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Messages, Instructions, Questions

DIJON, FRANCE.-For her show at the FRAC Burgundy, Dora García has brought a selection of works together under the title "Messages, instructions, questions". This title refers explicitly to the way her work works. It actually initiates situations which involve onlookers in such a way as to reveal the meaning of their reactions. By means, mainly, of videos, but also sculptures and wall pieces, Dora García's interest here lies in everything that occurs in the communication between artists and their public. So art no longer represents the world, no longer reproduces reality, but is itself a producer of reality.

Dora García's works have been shown in Dijon on several occasions, in particular at the exhibition 1:1 x Time, quantities, proportions, perspectives in 2003, where she showed Proxy, an incarnation of the exhibition's time-frame, and at the exhibition Le Génie du lieu this summer at the Dijon Museum of Fine Art, where she showed on the one hand Visitors and Residents, a translation into Arabic of the museum's signs and notices and the museum's educational documents, and on the other Reality is a very persistent illusion, a sentence written in gold lettering on the stone of the Gabriel staircase in the Ducal Palace.

Invited this time around to be the sole user of the FRAC Burgundy's exhibition space, Dora García has brought together works which form an institutional critique, in so much as she decodes the nature of the relations which bind artist and public. In order for a work to exist, you need a transmitter (the artist) and one receiver at least (the visitor), as well as a message (the art object). Contrary to an idea which would have art immediately addressing the greatest possible number, Dora García is interested at what is enacted at the scale of an individual person. She thus chooses to transmit strangely coded messages whose task is to prompt a specific relationship with each visitor.

To this end, she often uses language, as a means of communication between beings. So the golden sentences are very generous utterances, presented as absolute truths inscribed with gold leaf on the exhibition walls, calling for the visitor's own personal reflection. In other instances, language is less directly accessible. For example, in the case of Letters to Other Planets, a text translated into several uncommon languages, it is highly unlikely that it can be read, and thus understood. The artist in this way challenges the effective role that may be played by all these documents made available to visitors and intended to help them gain a better understanding of the works. She is interested in the possibility of addressing everyone, even beyond the accepted boundaries of art, in the hope that a Zulu or a Georgian might be present. The title thus conjures up those messages that earthlings send out into the galaxy, hoping that they will one day be picked up by unlikely Martians. As for thinking that there is as much chance of reaching a visitor as of being able to address an extra-terrestrial, the jury is out.

In this kind of situation, the code chosen by Dora García specifically individualizes the exchange in the sense that very few people are, a priori, capable of deciphering it. The message is thus protected from outside eyes. It is addressed to a person who has special qualities, but without being identified in advance. In The Messenger, which is shown as a video, a young woman faces the camera. She slowly and clearly recites a text in a mysterious tongue. The message only finds its meaning or, where relevant, an answer, if the visitor is familiar with this language. The artist thus underlines the particular feature of each encounter between a work and its visitor. The Messenger thus turns out to be a proposal excluding all those who will not understand the message, leaving them ignorant of its content, once and for all. So language is no longer a means of communication but, conversely, a limit with regard to meeting the other. In several instances, Dora García has broached this experience of rejection, through the relations between work, visitor and artist. Unlike a relationship with the other imbued with conviviality and mutual understanding, Dora García is interested in what happens on the dark side, when the equilibrium teeters.

So The Glass Wall (2003) is a video in which we discover a young woman in her apartment. She has a telephone with earphones and is receiving instructions from a faceless voice which gets her to move, followed by the camera. She is surprisingly under the thumb of the orders as a result of some mysterious pact, but the film shifts when she tries to rebel, in vain. The voice seems to be a stand-in for her consciousness, spreading until it completely invades her and relieves her of all free will. Even when she tries to escape by running away down the street, the voice catches up with her and then completely overcomes her. Our thoughts stray inevitably to anticipatory books and films describing a society ruled by some dictator, projections of the fears of a democratic society believing that it is under total protection from its demons. We find this shadow through the reference to the work of Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451 [1957], a work dated from 2002 that is part of the FRAC Burgundy collection.

The Glass Wall Live is a recent work which, on the same principle, uses the possibilities of interactive technologies using the Internet. In fact, the artist gives instructions, in real time, to visitors to the exhibition, who may choose to answer or not. The anonymous game may or may not be joined in, with the visitor abandoning him/herself readily to the other's desire, or alternatively witnessing the answers possibly provided by other visitors.

Power is one of the factors in the relation to the other which is of particular interest to Dora García, by turns dominant and dominated. In Breathing Lesson we witness the training procedure of a person trying to breathe as little as possible. Dora García writes: « In the training process, which "the breathing lesson" tries to present as an archetype, a complex relation is created between two human beings. The trainer who knows the secrets of perfection, but can (already) no longer apply them to himself, uses the "other's" body, the body of the trainee, to create this ideal of perfection, control and youth. It is a form of possession. The trainee must give himself over totally to this process, offer all his faith and trust to the trainer, and obey him blindly. »

As featured in this exhibition, is the video not also the metaphor of the relation to the work, seen as calling for a huge effort but helping, too, to gain access to something higher? In any event, as revealed by Fahrenheit 451 [1957], reception is never something transparent. It is the outcome of an impregnation, or even--as Ray Bradbury's book describes it--of an incarnation. So there is no longer any boundary between the make-believe constituting the work and the reality in which visitors find themselves. Dora García thus invites us to reconsider the world of art and its rules of play.

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