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Text by Mériam Korichi, 2017


The invention of protocols for productions is an adventure. It is the discovery of unknown things. It is pushing back the frontiers of well-known and familiar territories. It is the Far West. A protocol combines simple and hazardous rules, creating events, narratives, leading to accidental and unexpected sets, made of meaningful detours and joins. There are diversions, bifurcations, dissociations, and associations producing forms inspiring empathy and aversion at the same time. Here there is a work on shaping, on the artificial and synthetic modeling, which shows, while recombining it, the denaturation and the impersonality of manufactured things and images men produce and consume everyday. However we experience the duality of seduction and repulsion of the mass-market process. Poetic speculation nourishes itself with jump cuts, material defects, non-exact joins, flutters, gray zones. Dual subtlety of jump cuts. Pauline Bastard’s work sharpens conscious perceptions, interfering with associations

and choices people do usually without questioning them. It is a research on these moments when convergence points and divergence points are still inseparable.

Moment of possible departure which is always already missed.

Moment of real and false reunion.

Moment of impossible connexion having yet always existed.

Moment of grace and monstrosity.


There they are, these false pairs of shoes having lost their real half, and found another one, one very close but entirely a stranger. Like parallel worlds sharing a formal link but which are not destined to come near to each other, and which, all of a sudden, collide. Visual collision which electrifies realty and breaks its prefabricated walls.


And the anomaly imposes itself as an art form, deranging the “sure values” of reality, the supposed “order” for things, the expected “authenticity ». The work here plays with a social reality which is most of the time compartmentalised, built through choices that are illusions, standardised choices, producing a general standardisation, duplicated, deduplicated, imitated, multiplied, creating a realm where all things are alike and melt.


However this repetitive reality is full of cracks, integrating micro-deviations, micro-variations. There are interstices left by the big industry of images, of objects, of bodies, of minds, of individual lives. These micro-deviations combined with micro-variations make appear the asperities and irregularities of the manufactured reality. And the parallel worlds glow all of a sudden through the hiatus and breaks of the contemporary world.


The material detail offers the possibility of bifurcation. Pauline Bastard tells stories inscribed in matter, even manufactured, hyper-agglomerated, authoritarian. Pauline fiddles with materiality, questioning its formality, reorganizing it, producing objects, images and subjects with an ambiguous status. We are invited here to a close encounter of the third kind, to watch a film called Alex. Alex is a fictitious individual who acquired a real civilian status, and who is embodied by a real human being. But Alex is not a part for an actor. The embodied subject, who accepted to enter the film and to go by the rules of the protocol to give life to Alex, becomes a fiction, for real. And the people meeting Alex in and through the film become also a fiction. ln contact with Alex, you become a fiction. Contamination. Realisation and derealisation. Fiction infiltrates reality, and extends its territories, and inexorably expands until infringing on our own territory, which we thought we knew.

« Welles’ Syndrome » by Bénédicte Ramade, 2013


In F for Fake, Orson Welles enjoys confusing the viewer by using a fierce interlocking and dislocating series of fictitious stories and documentaries telling the story of the forger Elmyr de Hory. He was a lavish dandy, cultivated and polyglot, with unparalleled panache; he was also an art forger, a fully-fledged jet-setter and was saddled with a biographer called Clifford Irving who was as shady as his subject was. From the very beginning of the film, Orson Welles warns the viewer: “This is a film about trickery, fraud, about lies. Tell it by the fireside or in a marketplace or in a movie, almost any story is almost certainly some kind of lie. But not this time. This is a promise. For the next hour, everything you hear from us is really true and based on solid fact.” The stroke of truth will arouse the viewer’s avidity, while a warning will reassure them. Authenticity is at the heart of the film and is revealed by a master of forgery and the use of trickery. It is twisted but splendid and the viewer, who is let into the secret, exults. Believing and seeing (like Roland Recht’s eponymous book) get intertwined in order to gradually and better contradict each other while Welles distils his venom. Just as the viewer lowers their guard, making the most of the snobberies of a character who is as delectable as he is detestable, the tackle is immediate: “The truth, please forgive us for it, is that we’ve been forging an art story. As a charlatan of course, my job was to try and make it real (...). What we, professional liars, hope to serve is the truth. Picasso himself said it: “Art is a lie” quips the director, exulting after his dirty trick. Then a jeering Welles gives the knockout blow: “I did promise that for one hour, I’d tell you only the truth. That hour, ladies and gentlemen, is over. For the past seventeen minutes, I’ve been lying my head off». This is the final straw. F for Fake leaves the viewer with a bitter taste; the taste of having been fooled; of being a pigeon.


