Etienne Chambaud, Inexistence Esther Schipper, Berlin
Esther Schipper is pleased to present an Online Viewing Room dedicated to Etienne Chambaud’s exhibition Inexistence, the artist’s first with the gallery. The works included in the exhibitions are a scent and a sound installation, a sculptural work generating a pattern of temperatures, three light installations, glass works, bronze sculptures and modified panel paintings.
Multiplex is an olfactory installation. From a cut cleanly circular hole through a dividing wall, two scents emanate. The two scents share a chemical compound yet are fundamentally different. While one derives from tiger marking fluid, the other has an aroma reminiscent of the scent of an empty movie theater—it contains notes of dust, velvet, sweat, plastic, candy as well as pop-corn.
The shared component is 2-acetyl 1-pyrroline (2AP), an aroma compound and flavor that gives, for example, freshly baked bread, jasmine and basmati rice their characteristic scent. At the same time, it is found in fresh marking fluid and urine of tigers (Indian, Amur or Siberian) and Indian leopards.
The two scents are variously diffused and thus experienced differently: while the scent associated with movie theaters is diffused wider and continuously, the one associated with animal markings has a narrower range, in order to recreate the passage of a tiger. This difference suggests a distinction between territory and a more generalized sense of space, between the realm of animals and a cultural space.
The work draws on the archaic power of olfactory perception, and on the encoding of information either altogether beyond human perception or outside of conscious knowledge. At the same time, Multiplex reinforces the notion of art works that are appearing and disappearing, a major theme of Etienne Chambaud's exhibition at the gallery, Inexistence.
Fever (Harlequin Malaria), 2019
With the installation Fever (Harlequin Malaria), Chambaud transposes the symptoms of an illness onto an inanimate object: a section of the wall exhibits the temperature pattern of a specific disease. Palpably warm, the development can also be read on the thermometer’s display from where several sensors extend antennae-like across the wall.
The temperature variations, modelled from the febrile patterns of actual diseases, are transmitted to the architecture of the exhibition space, measured back and displayed on a screen. The system self-regulates its own temperature as the climactic conditions of the space change.
The parenthetical part of the title names both a specific condition which may cause this temperature profile and the color in which the graph is shown on the display.
A bronze sculpture from the series Necknot is placed on the floor. Both organic and mathematical, it consists of an assemblage of severed bird’s necks—among them ducks and geese—joined together in a continuous knot.
Beautiful and quietly poignant, the necks of the Necknot hold each other end to end in infinite loops. Their softly shimmering shapes oscillate between abstraction and representation, their undulating lines invoking past impressions of the graceful long necks of wild fowl yet its anatomy here also registering as harmonious geometric composition.
The neck is the body part that allows the distinction and separation between the torso and the head. But if the neck is a separator, it is also a connector: the place through which air and food pass, where screams, voices and songs are produced, through which interiority expresses itself. This paradoxical form exists almost only because of what it both separates and connects, because of what it holds at its two extremities. By the simple fact that it can be more easily severed than other parts of the body, the neck has enabled the invention and development of dualism—the distinction between body and mind, between physical and mental states—and has thus had a lasting influence on the fate of human thought.
— Etienne Chambaud, 2021
The title of the series, Syrinx, refers to the specialized “second” voice box of birds. That organ was named in reference to a Greek myth: in this story, told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the nymph Syrinx, fleeing from Pan’s advances, is turned into reed. Pan cuts the grass and hence makes his pipes from this reed.
Similar to the myth of Daphne and Pan, the god’s use of the material constitutes an act of appropriation and even violation.
Following works from the series are presented in the exhibition:
Syrinx (Ex Corvus), 2021 (two variations) – genus Corvus which includes crows and ravens
Syrinx (Ex Anas), 2021 – genus Anas which includes dabbling ducks
Syrinx (Ex Mimus), 2021 – genus Mimus which includes mockingbirds
Syrinx (Ex Erithacus), 2021 – genus Erithacus which includes robins
Syrinx (Ex Luscinia), 2021 – genus Luscinia which includes nightingales
Model for Afar (Solis Lacus, 7 November 1492), 2021
The only light source in the exhibition space is provided by the three works from Chambaud’s series Models for Afar. Between a lightbox and a lamp suspended from the ceiling, each work from the series emanates softly modulated light formations as it is programmed to simulate the atmospheric and meteorological light conditions of the sky at a specific time and place.
