Aloïs Godinat at La Salle de Bains, Lyon

After a crouching artist, some pink monochromes, and a choir, all recently shown at the Circuit Contemporary Art Centre in Lausanne, Aloïs Godinat is occupying the La Salle de bains venue in Lyon with a score and some systematic visual and acoustic sequences, which are at once intense and minimal. Between repetition, amplification and condensation, the exhibition introduces a refrain that is at once near and far. The praxis of the Swiss artist Aloïs Godinat (born in 1978) is essentially focused on small sculpture, the use of modest materials, printed matter, past-related forms and gestures, and acoustic experiments. For his solo show titled BABANANALILITÉTÉ, Aloïs Godinat takes his formal and conceptual research into the recurrent objects which form his repertory somewhere else and in different ways.

Here, hitherto unshown sculptures, at once elementary and extremely thought-out, and often imbued with a certain wit, take on a new relief in a mode of appearances put back together again, and extended spaces, undoubtedly favouring both randomness and active contemplation. For the first time the artist makes use of video in a systematic way and on the scale of the exhibition. A video belonging to this new family, screened at the Liste Contemporary Art Fair in Basel in 2012, which shows a ribbon coiled around itself filmed in a static shot in a tight frame, can be interpeted as the announcement of this exhibition. The invitation from La Salle de Bains has offered the artist a chance to prolong and multiply these video experiments and come up with a new series, produced between May 2012 and January 2013.

The exhibition, which is made up of five videos, presents objects akin to sculptures pre- viously made by the artist. The forms (bell, spiral, poster), the ordinary items rolled up, in particular, and elastic, as well as the raw materials, refer in quite an obvious way to the repertory put together by the artist over the years. Uncertainties nevertheless remain about the nature and status of these filmed objects which have been composed and/or re- created for these videos, and do not exist as autonomous sculptures. Aloïs Godinat proposes a new use of his repertory of objects by giving it—and them—a greater visibility which is deferred by the use of video. So the exhibition BABANANALILITÉTÉ ushers in a new stage in his work. The set devised for the exhibition follows and prolongs as much as it girds,structures and opens the space. It invites the public to occupy the entire exhibition space from its edges to its centre, and offers the sculptural goings-on a framework which sublimates them. What is involved is setting up conditions for understan- ding the works, which enable the essence of these objects to be revealed in an imperceptible movement (of recording) and an evident tension. The recorded object, once turned into an image, becomes one with the exhibition space, in terms of depth. As in a back-and-forth sequence, the sculptural work is put at some remove in order to explore in different ways what these selected objects express in terms of something surprisingly uncommon.

Five videos projected on monochrome surfaces open the space up to a series of filmed objects. These latter have different types of similar relations with the archetypal sculptures. Babananalilitété (2013) is the replica, in another material, of a spiral which is regularly present in the artist’s work, like a looped signature which often appears on its own and isola- ted, and which, here, as a result of its enlargement, sheds its aura-like dimension and takes on a masterful power. Carton/Cardboard (2013) is the arrangement of a set of existing pieces. The only thing that is different is the format. Cardboard—Robert Filliou’s favourite material—is not only seen for its matter but also for the forms of semantic organization that it offers. Caoutchouc/Rubber (2013) is the purest and most open form, and makes reference to Hans Arp’s abstract sculptures. Aloïs Godinat has singled out a component of an existing sculpture to make a new one. There has also been a preference for operations involving repetition (the poster), hybridization and amplification (La cloche à manche/Bell with Handle, 2013, is enlarged in relation to its model and conjures up the production and broadcasting of a sound). These ordinary objects, refined and pared down, share this ability to condense a possible development. When they are dense and gathered in their material identities and their forms, they suggest a possible physical stretching (poster, spring) and when their meanings are schematic (bell, spiral) or elliptical (rubber), they also summon up extended semantic suggestions. It just so happens that the recent use of video offers the artist the possibility of framing, de-contextualizing and positioning his objects in a different space, duration, and time- frame. Arranged in a spare environment and filmed in static shots on large coloured areas, these filmed objects incorporate the artist’s approach in the continuity of two traditions wavering between Jackson Mac Low’s Tree Movie (1961) and Andy Warhol’s Empire (1964).The objects are condensed and time is as if stretched; the editing is reduced to a mini- mum and the narrative requirement dispensed with. When a lone image is caught, immobilized within a video, an on-going movement of time and an “endless” repetition of the process nevertheless hallmark this recording. The flow of the idea, the time-frame and the image is not hampered. Even if a “credit” defines the length of the event, the static shots and the motionlessness of the filmed objects contradict the usual function of recording images and the video’s conventional structure. For a split second, pauses give the eye a chance to be extended in the soft quality of the coloured areas with their slightly outmoded tones. This attention paid to the constructed object – here it is almost drawn – which is de-contextualized (reproduced and exhibited) and de-materialized (the sculpture becomes an image, and the enlarged image becomes more abstract), together with the shift of its use, and its context of appearance and transmission, exaggerate both the abstract potential of these objects and their capacity to be re-semanticized.

In the midst of the unfolding of these films, a solitary and discreet sculpture has the task of broadcasting, unabetted, all the acoustic excerpts tallying with each of the five videos. Invariably unbalanced, this speaker at an angle, set on the floor but rickety – which regularly accompanies the artist from show to show- contains the few clues and avenues for interpreting his projections. In hel- ping to draw the exhibition’s physical space, the sounds broadcasted also determine the lengths of the videos themselves. In indicating a dysfunction or a revoked functional factor, the unbalanced speaker, and the objects represented, index and suggest possible but suspended uses and manipulations, which, furthermore, remain somewhat indeterminate in time, and ambiguous by their very nature. By regarding sound as a catalyst of vision, the artist invited a musician, Benoît Moreau, to compose a musical tune based solely on verbal instructions. Together they worked out the visual and acoustic syntax of the exhibition. The performer considers the request and devises his musical transpositions based on nothing but oral descriptions. Aloïs Godinat recorded the improvised instrumental flute “performance” of his musician, and, for each object presented, selected a melodic, dynamic and irregular fragment. The sound takes on the look of an invitation to move from object to object. The exact liaison between each object and the musi- cal piece for which it is the abstract score remains intentionally indeterminate for the visitor: the random visual and musical simultaneities are also essential to the development of the screenplay. So the sounds of the flute condition our understanding of these films while leaving the spectator free to hear and see the many different combinations possible.

As a virtuoso when it comes to creating titles, the artist chooses them for their graphic and acoustic qualities. The linkage system between the work and the title is often very direct, anti-heroic and funny, at a pinch at times something “asemantic”. The titles describe the content or the form of the work in a literal way. And yet they introduce an interplay of semantic and acoustic variations which is rich and essential to the work’s interpretation. Otherwise put, what might be situated at the threshold of a deceptive realism is, paradoxically, what is reflected the most.

In a language akin to that of the Fluxus artists, Aloïs Godinat proposes a plan of horizontal aesthetic reception: no element has authority over the spectator, few material works are present in the exhibition venue, the artist steps back, the “spectacle” is announced but always postponed, and the classification is invariably inappropriate. What is sought is circulation and active contemplation. A suggestive, poetic dimension is expressly laid claim to. Whether commonplace or absent-minded, the act, observed, ordered and paced, but continuous, becomes simply meaningful, and extremely so.


Artist: Aloïs Godinat
Venue: La Salle de Bains, Lyon
Date: Febraury 5 – April 27, 2013

Images courtesy of La Salle de Bains, Lyon