Imagine a world where incomprehensible signs, piles of everyday detritus and cryptic instructions appeared in unexpected places as if from the ether. This is the world of Laure Prouvost, who is one of the eight artists commissioned for Frieze Projects 2011. For Projects, artists are commissioned to make a site-specific work for Frieze that is to last the duration of the fair, giving the art a visceral immediacy.
Laure Prouvost creates installations that dangle clarity in the midst of confusion and offer fractured narratives that play with language. There is a striking incoherence to Prouvost’s work, which is wonderfully offset by the sheer banality of the everyday subjects it deals with. The result is that the work treads a fine line between the ordinary and the extraordinary, blurring the boundaries between the convoluted fiction in the artist’s mind and the stark reality of the audience’s experience. Prouvost thus achieves what good contemporary art should achieve: a translucent commentary on contemporary life that invites the audience to think beyond the everyday.
Prouvost’s commission for Frieze is a series of signs that respond to the architecture of the fair and the movements of the audience. In previous works, Prouvost has used signs in order to give coherence to a narrative installation, which usually has the effect of interrupting and disorientating. This was monumentally demonstrated in Prouvost’s recent show at MOT International (London), where the space was divided into cubicles that contained assorted detritus that purported to stage a mistranslated retelling of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. The sometimes awkward, sometimes surprising juxtaposition of text and image is a staple of Prouvost’s work. In 2010, Prouvost presented It, Hit, Heat at Tate Modern – a film in which rapidly moving text provides commentary on images of a series of everyday occurrences.
Prouvost’s contribution to Frieze Projects is interesting because it extends this use of text and image as commentary, narrative and interruption to the living world. In place of the static objects of an installation or the moving image and sound of film, Prouvost’s canvas is the fluid, contingent, immediate reality of the art fair. We can expect a response to the static architecture of the temporary structures in Regent’s Park, but also a constantly evolving response to and intervention in the unpredictable goings on that occur. The real trick will be for Prouvost to produce signs that merge with their surroundings, so the text is subsumed in the image in such a way that it might just go unnoticed but hits lighting hard when you do notice it. The question, as with all Prouvost’s work, is whether these will signs offer any clarity at all or just further muddy the water of the elated absurdity of the world’s greatest art fair.
~Daniel Barnes, a writer living in London.
(Images: Laure Prouvost, Ideally this room be square; Courtesy Frieze Projects website 2011; Before, before; The Artist; Courtesy MOT International website, 2011)