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CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art of Bordeaux opens an exhibition curated by Laura Herma
Daisuke Kosugi, A False Weight, 2019, video still. Commissioned by: Jeu de Paume, Paris, CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux and Museo Amparo, Puebla. © Daisuke Kosugi.

BORDEAUX.- Each year, the Satellite Programme is entrusted to an independent curator, charged with designing and organizing three exhibitions at the Jeu de Paume. For this edition, the Jeu de Paume continues its partnership with the CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux and the Museo Amparo, Puebla, Mexico.

Laura Herman, an independent curator, has been invited to curate this programme, entitled The New Sanctuary. The three exhibitions will be presented at the Jeu de Paume, the CAPC and the Museo Amparo. The exhibitions of the Satellite Programme are accompanied by three publications. Each year independent graphic designers are invited to create the graphic or visual identity of the three catalogues associated with the programme of exhibitions. The graphic design for Satellite 2019 was done by Groupe CCC (Alice Gavin and Valentin Bigel).

How does space determine the way we feel? Predicated on a sense of a threatening and hostile environment, one of the basic definitions of architecture is the provision of shelter and comfort for the human body. The common idea of dwelling as “surrogate skin” stems from Gottfried Semper, who described the animal pen, made of woven skins and leaves, as the origin of architectural “private” space. Today, this understanding of architecture as an enveloping spatiality, the modern desire to provide a place of refuge, no longer holds. Social, technological, demographic and environmental change has increasingly led to the management of the environment, the standardisation of lifestyles, the displacement of people due to conflict, persecution and gentrification, the surveillance of “private” sites of living, and ultimately the negligence of the body and the senses.

Designing spaces of belonging and fostering safe and hospitable environments remain some of the biggest issues in contemporary architecture. So-called “nonplaces”, spaces of transience and anonymity often constructed with cheap building materials and not significant enough to be regarded as “places”, are increasingly the architectural typology of the home. While the notion of architecture as a haven or sanctuary space has become a privileged conception, architects, designers and artists have long been interested in the bodily and psychological experience of dwellers. Richard Neutra’s Lovell Health House (1929), Frederick Kiesler’s unrealised Endless House (1947–60) and Arakawa + Gins’ unrealised Reversible Destiny Healing Fun House (2011) modelled on the Sanctuary of Asklepios are all examples of architecture designed to be experienced by the senses in ways that are affective and political. Could these – often failed, dismissed or forgotten – endeavours serve as models for contemporary architectural aspirations? And if we are to reconsider architecture as the meeting point between different cultural references, practices, rituals, desires and needs, how do we imagine a sanctuary space for today’s world?

The New Sanctuary proposes newly commissioned works by artists Julie Béna, Ben Thorp Brown and Daisuke Kosugi, who from the perspective of their individual practices, consider the capacity of the designed environment to host, care and engage with the body and the senses. A new animation by Julie Béna narrates an architectural tale about standardisation and transparency in which objects travel and morph, resisting commodification. In The Arcadia Centre, a film installation developed in dialogue with researchers working in psychology, neuroscience and education, Ben Thorp Brown proposes a sanctuary that creates a kind of “restorative” experience, and responds to the politics of our moment. Finally, an experimental narrative film by Daisuke Kosugi follows a retired Japanese building engineer who has been diagnosed with a brain disorder. Through an architectural journey the film reveals the character’s internal conflict between the desire for perfect efficiency and the acceptance of his declining body. The three exhibitions in this series bring no simple stories of architecture but underline the complexity of ever-changing ideas about how we (are) live(d).

A False Weight
Combining videos, sculpture, installation and performance, Daisuke Kosugi’s work questions internalized regulations that restrict our personal freedom. Over the past years, the artist has focused on the power of bodies and movement as tools to negotiate these structures. Kosugi’s A False Weight, the third and last episode of The New Sanctuary, an exhibition series that looks at how architecture engages with the body and the senses, the architecture of the home reveals itself as a stubborn backdrop and a fixed given. The body relies on it for the structuring of day-to-day activities, or else finds itself stifled in domesticity. What if our bodies are out of joint with the architecture that surrounds us? Architectural qualities represent certain ideas and persist over time in ways that our bodies, habits and routines do not.

When architecture deals with the body, it generally takes into account the rule and the exception. While the first category speaks to an impersonal, anonymous user, the latter concerns the body that is understood as being not fully whole. Even if architecture has been more concerned with creating safe and accessible places, its binary attitude – the production of ableism and disability – still generates spatial forms that deny human subjectivity and individual bodily experiences. Rarely do built structures reflect an attempt to dissolve the binary boundaries between the norm and what is understood to be different. Rather, bodies are flattened into a “corporeal script”, which applies a one-dimensional logic to a varied number of bodies. Yet, whether we currently identify ourselves as sick, disabled, pregnant, vulnerable or exhausted, we are all unified by the notion that our bodies will change over time and as a result so will our relation to time and space.

