Elle & Lui

Elle & Lui

Three is already a repetition. Three is the minimum number needed to identify a motif, a pattern. With three, the human tendency to classify is set in motion. Now more than ever, it seems increasingly possible to order the world by a process of aggregation. Artificial neural networks are taught to recognise categories, to reduce peculiarities to immediately identifiable general characteristics. By seeking to make everyday life readable to artificial intelligence, we limit ourselves to the mere recognition of its features – a streetlamp, a car, a human being are reduced to their simplified, archetypal images. Any roughness around the edges, associated precisely with the proliferating movement of the living and the occurring, is thus smoothed over, erased.

Two, on the other hand, leaves open the possibility of endless deliberation. Two is an unstable equilibrium, a game of see-saw, a scattering. It is a destinerrance, as Jacques Derrida writes in La Doublure (1972), where at the start of all things we find a perpetual movement he calls dédoublement. The binary, the double-sided, the tail of the comet without the comet. A long tail, we might have said, had the term not been co-opted by the economic lexicon. This duality, safe from the outset from the impulses of recognition, analysis and prediction, is precisely what Dorian Gaudin and Robert Janitz evoke for their joint exhibition at PACT. Even the title is a decoy, designed to thwart too hasty an identification of subjects. Elle & Lui refers to no-one in particular. We must focus not on the pronouns but on the movable hinge that is the connecting symbol: that is where the creative energy lies.

Let’s randomly label one artist’s collection “elle” and the other’s “lui”. Against two walls of the gallery where the works are displayed, different components of the two ensembles meet, clash, provoke each other, join forces and respond to one another. Some works are “typical Gaudin” (the mechanical arm, the crumpled aluminium sculpture) while others are “typical Janitz” (the two paintings, the plant made of sheet steel). And then the highlight: the gushing fountain, the only work co-signed by both artists, its never-ending flow telling us about the nature of their ties to one another: “a playful yet precise energy”, to use their own words. Some of the artworks are stationary, others are moving, each one begetting the next. Displayed in a frieze, the whole collection reads like a musical score, a sentence, a chain reaction. While the recognition of patterns is artificial intelligence’s way of generating meaning, the construction of a sequence remains that of the simple human mind.

Elle & Lui above all embodies a friendship between artists. The two met six or seven years ago in New York, their city of choice. There, they spent time together, played backgammon, exchanged or bought artworks. In that respect, the collaboration between Dorian Gaudin and Robert Janitz lies not so much in the creation of art as in the creation of a context. At first glance, nothing would incline one to combine these two collections. The artists are from different generations, and indeed work in different mediums: one in sculpture, the other in painting. Once inserted into a sequence, the origins and internal logic of each artwork are blanked out, blurred. It is time spent together, subjective, unproductive time, time that cannot be measured, that allows the artworks to co-exist. They are combined through lyrical and skilfully executed associations, innocent or contrived, formal equivalents of a quick and fleeting flash of acuity – transformed into a link, be it presentational or mechanical.

The exhibition gives rise to an unusual, polysemic discursive space. One has the impression that meaning is in danger of tragicomic collapse at any moment, and that interpretation is a balancing act to be embarked upon at one’s own risk and peril. Implicitly, the exhibition reveals how expectations for objective taxonomies are not only illusory, but also detrimental. While artificial intelligence reduces all living things to objects, the exhibition of Dorian Gaudin and Robert Janitz does the opposite: here, each artwork is just as singular, plural, unpredictable and mobile as living beings themselves.

Elle & Lui

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