizontality (Mon horizontalité), an exhibition by Julie Boukobza, is on show at the Until Then gallery, 77 rue des Rosiers, 93400 Saint-Ouen, until 23 August. untilthen.fr