Cyprien Gaillard: Gazing into the Anachronism

TEXT:Yuting He    TIME: 2019.11.18

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The exhibition ‘Ocean II Ocean’ at TANK Shanghai is the first museum presentation of French artist Cyprien Gaillard in China, showcasing new works from the Venice Biennale 2019  Ocean II Ocean and LAnge du Foyer (Vierte Fassung), along with an iconic sculpture series.

Gaillard’s works are silent and yet powerful with a physical presence and gigantic scale that fights against any form of negligence, doubt, or ignorance. From the sculpture series, Fiji Bar Winged Thrasher, Western Turners Rail, and Cuban Wren position large excavator shovels as a means of depicting violence in a new context with pointed teeth and flaked paint flicker being depicted in the reflected light from the projection, murmuring its past. The artist inserted calcite rods quarried in Utah, USA into the machine’s bushings, while the brittle and glossy minerals might have been trophies from excavations. The combination seems to symbolize a moment of reconciliation between destruction and construction.

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Inside the tank is a dark and enclosed space. Walking past the large sculptures, the spectators will be standing in front of the video work Ocean II Ocean projected at a monumental scale. A speeding train lights up the fossilized subterranean life embedded into the marble walls of an ageing metro station in the former Soviet Union followed on shortly by discarded trains of New York whirling in the Pacific Ocean which are destined to become the substrate for the future reef. In between documentary sequences and the soundtrack of a steel drum orchestra, close-ups of the metro interior are infused with solemnity — this is not a story from far away, as linkage across time and space is hidden among everyday chaos and crowds. The artist has expanded his attention consistently to building demolitions in the new work, into a broader focus on destruction. When trains are dumped into the ocean by the crane, and the swirl in the flushing toilet appears to become a storming current after zooming in, we find joy in watching the spectacle of destruction as a bystander. Turning away from the video,  a spectator will come face to face with the holographic work  LAnge du Foyer (Vierte Fassung)  in the center of the space. Originating from Max Ernst’s 1937 surrealist painting of a similar name, the flailing angel was once the symbol of destruction across Europe during WWII and is now caught up within the fan blades, forced to be reborn and to perform again and again. Like the excavator shovels, its destructive force is suspended and it has become an object to be watched, which intrigues our curiosity and fear.

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Works in the exhibition ‘Ocean II Ocean’ often use historical references, but they transcend nostalgia or mourning. Cyprien Gaillard gazes into the anachronic reality and reveals the interconnections with an almost indifferent attitude. Here nothing is new, as everything inevitably draws countless lines of connections and bears endless examination from curious eyes.

Text by Yuting He and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

Photo by Yuting He and Courtesy of the Artist

About the exhibition

Dates: 7 November 2019 – 12 January 2020

Venue: TANK Shanghai

Address: 2380 Longteng Avenue, Shanghai