Five Possibilities for a Conversation: Six Possibilities for a Sculpture, at La Loge, Brussels.

Words by Zoë Gray

Emmanuelle Lainé in conversation with Sandra Patron (16 May 2013)

Emmanuelle Lainé is an artist who has long been interested in presenting “sculpture in its own gravy” (la sculpture dans son jus). To this end, she has previously shown forms surrounded by the traces of their making. However, as she explained during her conversation with Sandra Patron, she reached a point where her practice felt too limited: “It was as if the adventures of the studio became concentrated in this body that was the sculpture, which was then beached like a whale in a gallery.”

It was with the series Effet Cocktail (2010) that Lainé broke away from the formula of what sculpture should be – ie. with certain dimensions and a title, to be shown on the floor or placed on a plinth – and started to ask herself at what moment the work actually happens. She decided to remove the traditional moment of exhibition – of relocating the sculpture from its biotope in her studio to the gallery setting – and to collapse together the moments of creation and documentation. To do so, she invited photographer André Morin to document what she had created in her studio, and then presented these images pasted directly onto the walls of her gallery.

Lainé is intrigued by the way in which the photograph acts as a proof of existence, and how it can exist simultaneously in many different formats (appearing on a screen, in a magazine, framed as an artwork, pasted onto a wall). Patron picked up on this multiplicity of formats to ask Lainé about the influence of the Baroque on her practice, suggesting that in a Baroque vision – as in Lainé’s Effet Cocktail – the point of view is centralized and the sculpture happens around it. The artist responded – in a rather Baroque fashion – by evoking the idea of a clusterfuck. Now, to me this had always meant organizational chaos, the piling up of disaster upon disaster due to the incompetence of those in charge. For Lainé, it refers to a practice (or, perhaps, trend) in which people photograph their habitat – whether their bedroom, their flat, or their office – in total disarray and post the images on the Internet. This aestheticized chaos inspired her to abandon the thematic approach that she had been taking in her photographed installation series (for example, the theme of regeneration had shaped the striking series Stellatopia, 2011). Instead, as of her project for the rural residency Les Arques, titled Everytime I encounter death, I think about you (2012), she took a more intuitive approach, allowing accident to shape the outcome of the work.

For her piece at La Loge – Me donnerez-vous ce qu'il faut de sang pour tremper cet acier? (2013) – an immersive environment has been placed, quite literally, onstage. The effect is disturbing yet seductive. Our attention is drawn to particular details, but the eye is never allowed to settle. The doubling of certain objects and the absence of others is equally troubling, and led Lainé and Patron to discuss phantom limb syndrome. The artist concluded the evening by describing the way in which a certain Indian doctor has been treating this condition with the use of mirrors, a practice she considers to be highly sculptural. Without even mentioning it, she brought us full circle to the work’s title, taken from a line in Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), in which Ahab is on a mission to destroy the whale that took his leg…