Bathed in a red glow, Model for Afar (Solis Lacus, 7 November 1492) the spectator will experience a solar Martian day of the late 15th century.
The specified location is the so-called Solus Lacus on Mars, while the date refers to the earliest witnessed meteorite in the West, still existing today. It was a “media” event, with broadsheets printed and at the time was read as a propitious sign for an impending battle by King Maximilian with the French in 1492. The meteorite event then had historical consequences, even though it is little know today.
The familiarity with the date from other events is intended: the landfall of Colombus in Caribbean, the fall of Granada, the edict of expulsions of Jews from Spain, are other associations that come to mind in this period.
Model for Afar (Regensburg, 5 November 333 BCE), 2021
The work combines the date of Alexander the Great’s battle at Issus, depicted in a work by Albrecht Altdorfer (now held in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich) with the German artist’s location when he painted the representation in 1529.
Model for Afar (Terror Bay, 14 July 1789), 2021
The specified location is Terror Bay, in the Canadian Arctic, the date coincides with the Storming of the Bastille, considered a defining moment of the French Revolution. To this day, July 14 is a national holiday in France.
The bay in the Arctic was named Terror Bay in 1910. Coincidentally a shipwreck of the HMS Terror, lost in 1848, was found here in 2016. The bay was one of a series of landmarks along the waters explored by Franklin's lost expedition between 1845 and 1848. The more than 400 years search for a Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was a near mythic quest, with far-reaching consequences for the history of colonialization, commerce, and, today, climate change.
A glass sculpture from the series Globes that contains and conserves the remains of objects and materials that were destroyed and transformed by the very process of their inclusion in the molten glass, refracts the light from Model for Afar (Regensburg, 5 November 333 BCE).
An ancient practice, the production of glass has always been considered a particularly poignant transformation of materials such as sand into a material miraculous for its durability and fragility, its apparent fluidity and actual solidity.
Quiet gazes appear to issue forth from Chambaud’s series Uncreatures. The historical icons, panel paintings of religious figures represented against a golden background—the symbol of uncreated light—have been modified and the figures, except for their eyes, covered entirely with gold leaf. The chromatic difference between recently applied and original gilding, perhaps paradoxically, makes visible the outline of the hidden figure.
Their gaze acts as a spatial marker, emanating from the expanse in a certain direction, but also a temporal one, as if the observer were encountering not just a representation but its spectral presence.
Etienne Chambaud was born 1980 in Mulhouse, France. He studied at Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL), Villa Arson, Nice, and Ecole nationale des Beaux-Arts (ENBA), Lyon. Since 2018 he has been conducting a doctoral research in the SACRe program of PSL University, Ecole Normale Supérieure and Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. The artist lives and works in Paris.
Etienne Chambaud works across a wide spectrum of media, exploring the categories we impose on experiences, objects and disciplines. Individual works, installations and exhibitions destabilize notions of what art is and can be, how an artist conceptualizes and produces a work, and the form, function, and history of the exhibition. Beautiful and complex, Chambaud’s works can change the way we see and know.
The artist participated in several residency programs: EMPAC, Troy, NY (2017), Fieldwork: Marfa, Marfa, TX (2014), International Studio & Curatorial Program, ISCP, Brooklyn, NY (2011) and Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (2003-2005).
Institutional solo exhibitions include: Negative Knots, La Kunsthalle Mulhouse, Mulhouse (2018); Undercuts, Forde, Geneva (2012); Contre-Histoire de la Séparation, CIAP, Vassivière (2010); The Sirens’ Stage, David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2010); Le Stade des Sirènes, Kadist Art Foundation, Paris (2010); Lo stato delle sirene, Nomas Foundation, Rome (2010), and Color Suite, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2009).
Chambaud’s work is held in the following collections: Musée national d’art moderne – Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Fond National d’Art Contemporain (FNAC), Paris; Fond Municipal d’Art Contemporain (FMAC), Paris; FRAC Île-de-France, Paris; FRAC Languedoc Roussillon, Toulouse; FRAC Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand; FRAC Piemonte,Turin; MACBA, Barcelona; Ishikawa Foundation, Okayama; Fondation Lafayette, Paris; Fondation LVMH, Paris; Kadist Art Fundation, Paris/San Francisco; Nomas Foundation, Rome; David Robert Art Foundation (DRAF), London.