Pauline Bastard inhabits these famous seventeen minutes during which the viewer wants to believe what they are seeing, hopes to see reality, and yearns for the authenticity of they are contemplating. A sunset (Sunset, 2009) thrown together with a fan, a bag and a makeshift light. We hope to reach the precarious and lower-end balance that is likely to generate the celebrated kind of sublime that decades of criticisms and artists have been looking for in waste and vileness, “the enchantment of the cheap”, the haughtiness of the country bumpkin. Pauline Bastard handles the tackle as well as Welles the mentor. A quick blow on the back of the calf and the entire card castle collapses: the sunset is a video; the mixture of materials has nothing to do with it. Seventeen minutes is a long time. It is an eternity that allows Pauline Bastard to repeatedly pull the rug from under our feet. In Desert studio or Jungle studio (2009), the viewer thinks she/he is an adventurer immersed in Microcosmos, slightly worried in front of the swarming life of the sand dunes or the mini tropical forest, both imported to the exhibition space. The many cameras pointed at the theatre of operations and control monitors lead us to believe so. Tackled. Again. Ants and other insects have been pre-recorded. With her hold-ups of everyday objects and standardised situations, Pauline Bastard cultivates the plausible, this intermediary zone that arouses the visitor’s desire, their desire for a show and for resolution. Their desire to be more subtle and see more clearly. The artist has developed a method of deviation and has become a master of the art of hold-ups. Is it the influence of her teacher, Claude Closky? Maybe. She is skilful; she uses semantic slip-ups and extrapolates values with simple methods. She takes whatever she finds. Desktop wallpaper? In L’homme du fond d’écran, the standardized images of exotic places that come with computers are used to illustrate the description in creole of places in Reunion Island. With Movie, the cannibal killing of some kitchen roll by a paper shredder creates an unsuspected suspense. Icefield gathers ice landscapes: plastic bags photographed with a hint of irony towards the desire for nature that sometimes borders on stupidity. The situations presented by Pauline Bastard are often close to self-satisfaction or idiocy (we now know since Jean-Yves Jouannais’s background work that this is a quality) and they turn out to be fierce indicators of us viewers being addicted to the plausible and to the possibility of a spiritual rescue of standard culture. Pauline Bastard is ruthless and lifts the plug, swallowing the spectator into twenty hours of “pleasure” or nine thousand pages images borrowed from the abyssal stock of photographs cultivated on the Internet. Global Village (2010) is a disparate and freak gallery; it is an illustration of the word “fun” entered in several languages in a search engine. Usually the artists who use this type of rummaging and celebration of “authentic” amateur images are only satisfied with a drastic selection because they are looking to get their author’s prerogative back. Bastard is brash, she fires away 9,000 pages and knocks her audience out. Nothing shall be easy. Not even the video made by a donkey looking at another donkey filming it. Even then, she is not the first one to use the animal eye and its innocence as a tool. From Jana Sterbak (From Here to There, 2003) to Sam Easterson (Animal Video Series, 1998-2013), the genre has already proven itself. But by choosing a couple of donkeys, Pauline Bastard spices up her work and multiplies the absurdity of her choice, mixing up the roles of subject and director.


