GASPARD DELACHAUX

 

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"Medusa and the double game" was published in the catalogue for an exhibition at Alice Pauli Gallery, Lausanne, in 1998.

 

Medusa and the double game

 

That sneaking sense that this is just a dream, of never quite being in the real world. That feeling of never being where one is supposed to be. Hence the impression of not knowing the rules of a game I must be playing in, whether I like it or not.

Perhaps we each play life with our own rules, each in our own category.

Life as a game. A terrible game with winners and losers. With inequalities, in a lottery run by nature, that can disgust us. And some of the laws of the game are fixed for all eternity: birth, death. Social norms that we bend a bit. A personal code of honour that we cheat with, sometimes . . .

Games, and especially sports, are more and more like a religion for our topsy- turvy pivotal age of the millennium. Redefining conventions, new rivalries, ever pushing back the limits of physical endurance. Social adjustments to be found. And in the private sphere, new values to define. Yet another way of playing with oneself, of fooling the other that hides within us?

 

A double or triple game (or more), because everything fits together like Russian dolls. Because my pieces of sculpture (whether standing alone, or grouped, "installed" or linked to architecture) often mime games and enjoy the ambiguities in the game I play to myself . . . in the world of art. A party game in a creation that is perhaps no more than divine game.

 

And where is my self in all these games?

 

An irrepressible teller of tall tales, each a parable of our time. With multiple hybrids, humans with animal parts, rooted in the earth, in vegetable matter. Some put on a bold front, others turn in on themselves, but all are afraid of losing. Of losing their dignity, or their composure -- or the friendship of the spectator. Perhaps of losing their lives: what happens when the game is over? Does everything stop? Do the rules change? Is there a return match?

 

Telling stories, then. Stories to be shared, to make people think. Stories that propose a world, carry the spectator away into the motionless dance of these characters, carry them beneath the bark, show them what there is beneath the skin, beneath the carapace of stone: that imprisoned life that wants to remain in the spectator's memory. Beings to be thought about, but also to be loved.

Does the scene take place in a mythical past, or in some science fictional future? Are these fossils from a time beyond memory, or are they genetically manipulated mutants to come? Just beings of the here and now, in the present of the spectator's visit.

A whole people that seems to be held by arbitrary rules (but where is the referee?).

Rules that are often laid down: lines of conduct, borderlines that are not to be overstepped, round the playing field. A register to place milestones at the limits of the world, to create territory to tame.

Thus the visitor is in a multi-stadium, like an ethnologist on a planet petrified by his presence, as if he has a Medusa gaze that turns every living thing into stone.

 

Before assembling in the public square, these dumb-struck beings, clever monkeys, dog-men, monsters and diverse accessories, belonged to an invisible people. One by one, they have crossed the border that reveals them to our world.

 

They know that there are drawings, portraits of them in black books that record their forms. Notes that can sleep for years before they are called upon. Then they enter a block of stone that is marked with their shapes. A block that is often reticulated with scratched outlines depicting other creatures, or themselves from every angle. Their eyes will be opened, their bodies shake off their cowl and throw off the shards that hid them.

 

Assaulted from all sides in hellish din, dense and suffocating dust, they are marked, cauterized, and scarred with howling angle-grinders; wounded, furrowed with chisels, and worn down with pumice; broken, polished, they ultimately emerge from the shapeless mass.

 

A metamorphosis that I do not exhibit. A secret alchemy in my workshop that works fast compared with their slow development. A rapid birth after long gestation. A spark in time beside the lengthy maturing of the rock that has often been formed by organic deposits fossilizing at the bottom of a long-lost sea: a mineral that was alive, soft before becoming stone. Briefly, this material will display frozen movement before it dissolves, erodes away.

 

Stone: how I love the freeze-frame that this material provides, the fixing in time, the weighty meaning so problematical today. Here my contradictory spirit is at work, taking wicked pleasure in walking out of step with the world, in sparring with the acceleration of time. Be that as it may. But of all the materials tried and/or proposed by modern chemistry, stone is the one that, in the end, leaves me the most freedom. The freedom to inscribe my stories in the margin. It's also a material that fuses the mental and the physical into the work, that attempts to bring together scattered fragments and make a complete being out of them.

This risky synthesis is indispensable to a world view. It fills a life, slowly wears out the body, and speeds the passing of the shrinking years.

 

 

The people of petrified beings could not care less. The sojourn of these monsters in the visible world far outlasts a human life. They exist in the arena of ideas, seek to move in their immobility, suffer cramp in their cornered efforts, and swell beneath their skin of stone.

 

That is what they allow us to see. But who knows if they will not take up their wild dance again as soon as our backs are turned? Escape Medusa while remaining in the visible world?

 

 

Gaspard Delachaux

January -- May 1998

 

 

Translated by Peter Winnington