Mathias Tujague bases his work on everyday objects, which he reproduces with different materials and scales, thus immediately rendering them useless and ridding them of the original significance of their functionality, which therefore only remains as a trace on a level that is no longer practical, but rather looks into their cultural intelligence.” [...]
Caroline Bissière and Jean-Paul Blanchet
“I associate these objects, which are not quite themselves and which I use as starting points, with laboratory explorations. These mineral and vegetal hybrids, whether they come from the living world or are my own creations, then contaminate the surfaces and interstices of the rooms they are shown in, hijacking their tranquillity by giving them new hypothetical perspectives.
In an empirical way, I am interested in manufacturing techniques – especially artisanal –, which I use so as to better apply them to inadequate mediums. However, while the act of making and shaping are key elements in my work, my hands generally leave very few visible traces.
I have become increasingly interested in materials; I am drawn to the idea of a gesture disappearing in favour of a material, which is to be understood as a catalyst, a way of putting time into perspective in order to combine all sorts of actions, chain reactions, and gravitational effects. It is also a way of redefining ancient techniques and skills, vicissitude and the creation of forms.” Mathias Tujague
Translated by Lucy Pons
Setting the Scene. Mathias Tujague, the Idea Artist
Written by Dominique Sirois-Rouleau
Translated by Jo-Anne Balcaen
In KARST, co-édition Les Requins Marteaux / Zébra3 / Centre CLARK, 2013
By avoiding direct contact between creator and material, the idea artist, as expressed by De Mèredieu, is able to give the art object its "true status". (1) Understood as the result of a research and engineering process, the art object today exists at the crossroads of theory and material. It is not merely the physical result of thought; instead it forms a frame of experience and outlines in this sense a space on the margins of reality. As such, the art object is never exclusive of its form; it is also, in this light, a mise en scène.
Mathias Tujague's assemblages and installations adhere to the production of forms as the expression of a reflexive know-how. From concept to production, Tujague integrates the project's technical development into his artistic process. The idea artist conceives the work, builds his models, but ultimately resorts to technique. A manifestation of knowhow, technique imposes itself as the primary interpretation of the project. In fact, the artist produces objects as a way to liberate understanding. As such, the objects do not require identification or the need to be named, but to be interpreted. From techniques that reveal cues to attentive viewers, the work of Tujague inserts itself in the progression of our understanding. However, this know-how is solely performed in anticipation of an object. With Tujague, it is not a matter of effects or technical demonstration in the interest of erasing all traces of production. Authentic skills can also become invisible. Within the logic of conceptualism, the hand of the artist fades away when the object is exhibited, in such a way that this slightly disturbing material universe supersedes our reality. In the manner of Iran do Espirito Santo's work, Tujague's object installations distort the codes and conventions of representation. As seen in Neutrino (2007), the artist works with geometry, architecture and technical skill as a way to transform the relationship between material and object. The oversized fishing float hangs over the viewer in a way that, as with the Brazilian artist, the subtle minimalist subversion brings an open and intriguing formality to the work.
Arried back by its form and ideas, the work of Tujague shows evidence of a profound "material imagination" (2), even a specific and theoretical attention to a material substrate. Reflecting the theory defined by George Didi-Huberman (3), the object for Tujague is inconceivable outside of its material and technical condition. As such, the artist explores the slippery and vague terrain between form and esthetic thought. Spare and mysterious, works such as KARST (2012) and even Neutrino provide the viewer with a complex environment of shifting scale and proportion. With its giant crystals spanning the exhibition space from floor to ceiling, the strangely lightweight wooden structure of KARST cannot be experienced without some degree of contortion. Awareness and immersion combine within the work, so that our understanding of it develops gradually through our physical experience of it. Similar to the versatility and process of an artist like Alexandre David, Tujague's landscape distinguishes itself through its use and function. The disruption of scale creates an atmosphere of tension where the menace is actually unthreatening and the esthetic more playful than strictly contemplative. In fact, the purification of form is favored above the elaboration of meaning. Behind these objects, crystals, or floats, lies rather charged and elaborate content. As much as the surprisingly specific and literal title points to this, it also bypasses strict designation in favor of perception.
