Cyprien Gaillard on chaos, reorder and Paris in transition

Paris is in fixed flux, and no extra so than now because it races to revive its most cherished monuments and reverse all traces of disrepair forward of the 2024 Olympic Video games. 

Whereas the Eiffel Tower is stripped of 350 tonnes of paint earlier than a contemporary coat is utilized, and the Champs-Elysées will get ‘reenchanted’, French artist Cyprien Gaillard has been busy fascinated with our perpetual battle for preservation, and the way this transitional second is fertile floor for unpredictability, chaos and dysfunction.

Paris’ neo-Renaissance is on the coronary heart of Gaillard’s main two-part present ‘Humpty Dumpty’, concurrently exhibited on the Palais de Tokyo (‘Humpty’) and Lafayette Anticipations (‘Dumpty’). ‘However this Renaissance is just not all-encompassing. Not everybody makes the reduce,’ Gaillard explains through Zoom from his Berlin studio. 

By everybody, Gaillard is referring to buildings and monuments, particularly these ignored throughout Paris’ facelift. ‘The politics of renovation in Paris have their limits and obstacles,’ he says.

Gaillard photographed in September in his studio, situated in a Nineteenth-century constructing within the Berlin neighbourhood of Tempelhof. Pictures: Oliver Helbig

Born in Paris in 1980, Gaillard has lived in Berlin, on and off, for the final decade. His studio is likely one of the solely Nineteenth-century buildings to outlive the Second World Battle on its road in Tempelhof. 

Although voluble and eloquent, he comes throughout as very non-public and considerably enigmatic. ‘I’ve by no means had social media. I make it very troublesome for individuals to succeed in me’, he says. Whereas for a lot of, the studio is the mind of the artistic machine, for Gaillard, it’s much less vital. Gesturing with an unlit cigarette, he continues, ‘My gaze is at all times outwards. The studio is a spot the place issues are completed or resolved; my concepts don’t sprout from being indoors.’

‘Humpty Dumpty’ has been three years within the making. Its title attracts on the 18th-century English nursery rhyme, popularised by Lewis Carroll’s By way of the Wanting-Glass wherein an anthropomorphised egg falls off a wall, cracks, and regardless of a number of makes an attempt, couldn’t be repaired. ‘I additionally needed a title that deflates the expectation of me not having a present in my hometown for 12 years,’ he says. 

‘My thought was to do a “mouth to mouth” [on] another person’s art work that had fallen into disrepair, to reanimate it’

One other underdog that has captured Gaillard’s creativeness is Le Défenseur du Temps, a mechanical clock created by French artist Jacques Monestier in 1979, which has lived within the Quartier de l’Horloge space of Paris ever since. Every hour, its protagonist, a brass warrior brandishing a sword and protect, would battle one among three beasts at random: a chicken, dragon, and crab, respectively symbolising air, earth, and water. In 2003, the clock stopped transferring and was by no means repaired. ‘Dumpty’ at Lafayette Anticipations will treatment this injustice. ‘My thought was to do a “mouth to mouth” [on] another person’s art work that had fallen into disrepair, to reanimate it,’ he says. 

However there’s a twist: the reborn clock will run backwards, gained’t be sure to traditional time, and gained’t cease on the hour. ‘I had this concept that he ought to acquire again the time he missed,’ says Gaillard. As a substitute of hourly, the warrior fights each quarter-hour. 

What occurs between battles can be vital. Whereas he ‘fights’ in silence, the ‘intermissions’ will characteristic two soundtracks, alternating between one which ‘hits’ and one which ‘heals’. Hit presents nostalgia by the use of fragmented, a capella variations of musical hits from the period when the clock stopped, which frequently perform as ambient music piped into retailers, cafés or taxis – the humdrum of the ‘normalised metropolis’. ‘It was a nasty time for music,’ he quips. ‘I used to be fascinated with this music not as one thing immersive, however nearly as an assault.’ 

The temper adjustments with Heal, for which Gaillard collaborated with Laraaji – a Harlem-based musician whom he calls an ‘unimaginable particular person and mentor’ – on an authentic soundtrack. ‘Right here, you could have a sound that’s doing the other; it’s therapeutic and has a way of care.’ he says. ‘One talks about [the clock’s] situation as an inert object, and one talks about transcendence and the opportunity of defeating loss of life.’

Nautilus Dub, a sculpture by Gaillard, defines the form of his present within the Palais de Tokyo, beginning with an extended curved room and ending in a spiral staircase. Pictures: Oliver Helbig

After Gaillard’s present closes, the clock will return to Quartier de l’Horloge, restored to Monestier’s authentic choreography. 

As Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel, director of Lafayette Anticipations – Fondation Galeries Lafayette, and curator of ‘Humpty Dumpty’ explains, ‘Dumpty’ is an ‘opera of the revival of a monumental deserted sculpture, an animated Frankenstein of kinds.’

The venue can be integral to Gaillard’s work. Lafayette Anticipations is ready in a Nineteenth-century industrial constructing that was given a brand new life in 2018 by OMA/Rem Koolhaas. ‘It’s nearly like doing an exhibition inside a drill or a instrument’, says Gaillard. ‘It’s a machine for exhibiting; it’s performative and malleable, what you’d count on from a museum of the twenty first century. This constructing is, for the time of my present, carrying a few of the rubble of the town.’

