BORIS ACHOUR — DOROTHÉE DUPUIS — 2008
‘You watch too much television. Good evening!’ could be one of the cult expression from the 1990s, intended in particular for Boris Achour. Protean artist with pop and conceptual ambitions, he develops a practice in fluid formalism that is resolutely accessible to metaphysics. Boris Achour believes in the hypnotic power of the media, in the ‘guruisation’ of human relations, and he works in reaction to this daily manipulation—that he seems to abhor as much as it fascinates him. The genesis of the work, the Actions- Peu (Actions-Little) from 1993, a kind of half-poetic/half-political actions with latent shamanism and performed in the urban space under the eyes of astounded or indifferent passers-by, saw the artist carry out formal compositions with trivial objects—setting down some chocolates on electric boxes in roughcast chestnut (Actions-Peu, 1993), making the pigeons line up with the help of seeds (Aligneur de pigeons/Pigeon Aligner from 1996)—sometimes by interposing his own body—he falls asleep sluggishly on the perfectly pruned hedges of an American residential suburb (Sommes/Naps, 1999)—where he pays an actor to wander in the city while wearing a mask of his own face (Ghosty, 2000).
This taste for the ‘hand made’ manipulation, the ambiguous and never frozen relationship between an object and its use, the attention directed to the dreamlike potential, almost spiritual of each form, in a creative remix of our environment, crosses Boris Achour’s work, and claims the importance given to the instinctive relation with form, contrary to all imposed cultural formatting. He is also going to create a litany of ‘micro-sculptures’, small works that can be combined like ‘units’—this insistent term on the mobility of works, the possibility for them to escape from all use or etiquette of too fixed exhibition that we could assign to them, in a relationship distrustful of the white cube and the sacralisation of the art object. Slow motion of a glass of milk filling up in a sculptural and sensual manner (Un Monde qui s’accorde à nos desires/A World in tune with our desires, 2000), a hand full of plaster in a reversed relation to the offering and the search (Rempli/ Full 1997), urban furniture ironically ‘deified’ by its replica in immaculate ceramic (Contrôle, 1997), dissimulation in the libraries of full ‘sculptures’ that their form and their volume render imperceptible from their environment (Une sculpture, 1996), mural painting recovered from Japanese night-shops, like a wink to the West’s feverish infatuation for a certain form of eastern wisdom (24/7, 2003)… So many pieces that, contrary to a passive relation with the world, evoke the possibility of an active behaviour with things, objects and life. These initially autonomous pieces find themselves more and more linked to complex installations, as in Operation Restore Poetry (2005), whose central figure seems to foreshadow certain elements of the ‘Conatus’ mobiles (begun in 2005), prismatic sculptures often made from transparent or reflective materials assembled with the help of polyurethane foam, an anti-form material par excellence.
The notion of ‘Conatus’, a Spinozian term claiming desire as a driving force of human endeavour beyond all moral and political end, enables Boris Achour to escape certain considerations proper to the world of art, in order to take an interest in the forms of appearance of this desire and in the manner in which it materializes or disappears in contact with the realities of the world, and this, whatever their nature (political, aesthetic, spiritual, social). The forms have exploded, and a reflection on the power of these begins with a certain taste for simple and coloured geometries, close to a utopic intention, like that of Piet Mondrian. Language is there in an enigmatic way in the work, where it is used like a plastic matter, playing on notions of appearance and disappearance, inventory, and audio volume. A remark on the body, present in an indexed manner until here (in particular in Cosmos, 2001, ‘vaguely anthropomorphic’ mobile turning slowly on itself to the sound of the hummed tune of a Brazilian Lambada), becomes central, in articulation with the sculptures that have become ‘props’, extension of the body. The nice characters dressed in fluorescent jersey of Conatus: A Forest et Conatus: AMIDSUMMERNIGHTSDREAM (2008), perpetuating the logic of the artist’s ‘empowerment’ on objects, reconsidering all use normative with the yardstick of an inventive manipulation, new and pure at first sight. Because without proposing a definitive political interpretation for it, the fact is that in fifteen years Boris Achour has unobtrusively passed from the city to the forest, the location of his last films—an approach comparable to the practices of artists like Spartacus Chetwynd1 or Heather Peak and Ivan Morison2. Must we see there an irreversible tendency of our society to fantasize on a certain state of nature? In any case, Boris Achour warns us about assimilating to an idyllic genesis: the uncanny is never far off, between firewood and animal masks. It is when the term conatus becomes tinged with a darker aspect, more in accordance with the use that Thomas Hobbes makes of it, that is to say the lucid and studied demonstration deprived of one of man’s cruellest characteristics: his instinct for self-preservation. There is where Boris Achour seems to achieve a tour de force, asserting a possible (and utopic) existence of a humanism at last rid of its innocence.
1.Born in 1973, Spartacus Chetwynd lives and works in London. She is known for her Surrealist and Baroque performances summoning multiple figures and images from the history of art and Pop culture.
2.Born respectively in 1973 and 1974, Heather Peak and Ivan Morison question the place of human beings in their environments by means of multiple media: science-fiction writings, sound recordings, etc. are collected then edited in order to reveal the essence and characteristics of everyday life.