Magazine article Artforum International

Celeste Boursier-Mougenot

Magazine article Artforum International

Celeste Boursier-Mougenot

Article excerpt

Little by little, the simple rigor of Celeste Boursier-Mougenot's installation became clear: Distributed evenly throughout the gallery were five inflatable children's pools, of an intense, almost Mediterranean blue. Each pool, filled with the same small quantity of water, was outfitted with an electric pump that created a mild current. And, finally, in every pool, there appeared a diffuse, floating mass of crockery--an identical number of assorted bowls, Chinese teacups, and stemware.

And with this the chaos began. Or perhaps I should say cacophony. For as the gentle current shuttled the bowls across the center of the pool and back around either side, the gallery was filled with noise--a music of crashes, clinks, soft rings, and percussive clangs amplified by subaquatic microphones. The pools and bowls performed a constant but ever-changing music of chance occurrences a--motive force that, following the lessons of Marcel Duchamp, Boursier-Mougenot threw into high relief against a background of serial repetition and relentless order.

Boursier-Mougenot's training lies in musical composition, a metier that he soon hybridized, producing work first for theatrical productions and then, more recently, for artistic contexts. It was immediately impossible to classify his current exhibition as either "music" or "sculpture" (or, given its use of intense color, "painting"), an ambiguity that drove the artist's critique of the conventions of both. As music, the sound environment dispensed with frontal performance (chairs were distributed randomly throughout the gallery), eradicated the traditional skills of both composer and musician alike, and became a new "instrument," with capacities as constrained as the keys on a piano. As sculpture, all the characteristics of the Dadaist "bachelor machine" were present, with the serial nesting of circular forms within circles spinning in perpetual, at times hypnotic, motion. Boursier-Mougenot's inclusion of vernacular elements also engaged the contemporary vein of sculptural practice that employs the everyday to reexamine the precepts of post-Minimal sculptural form (e.g., the work of Gabriel Orozco). As then both music and sculpture, the installation put into play an ever-multiplying structure of oppositions, testing the division--and relations--between sound and sight, chance and necessity, motion and stasis, difference and repetition, the everyday and the technological object. …

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