Locating the fiction
Tujague's approach manipulates language into its most abstract and physical form. In essence, the artist materializes his speculative and poetic thoughts. In keeping with the fable outlined by Didi-Huberman in L'homme qui marchait dans la couleur (4), Tujague's objects are not the end point of perception. They are more the result of constructing and reconstructing the interpretations between the artist's abstracted intellectual process and the reality suggested by the object's concrete form. As such, the transgressions operated by the artist are invitations to individual interpretation. Tujague's objects are proposals; their existence and their placement within the space inspire narratives beyond their initial function. Passage canadien (2011) responds to this functional renewal of an object within our consciousness. A miniature version of a passage barrier for large animals, Passage canadien, mid-way between a minimalist sculpture and a classic plinth, breaks down understanding to an act of projection and discovery. Tujague's shifting and distortion of objects invite the viewer to trace the threads of these proposals back to their conception. Once again, the piece's rather evocative and specific title contains its own trajectories, its own discourse which, neither true nor false but plausible, outlines a peripheral meaning to the object. The rigorous setting of a graphic object, sleek and strange in an illogical context, Tujague's work requires experience. The complex structure of KARST attests to the dissolution of the object within its own context and our experience of it. This sculptural installation incarnates the practices of French artists like Raphaël Zarka or Stéphane Thidet, from which it borrows its austereness, at once personal and anonymous. However, KARST inserts itself more significantly in the tension between the certainty of its materials and the suspended awareness of its experience. Tujague reveals the latent tension between the fragility of form and the fragility of understanding.
As a heterogeneous whole, the object and its mise en scène inscribe the work's strategy within a system of knowledge and power similar to its definition according to Agamben (5). The function of this system is its mediation strategy, which is in a constant power struggle with its form. In fact, Tujague's work reestablishes the object's exhibition value, rescuing it from the conceptual critique of the market. The work installs itself, exhibits itself, and activates an entire art of substitution beyond its formal self. The system embodies in this sense a kind of conceptual fiction allowing one to "deduce the material's form or ideas." (6) As such, for Tujague there is never just an object, but also a viewpoint and a time-space which activate it and with which it interacts. The artist presents the object and the space around it as a system of communication that transgresses its form and what is visible, inscribing itself in the history of minimalism while inventing otherwordly scenarios. At the crossroads of various strategies and methods, Shot Shot (2007) illustrates with curious solemnity a potential for use and functionality marked by the incommunicability of the device. The speaker contained within a block of ballistic gel embodies, with certain absurdity, a blocked perceptual space where its assessment depends on the impossibility of its mediation. Tujague reminds us that a work depends on its usage, on its capacity to communicate and to signify outside of the artist's discourse and of the controlled context of the artist's studio. Perception is an imprecise and personal notion that the artwork must be able to engage in order to subvert. The refined connections between Tujague's objects therefore advocate the suspension of meaning in favor of fiction, in itself reliant on our intimate experience of the situation. In view of undoing any facile comprehension, Tujague applies his entire technical know-how toward the dislocation and distortion of the objects he produces. His resolutely interactive installations reveal the inevitable tension between technique and idea. Conceptual elaboration falls back on technical skill, the same way the artist confides in the viewer. At the heart of these exchanges and oppositions, meaning is constructed in light of these zones of resistance. Like his sculpture titled Regard de trottoir (2008) elucidated by the video projection HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE THE SEATS (2009), Tujague's work produces spaces of contradiction and transformation in relation to his objects. Located between two worlds each cultivated by the other, the work's system achieves its strategy within us and takes power from what we believe we know.
1. De MÈREDIEU Florence, Histoire matérielle et immatérielle de l'art moderne & contemporain, Paris, Larousse In Extenso, 2004 (Bordas, 1994), p. 214.
2. DIDI-HUBERMAN George, "Morceaux de cire", Définitions de la culture visuelle. Art et philosophie, Montréal, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, 1998, p. 56.
3. Ibid., p. 54.
4. DIDI-HUBERMAN George, L'homme qui marchait dans la couleur, Paris, Les éditions de Minuit, 2001, p. 39.
5. AGAMBEN Giorgio, Qu'est-ce qu'un dispositif ?, Paris, Éditions Payot et Rivages, 2007, p. 10-11.
6. De MÈREDIEU Florence, Histoire matérielle et immatérielle de l'art moderne & contemporain, op. cit., p. 558.