GEARS POETRY : ARTWORKS BY CLÉA COUDSI AND ERIC HERBIN
THÉRÈSE MORO AND JÉRÔME LEBRUN
TRIBOLOGIE, ÉDITION LA POMME À TOUT FAIRE
Real inventions are quite rare. We tend to forget this in our present environment dominated by the ideology of progress, where we are all its consumers. Indeed contemporary civilization creates a constant evolution of technologies for our daily use, but in opposition to this idea the history of inventions is a discontinuous process. If an invention provides the technical solution to a problem, the problem itself is never primarily
technical and the solution may in the end escape the requirements of a practical world. Inventing can be a poetic activity. The invention is neither an idea alone, nor a simple reorganization of existing el ments. Rather, it plays with interweaving dream and logical ideas, sensitive intuition and technical solution.
Using objects, components, and various materials unearthed at discount stores or at car boot sales, Clea Coudsi and Eric Herbin invent things that become artworks, clearly taking pleasure in the process of creating. The most recent ones act as systems, both discrete and complex, transformed by electric power. Turnletters Spirit presents thousands of metal letters for printing, laid out on a table. A circular and centripetal motion constantly disturbs and regroups them into new combinations. Deciphering or reading any message into these moving letters is impossible. This process is too enigmatic to be an unambiguous formal representation. However, behind the madness of this machine to create letter elements one suspects there is method : this continuous movement is a translation of otherwise immeasurable human activity.
Based on systems used by industry for automated production lines, the mechanics hidden beneath the table are adapted to an unusual usage. Clea Coudsi and Eric Herbin, it should be pointed out, have always had a special interest in these techniques which become problematic when used for purposes other than those for which they were designed. These objects diverted from their purpose need to find a new function.
The artists are not « professionals », so they sometimes call on technicians with whom they work to find solutions.
Cat’s paws shows the ingenuity of the way in which the artists cross frontiers. It is a closed chain, consisting of linked metal knuckledusters (self-defense weapons) driven by a motor fixed to the ceiling. The object rises and falls with a broken rhythm, banging down heavily, repetitive, random and joyless.
A thin layer of metallic dust accumulates on the ground, mixing with sawdust, the effect of friction with the wooden floor. An evocation of urban violence, but also one which makes a link between this violence and human labour. The type of production line work that today is becoming scarce. This strange chain of transmission seems to bring together contradictory aspects of life in society.
In the mining area in northern France, coal is the natural element that has most marked the story of working people’s lives. An energy resource that multiplies the strength of men, it also embodies a geological memory. Blacksound is an attempt to read senses into this mineral. On the top of threaded rods, pieces of coal spins around and are traced by styluses which, in turn make furrows. Speakers (like triumphant trumpets) provide wild sounds, the sounds produced by the scrapping and wearing down The coal is from Poland, where mines are still operating - in France, coal mining stopped in 2004.
The copy and the other, the individual and collective, are very distinct as realities. While we are all convinced that message picked up on our mobile phone only have a meaning for ourselves, the whole group of (necessarily fictional) short messages, though very private, belongs to everyone, like a collective work. Because they are made of words, these messages taken out of their context break down the frontier between what is personal and what is political.
Where now is an opportunity to question where this frontier lies. Inside a small space envelopes are arranged, the front pasted on the wall, the back of the envelopes is open. The idea of the touching the envelopes does not come to us immediately. The area is quiet at first. However when we approach and lend an ear we catch the sound of what seems to be a multitude of voices. Telephone conversations ? No, because if we listen we can only hear one voice. We are eavesdropping on recorded voice mail messages. When you push the back of an envelope and the mechanical, monotone voice is more audible, delivering a one-tone message without its initial vitality.
How each of us take their place in the real world and the Promethean ambition of man, it seems that these are two overriding considerations in invention and intervention carried out by Clea Coudsi and Eric Herbin.
But any presentation of their work to date is necessarily something provisional.