A security gate stands at the threshold of carlier | gebauer, composed of disjointed anatomical elements that reach for us from all sides: breasts of concrete and sometimes tapestry. As we slide through the gate—reminiscent of the Marina Abramovic performance piece, where one must squeeze past two naked figures—a voice breathily signs and yawns, whispering to us. As we walk deeper into the space, we must mount four steps and then walk down a gently curved slope, into the warm embrace of the main gallery and Laure Prouvost’s current exhibition ‘In Reflection We Rest.’
The air is warm—a little humid, almost heavy—and idiosyncratic objects litter the floor: it’s like a room that’s been occupied for several days straight, the owner subsisting off of packets of saltine crackers and tea with milk that’s maybe off by a day or two, perhaps lazily flipping through a magazine or idly watching a show but skipping scenes. Throughout the room, we hear birdsong and, occasionally, a yawn. Half-full water glasses are scattered around, sometimes tilted at improbable angles; a clothesline holds up permanently sodden clothes, plastic water droplets perpetually dripping off a sleeve. In the centre of the room, an old teacup, with used teabag included, and a jar of squid ink sauce sit atop a bed. The painting on the bed’s duvet cover shows a naked woman in repose, resembling a mysterious light brown and beige stain that we might blame on a spilt cup of coffee.
Embroidered on these duvets and superimposed over video clips on the screens are sentence snippets, sometimes whispered to us, occasionally deliberately awkward in the translation: “see” instead of when it logically should be “sea,” for instance. We are left questioning our interpretation: do we extrapolate meaning based on the literal translation, the suggested or something in between? Take a glimpse at the press release, and after some deep breathing and a sigh or two: “humm, hummmmmm, haaammmmm… HHHHHUUUUMMMM…”, we reach “IN REFLEXTION WE REST… BREAVE BRAVE BREATH…”, offering us no easy, pre-packaged explanation. We are in a limbo state of understanding.
The exhibition defines the artspeak concept ‘sensorially immersive.’ We must pick our way and weave through the objects strewn on the floor: glass-blown cellphones, clay pots leaking water, lush potted plants, not one but two embroidered massage chairs. It’s a luxuriant mess. Each new discovery is reminiscent of the cliche that every time we clean our room, we find something we had forgotten about for years. But, in this case, instead of a neon-plastic gameboy under the bed, there’s a potted plant and a clothesline with breasts constructed out of plastic material, hidden in the storage area as we turn a corner. Some aspects of the exhibition can only be seen when squatting and contorting your body. In the back corner, tea-stained, scribbled papers are found under the rug, cheekily revealed by one of the metal figures; if you curve your spine at a counterclockwise angle, you can view a screen that faces the ground, conspiratorially telling us that “MOST THINGS WERE HIDDEN UNDER THE CARPET” in block text.
Prouvost’s metal figures are the connecting element of the space, languorously sprawled on the ground, stretching in a perpetual yoga pose or holding up a duvet, their faces screens or mirrors. In one corner, dried seaweed is draped over the monitor as its metal frame body lounges in a pile of sand, its face projecting scenes of the sea. Occasionally, the metal bodies have plaster-flesh attached to them, fleshy breasts growing from their stainless steel arms.
We idle in the main room, pick our way through the strewn objects, the disruption of this idleness relegated to the periphery. In a dark side room, there are two painted panels that face each other: “Le monde se prepare a un duvet de chaleur” is emblazoned on one; “what will be hard is reality,” on the other. Rapid video montages are projected on the panels with harsh red lighting and we are abruptly jarred out of our gentle stupor. We are surrounded by these projections, unable to see both panels at once. Do we read this as a commentary–perhaps on the languour of the general population, the lack of action regarding climate change?
In ‘In Reflection We Rest’, there is a blurred juxtaposition of natural and synthetic, organic and artificial. The cellphones that are scattered on the floor are made of blown glass; sand and piles of dirt are scattered throughout the room; sprouts emerge from the floorboards. Yet the people who populate the space with us are metal and monitor. Prouvost challenges our conception of what is true and what is real, and how we perceive ourselves in this query.
We are lulled into a sleepy stupor, echoing the speaker-yawn. It is tempting to crawl onto the mattress, capsize the precarious teacup and burrow underneath the duvet; hibernate and leave the mess, the understanding, to be cleaned and to be contemplated another day.