The Sirens’ Stage is an exhibition by Etienne Chambaud in the framework of Vincent Normand’s project Permanent Exhibition, Temporary Collections. The exhibition is curated in london by Vincent Honoré and is developed with Kadist Art Foundation in Paris and Nomas Foundation in Rome. The exhibition, interpreted in a different language almost simultaneously in each foundation, is based on mechanisms of writings and transcriptions. Translation should be considered both the medium and the shared language of the whole project.
Stay, illusion !
If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,
Speak to me.
The tablet shouts, it cries aloud.
Look, look at what I have seen in written letters,
A song speaking aloud !
The project takes its title from the mythological sirens’ song, which invents itself in the ear of its addressee. Here The Sirens’ Stage is conceived as a group of “written objects”: absent but described, motionless but translated, unique but repeated, mute but transcribed. Excluded from the present time, they only exist in the delayed time of their transmission in language.
The Sirens’ Stage is made up of an installation of Figures, a group of named, empty plinths (The Reef), which acts as a space from which are emitted layers of speech and text. Actors occasionally interact with this space, reading, memorising and rehearsing fragments of script and dialogue. Sometimes The Reef remains silent. A group of framed Instruction Pieces hung on the wall outlines a series of gestures and acts. These change over the course of the exhibition. A writer (The Copyist), present at all times, transcribes the evolution of the exhibition day after day. The Foundation’s collection is included through a series of photographs of its storage, in which all crates are named (Stock Figures). A written contract, drawn up by a lawyer, outlines the conditions for the exchange and the conservation of copies of sculptures exchanged between the three foundations’ collections (The Exchange (The Horse, the Cobblestone, Above the Weather)).
The Sirens’ Stage is a collection of fragmentary narratives, playing with accumulations and disappearances, survivals and hauntings. The exhibition stages the oblivion and the burial of its original sources, meanings and forms under its own echoes, misunderstandings, partial interpretations and incomplete memories. Between mute traces and promises of a speech act, polyphony and cacophony, transcription and oral tradition, the remains of the song of these « sirens » stand for fossils organising their own archaeology.
The Reef. At once a monument in ruins, a stage under construction and a support for absent objects, The Reef is a group of empty plinths. All of them are named after abstract figures, conceptual characters, places, usual objects etc. Some had been especially designed and produced for the exhibition, others are plinths stored by the foundation for its collection. Actors activate it randomly by memorising and rehearsing a written script. The script had been created for the exhibition, it includes theoretical and descriptive monologues, excerpts from books or movies’s dialogues, etc. The script is not public: it exists solely in the actors’ performances. The time of the exhibition precedes the time of a performance that never occurs. Some plinths are places or show traces of more specific actions (a nude model will pose on The Missing Part, The Remains is progressively hollowed out and supports its own residues, The Work I (The Cube) is marked by the evidence of its successive displacements), others points to past or future actions (The Gift, The Hanger).
The Copyist. The Copyist, one of the figures which form The Reef, is present at all times during the exhibition. Different writers successively play The Copyist: their role is to describe all that happen in the exhibition, to transliterate its course in the guise of a script. The Copyist’s style is neutral, limited in the objective recording of the information he or she directly experiences. The Copyist is both the ideal viewer of the exhibition and its ambiguous author. Pages are displayed in the exhibition space as they are written. Åbake, the graphic designers and editors of the book to be published from this material, will come on site to start editing and annotating the pages directly on the walls. The Copyist inserts the time of the catalogue in the time of the exhibition.
Instruction Pieces. The Instruction Pieces are performative statements, signed and framed. They orchestrate a group of gestures and actions as much as they document them. The only apparent sign of an external authority in the exhibition, they paradoxically manifests its limits.
Stock Figures. In a series of photographs of each Foundation’s storage, the crates have been renamed, as an echo to the plinths in The Reef. Images of a permanent memory, the Stock Figures point in an allegorical way, in a negative space, the stratas of discourse, language, writing and speech that are sedimented in the exhibition space.
The Exchange (The Horse, the Cobblestone, Above the Weather). A contract established by lawyer Daniel McClean frames the conditions of exhibition and conservation of 3 sculptures exchanged by the 3 foundations (The Horse by William Turnbul the Cobblestone by Joseph Beuys, Above the Weather by Jason Dodge). The sculptures are copies of the original. The actual copies cannot be shown at any time: only the litterature established for them is to be displayed, whereas the copy must be stored in a sealed crate at all time. A signed contract and a certificate of authenticity are the only visible part of the work, vouching for its existence and defining it in the negative at the same time.
There are so many things that one would hope might never be fathomed,
Or only partially,
And not as one might expect.
What communication do you desire, or know, or simply pretend?
Which real project has been lost?
Download exhibition leaflet here.