One other piece, positioned on the ft of Le Défenseur du Temps, propels the present into the realm of science fiction. Asbestos in its authentic type is a extremely poisonous fibre that’s the bane of the development business. For a brand new sculpture, Gaillard sourced asbestos waste from the constructing website on the Palais de la découverte – the science museum throughout the Grand Palais. It’s the primary museum he encountered as a toddler, and one other topic of intensive renovation forward of the Olympics. 

A lot to everybody’s reduction, the asbestos in Gaillard’s sculpture has been vitrified by a course of referred to as Cofalit (equipped by French firm Inertam, which manufactured the sculpture), rendering it chemically inert and fully non-toxic. The result’s a glassy monolithic block which is able to lie like an obsidian tomb beneath Le Défenseur du Temps, a autopsy of Paris in sculptural type. ‘It’s this concept that asbestos is just not an issue when it lies dormant within the wall; it turns into an issue if you begin renovating. It’s a really meta work: a discovery throughout the museum of discovery,’ displays the artist.

This theme of penetrating crevices and cracks in programs continues in ‘Humpty’, at Palais de Tokyo. As Lamarche-Vadel describes, this chapter will ‘suggest a drift by a number of works that every one discover the query of order and dysfunction, and the best way they’re particularly seen within the territory of the town. Will probably be a wander by the hidden, marginal, anarchic areas of the metropolis, and the way a lot they inform about us and the world we dwell in.’

Guests are first confronted by Love Locks, a brand new readymade set up titled after the Parisian custom of lovers writing their names on padlocks, attaching them to public bridges, and throwing the keys within the river Seine. These symbols of affection within the metropolis of affection have brought on a really actual burden for the authorities, who’ve resorted to lock-proofing bridges with Plexiglas. They’ve additionally eliminated current locks en masse, which is how Gaillard acquired materials (on mortgage) for Love Locks. The locks from the Pont des Arts and the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor now fill ten industrial-scale nylon sacks in his present. ‘They’re a normalised type of vandalism. You can argue that graffiti is simpler to take away,’ he says.

Cyprien Gaillard Ocean II Ocean, 2019 (movie nonetheless) HD color video with sound Length: 10:56 min © Cyprien Gaillard, Courtesy the artist, Sprüth Magers and Gladstone Gallery

Additional in is Gaillard’s 2019 movie Ocean II Ocean, which premiered on the 58th Venice Biennale. It begins with footage from metro stations within the former Soviet Bloc, the place marble partitions are embedded with fossilised sea life. The second half follows a fleet of retired New York subway automobiles as they’re dumped into the Atlantic, creating an aquatic cemetery and in the end, a synthetic reef for marine life. It’s a story of two oceans, separated by time and geography, tied collectively in a vortex of fixed renewal of artificial and pure programs. 

One other movie, Formation (2022) – dominating the colossal curved corridor of the Palais with lengthy, slit-like dimensions of 50m x 6m – depicts the cyclical motion of rose-ringed parakeets (native to India) by Königsallee, a high-end retail road in Düsseldorf. ‘The attention-grabbing factor with their flight sample is that they at all times fly on the dot within the final half hour of daylight, rain or shine, all yr lengthy,’ he describes. ‘It’s nearly as if they’ve taken on the German rigour.’ 

Gaillard is just not alone within the Palais’ cavernous chambers. He’s enlisting the work of 4 visitor artists to occupy the areas with him. A collection of early drawings by Robert Smithson discover ‘entropy and the sedimentation of the world, deep time – however they’re additionally very wacky’, says Gaillard. They’re held down (after Gaillard managed to persuade Smithson’s property) by vitrified asbestos paperweights. Elsewhere is Käthe Kollwitz’s bronze sculpture Mutter mit zwei Kinder (1932-1936), and Giorgio de Chirico’s Oreste e Pilade (1928), wherein two melancholy figures carry rubbled ruins of their stomachs. 

Cyprien Gaillard Formation, 2022 (movie nonetheless) © Cyprien Gaillard Courtesy the artist, Sprüth Magers and Gladstone Gallery

Daniel Turner, the one different modern artist within the present, presents a extra performative bent. In Eiffel Cable Burnish (2022) the American artist has smeared the partitions in a stain made out of dissolved elevator cables Gaillard sourced from the Eiffel Tower renovation.

The Palais de Tokyo operates in a special timezone to the remainder of the town, opening at midday and shutting at midnight on most days. This, as Gaillard notes, permits guests ‘to see the present in an altered frame of mind.’ It’s a small however important element within the context of ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and Gaillard’s work extra broadly, which centres on time and our makes an attempt to handle its results, each in the environment and on ourselves. ‘His work manages to level out our struggles, the paradoxes and ambiguities of our values, beliefs, and behaviours,’ Lamarche-Vadel continues. ‘What will we love and why will we adore it? What are we able to let go and what is going to we protect? What do we expect is price residing? His complete work, although very seductive, is analysis on life and loss of life.’

Many affiliate Gaillard’s work with ruins, rubble and destruction, however ‘Humpty Dumpty’ is in regards to the resurrection – or artistic corruption – of these left behind. It demonstrates the artist’s instinctive means to reanimate relics of civilisation and seize the human obsession with renewal and reorder. Whereas the protagonist of the clock seeks to defend time, Gaillard is within the enterprise of upending it. §


Leave a Comment