Along with a “troublemaker” flavour, her propositions are slowly loading up with critical acuity; they are aware of their own process. The ethics of the choice will not last. It will be by-passed. “Beautiful Landscapes” was started in 2006; it is a series that is symptomatic of this way of working, it neutralises any moral leaning. Here the landscapes are arranged by superimposing pages of out of date history and geography books and magazines, the pages are tastefully torn to make up a convincing layering. It is a pertinent method that refers to both the cultural construction of a landscape (a series of compositions and viewpoints) and its geological constitution with the stratification of sedimentary layers. The size of its original support glorifies the fetishist

desire for a beautiful object based on destruction, tearing and an act of degradation (the destroying of a book). That in itself could be enough. But Pauline Bastard takes perverse pleasure in scanning the result in order to offer a reproduction, a flattening that resembles the process of reproduction so common with Photoshop, creating a flat and compressed image, perfectly digitalised while based on layers. The romanticism of the layering, of the stratification of the image, of these patiently compiled sources is spitefully discarded. Just in the same way as the clear conscience that goes with the rescuing of a material that was thrown out or abandoned will soon drift away in order not to ride the current trend that will bestow superior ethos on any second-hand object. Thus, different-looking chairs that are far from being models of design will create a disparate and wonky albeit practical seat (Bench) that will be used to watch the artist’s videos. The new piece of furniture is a collage just like one of the landscapes and will throw people off balance with the visual flaw that characterises it. A sort of mirage that is yet completely functional. In fact, the broken slides that she salvaged give an ironic contrast to the clumsy centuries. Even though their subject is now lost the prismatic elegance of both the cutout and the emptiness of the content now creates a new appeal in the shape of a tribute to the greatest moments of Concrete Art. Form and Matter (2013) ignores the guardianship which is almost as bland as the fragments of images that are still reminders of the object’s past. Gleaning opportunities on each occasion, in 2013, the artist produced an unexpected collection of lost and found objects in Los Angeles that she entrusted to volunteers, via an ad published on the community website Craigslist, who would in turn create a story for these objects. As a true-false archeological vitrine, True Stories now display their sham. Pauline Bastard works ad libitum on these seventeen minutes that extract her proposals and her acts from the realm of the plausible to head towards the truth of lying. But in more recent productions—States of Matter (2013)—, as if to better deceive her audience, she has committed to work on the truth of systems, giving a house back to nature in a series of disproportionate actions with a touching outcome. Whether it is seventeen minutes or eternity, the art of Pauline Bastard creates a rift that is sometimes ironic, and sometimes blowing hot and cold in a way that Welles would not have denied.

« Pauline Bastard » by Etienne Bernard, Zérodeux, 2010


In a treatise titled À la découverte du paysage vernaculaire / Looking for the Vernacular Landscape, written in 1984, the American John Brinckerhoff Jackson defined landscape as a succession of traces and imprints overlaid on the ground, like a place where successive human experiences are decanted. In the series of Beautiful Landscapes which the young artist Pauline Bastard has been at work on since 2007, it is hard not to see an amused extension of Jackson’s idea. Painstakingly torn out of the pages of one or two geography handbooks and travel magazines, the fragments of landscape icons are superposed on one another and combined to form new Alpine panoramas. And as their title tells us, they are perforce beautiful, and there to be contemplated. The visual principle used is obviously intended to be evocative of landscape construction through geological and cultural sedimentation. But by way of the ultimately relatively simple manipulations of tearing, composition and then digitization, it is also possible to read a jokey and somewhat celebratory synthesis of the great iconographic history of our natural environment and its blockbuster canons. And anything goes! Starting with dear Kant’s theory of the sublime, here represented by snow-capped peaks basking in sunlight, whose beauty is matched only by the inaccessibility emphasized by the scarification made on the sheet of paper. Nor does Bastard spare the outdated romanticism of the laborious scene with fields where women reaping mountain pastures on b/w offset give in to the contemplative observation of a costumed and 100% Friedrich-like figure. A little further away, the formal analogies between rocky outcrops and ridge peaks of mountain dwellings refer to the anthropological and topomorphic studies which would undoubtedly have led someone like Aby Warburg, lost, to the land of Beaufort. Etc, etc. Which is why, with a pile of torn out photos and a good scanner, it is not impossible to digest more than five centuries of landscape representation! And it is precisely Pauline Bastard’s mischievous skill in remaking in re-interpretation that the French curator Bénédicte Ramade has elected to present in the brilliant exhibition Rehab at the EDF Foundation in Paris.

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