A False Weight is an experimental portrait of Tadashi, a character based on the artist’s father. Tadashi is a retired Japanese architect and bodybuilder who has been diagnosed with an unusual and incurable progressive brain disease affecting his movements and daily routines. The illness affects the body’s movement and balance before eventually inhibiting speech, cognition and mobility – an experience that cannot easily be verbalized, as the lack of language in the film suggests. The film is set in Tadashi’s domestic environment, which is perfectly organized for optimum performance of daily tasks, yet his habits and routines are slowly disrupted through the gradual loss of control over his own body. Toru Iwashita, a Butoh dancer whose movements are inspired by the freedom found in the body’s limitations, performs the role of Tadashi. Butoh is a form of contemporary Japanese dance that enables an understanding of the depths of the body, freeing it from blockages through specific movements. Through an architectural and domestic journey coupled to three phases of the disease, the film reveals the inner conflict of a man torn between his desire for strength, efficiency and independence and the acceptance of his rapidly declining body through dance. Through its repetitive sequences, the film introduces into the architecture of the home a sense of time with a “human” dimension, one that is repetitive rather than linear, emancipating rather than oppressing. Temporality is a key element in understanding the relationship between body and space. “Crip time” refers to the temporality of nonnormative embodiments, a slower speed of movement that involves extensive planning and a non-linear approach to time. Can architecture contribute to an alternative future for disabled bodies, or should our attitude to space and time be more inclusive of human unpredictability, the seismic shifts of the body? Perhaps it is more valuable to create architectures of community and affinity rather than dependency, necessitating an approach that constitutes an apprehension of self and other, of the affinities that are shaped, or not, within spatial settings.

The film is accompanied by a sculpture made out of bamboo (To hold on hold, 2019) which plays on the temporality of a pillar – a structural element that transmits the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. While A False Weight critiques the monotonous and universal condition of much of the built environment, the bamboo structure – evading metric relations and keeping the body tentative – may be understood as a propositional work for contemporary architecture. Throughout his work, Kosugi engages with the possibilities of the disabled body to emancipate itself from un-adapted architecture and the ideals of efficiency, while discussing the fallacy of contemporary representations of the ideal body.

Daisuke Kosugi (b. 1984, Tokyo) lives and works in Oslo. Working with film, sculpture, performance and text, he develops captivating scenarios underpinned by the conflict between personal freedom and systemic control. By describing how creativity is undermined by the so-called ‘creative industry’ in a post-Fordist labour market or creating a narrative of creativity that cannot be translated into measures of cultural or economic productivity, he analyses these struggles through the lives of individuals. His semi-autobiographical films confront viewers with intimate experiences where conflict is both physical and emotional. Combining layers of fiction and non-fiction, he encourages an active mode of viewing through a narrative method that evolves from his interest in empathy and the incommunicability of pain. Together with Ina Hagen, he is the co-founder of the artist-run initiative Louise Dany in Oslo.

Recent solo exhibitions include Dawning of the Dance Floor at Podium, Oslo (2015), and Forgive Me For I Am Not Gentle with Ina Hagen at INCA Seattle (2016). His work has been presented at the Lofoten International Art Festival (LFIA) in Norway; CPH:DOX 2017 (earning a special mention at the NEW:VISION Award); 11th Gwangju Biennale, Korea (2016); and Malmö Konsthall (2016). He has been shortlisted for the 2016 Grant for Emerging Artist of the DNB Savings Bank Foundation, Oslo Kunstforening, and the 2016 International Award of the Spring Exhibition at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen. He was an artist in residence at WIELS in Brussels in 2017 and at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris in 2018 as laureate of the Prix français given by the Institut français. In the spring of 2019, he presented a performance as part of Move, an annual festival at the crossroads of dance, performance and moving images at Centre Pompidou.

Laura Herman (born 1988, Brussels) graduated from the Centre for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS Bard, 2016) in New York, and holds a master’s degree in Comparative Modern Literature (Ghent University, 2010). Since 2016, Laura has served as a curator at La Loge, a space in Brussels dedicated to contemporary art, architecture and theory. She is an editor at De Witte Raaf, a bimonthly art journal distributed in Belgium and the Netherlands. Her reviews and essays have appeared in Mousse, Frieze, Spike Art Quarterly, Metropolis M and elsewhere, and she has curated exhibitions and events including Wild Horses & Trojan Dreams at Marres, Maastricht; Definition Series: Infrastructure, Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York; Third Nature, Hessel Museum, New York, and Natural Capital (Modal Alam), BOZAR, Brussels. She is currently developing an exhibition exploring family as the legal basis of citizenship, property and the state, which will open at Extra City Kunsthal in 2019.

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