Jean Loup Pivin, April 2010
This accumulation of retrospective desire, already present at the last Venice Biennale (Arsenal 2009), is marked by the final seal of stereotypical Africa by commentators as Nicolas Bourriaud who has long worked with Pascale Marthine Tayou continue to highlight : "African artist" or as others, artist coming from Africa, from the non-Western world, or even from a African Western suburbs, thus widening the dark paths of their own discourse. Funny or not, It's that. A moment I had toyed with the idea that this was not the problem but as everything comes back... Yet the words were lapped, "I am not an African artist, I am simply an artist". This cherished idea was shared by all those who created Revue Noire twenty years ago. And the thousands of artists were published there. Africans but also sharing another urban reality, more focused on becoming, more commonly. An idea that might make other ways also to look. Affirming modernity, this update time without marrying Contemporary Art, but not scorned. Just a common expression among others.
Recently contemporary art includes expressions of artists from elsewhere. Jean Hubert Martin, curator, opens the movement with his "Magiciens de la Terre" (World Magicians) in 1989 (Centre Pompidou and Halle de la Villette, Paris, France). But it would take more than 10 years to expand and be claimed by critics and curators as heroic acts. Really heroic, at least without a doubt. Some see it as a healing of Western art wearied by his "failures", others see it as the "duty" to repentance of the "looted" forms by Modern Art at the beginning of the twentieth century. What victory ! What progress ! And moreover in addition, press articles on art market claim that "African artists" have their place and now are coted : those named, regardless of their whiteness — not a defect or an infamy, but noted — are defined themself only by Contemporary Art codes, itself inscribed in the history of Western art — not a defect or an infamy —. For all those who escape have no place. Unlike the work of Jean Hubert Martin, or in another vision, the work of Revue Noire.
For more than 15 years I stopped practicing this negative game between Western art history, artmarket and the "pure" Africa. This game keeps coming more and more cynical as these crystal dolls inspired by African sculpture (to what degree ?) the "Poupées Marthine" (Marthine dolls, 2008) which like Barbies, dressed every outfit, but here playing with the mockery of the sacred while satisfying game. What to say except that friendship seeing me an aficionados (a heart fans) of the first and certainly the last time. I am accepting the dangerous game of the bullfighter in the art arena decidedly not very subtle. An arena that will throw the liked artist if this one accidentally stumbled not necessarily in its artwork but in its social attitudes, in his report to the artworld. And that Pascale Marthine Tayou is acutely aware.
Everything is fragile as the torn paper pile 15 years ago in ARC (Modern Art Museum of Paris) crossed by the viewer — the viewer —, then becoming to mammoth in Continua Gallery 2 years ago (I see an organic form, but it may be that there is no). It now faces in Lille as a less massive pile "Le Verso Versa du Vice Recto" (verso versa of back vice, 2000-2007). I would have liked to live sharp pious passing under ("Damoclés", 2007). But whatever, I always liked his lightness that Tayou have to not be locked. And to play with the evidence to make it mysterious. Or each time giving it a different meaning according to its making and the ear of the professional — curator or critic —, the buyer — collector or art dealer —, the fan — peek or pekinese —.
I take myself to listen visitors wishing to understand, willing to put words on forms, while children play in the maze with the dramatic lights of theater projectors. Spoken words fly according to the steps and strides while the written words meaning less air, are intended to anchor in the truth of the work. Certainly every time his own truth, but this time it may have been a shared value, a more sensible and more sensitive value than the laborious demonstration of rational and universalizing thought. It can be irritated by critic game who spends his time to connect existing forms itselve, to connect different artistic attitudes : why not ? But really why do the Tayou flags ("Jpegafrica / Africagift", 2006) recall those of John Jasper ? Flags are certainly, to take the example as mentioned by various people. So amused by this game of references, I always loved to invent it. At least no one knows it : it's a certainty. And I have not to know them myself and now running on Google or in my old books, magazines and catalogs, to ask me questions about the reference. This allowed us a while to build a Babylonian library in its essence, not in its quantity, indeed ridiculous. I still turning into a Mr Pickwick. Finally a reassuring reference !
One may also say, opportunistic, in this game of musical chairs, it would be good Tayou works becomes a reference to talk about the work of others. Probably this contextualization, this scholarly view is also an illustrated and complicated way to say that nothing is created, nothing is lost... and that the loan is the basis of any form making. Creation, Creator ? Is it provided to identify and dissect the conscious or unconscious borrowing, so common ? While this avoids the simple plagiarism. And yet an artistic movement has played with it ! Many of these loans are made by people from countries without fine arts school and/or from the no-dominant culture. They use the forms of the Western world as a given. Exactly symmetry of the European artist stuffed of Western art history, which uses the other arts of civilization in the world. With the same level of ignorance even though it may take the gloss and pseudo vision relevance of the reporter,the ethnopologist, or the anthropologist. In fact it is the mirror situation of Cubists vis-a-vis African ritual art. And this is not just a question of geographical territory, since we will report the same phenomenon with the official "savant" art and the no-offical art that can be called native, outsider, folk, raw or "art brut"… of these artworkers who have decided to create their own rules of reality.
Why all this development from the expressions of Tayou in this great railway hall converted into a showroom with industrial look warranting the label "contemporary art"... of quality (another code, convention, conformity) ? To describe this delicate game of words about "African" works with the Contemporary Art, about Africa and its forms, as if Tayou wanted definitely to ridicul exotic look. But playing so and so, is it still noticeable ? I always see Tayou walking on a tightrope while developing a generosity and a seduction that nothing seems to alter. Every time I agree, I doubt, I tremble and I'm fans with a wave of laughter, kisses the Artist.
A large monographic exhibition "Traffic Jam"
Saint Sauveur railway station in Lille, France from April to 13 juin 2010
P.M.Tayou, "Shooting Star" 2003
P.M.Tayou, "Poupées Pascale" 2008
P.M.Tayou,"La Vieille Neuve" 2000
P.M.Tayou, "Human Being @ Work" 2007
P.M.Tayou, "Le Verso Versa du Vice Recto" 2000-2007
P.M.Tayou, "David Crossing the Moon"
P.M.Tayou, "Jpegafrica/Africagift 2006
P.M.Tayou, "Le Grand Grenier" 2008-2010
P.M.Tayou, "La Roue des Insultes" 2010