Seacula quarta decima et quinta decima Eodem modo typi. Modo typi qui nunc nobis videntur parum clari.
From Mr Modern to Surreal Bijoux
The past works are represented by a selection of paintings and drawings from the Surreal Couture years, when BillyBoy* was creating and interpreting Mr Modern, a fantasy futuristic young man, through a series of happenings, prose and videos, of which a refreshing series of iconoclasts collages on the futuristic World's Fair of 1987 (!) is displayed.
Last but not least, a selection of Surreal Bijoux made in Paris during the 1984-1990 period, an activity that was the first expressive field of the association of BillyBoy* and Lala. They also reveal the continuity of a futuristic inspiration, both baroque and cartoonish in the prolific and imaginative styles which made them famous around the world.
An evolution towards futurism
In this exhibition, the world of Mdvanii is presented not in its historic chronology because it is not a retrospective, but as a circuit which allows one to discover the evolution of the model towards futurism. If high fashion is little mentioned (this over-used and abused old word will eventually have to die one day), it is because this notion has been displaced: how will the humans of the future be dressed , and of course, how "human" will they still be? What will the codes of seduction be about, what will nudity still mean? In the 1950s, William Burroughs wrote that clothing in the future will look from a distance like rags covered with vomit but that, as one gets closer, they will appear to be made with delicate embroidered works of a decadent perversity.
We are already there, and even beyond. The future is the glove of the past turned inside out, and fashion, great cannibal of its own history, is a constant recycling process. The Mdvanii figures - male and female - invite us into a world in which past and future bang smack into one another, in which only the present seems to be absent. Gases veil the body and protect it, organic suits become armors with a pre-emption date. The Cinderella of the future will have organic evening gowns which, after a certain amount of time, will enter an accelerated decaying process. In her intimate "past-o-rama", Mdvanii unveils, like fragments of memories (or dreams?), the visions of a former life.
The future, when is it and for whom?
While we are barely starting to discover the real nature of globalisation, with its major military, economical and ideological implications, we can also wonder about the notion of future itself, always announced, anticipated...and postponed. But the future, when is it, and more specially, for whom? If one can anticipate on the evolution of science, it is not the same for other domains, such as the aesthetic of future, if there is such a thing. Design, the spoiled child of industry and tradition, sometimes visionary (one notably think of the Bauhaus), is constantly re-inventing the refusal of past forms, of which retro is just a mishap. The western world seems to be totally overwhelmed today by an avalanche of design (a luxury of rich countries), the logical evolution of a true twentieth-century obsession. Didn't Raymond Loewy say, against the manufactured ugliness of his time, that an everyday object must also be beautiful? One can nevertheless believe that the orbital stations of the near future will not be as ugly and cramped as the now-defunct Mir station, filled with all kinds of junk and wires, surely backwards compared to fiction (the world of mangas, of virtual films and cyber imagery are constant proof of this).
But nothing becomes old fashioned as quickly as the future, except perhaps the special effects which precede it. Just as it was in Jules Verne's time, each vision of the future is, above all, an aesthetic fantasy (and thus partial), whether it be apocalyptic and gloomy, haunted by terrifying miasmas, as in the world of H.R Geiger, stark and grand, as in Stanley Kubrick's "2001, A Space Odyssey", or hostage to the breathtaking seduction of "Solaris" by Andrei Tarkovsky.
If the Mdvanii work, atypical, is on the fringe of the traditional science fiction themes, with its crowds of robots, alien representations, super heroes, object-women or female warriors (Mdvanii does not wear or endorse weapons, barely a whip or a riding crop, tools of seduction in her case, quite handy on some occasions, we should specify), it is because it limits itself to human representation. Atypical, because very few artists have explored with such continuity, diversity and without any sentimentalism, the doll as a medium. Although dolls generally evoke children's toys for most people, they have inspired many remarkable works of art. Keeping aside the neurotic sculptures of Hans Bellmer, the vibrant doll creations of Russian cubist artist Marie Vassilieff come to mind, whose talent was not left unnoticed by the genius Paul Poiret. We think of Marion Kaulitz, visionary inventor of the "character" dolls (München Künst Puppen), of the poignant creations of the great Swiss artist Sasha Morgenthaler, and, in quite another field, of the fascinating and morbid sculptures of Japanese contemporary artist Yotsuya Simon.
Mdvanii, a work of osmosis
The creations of BillyBoy* and Lala, work of osmosis, are represented by doll sculptures, photographs, paintings, drawings, sketches and jewellery. The dolls themselves, in resin or porcelain, are all one-of-a-kind and are presented on their own individual bases, in plaster, metal or wood. Some dolls are part of a larger sculpture that involves different materials such as clay, tile, wood, glass and metal. They all explore the pre-mentioned themes of an enigmatic future: "cannibalised" fashion, recycled surrealism , cloud dresses , membranous protective garments , body painting and genetic mutations , with unicorn beings whose painted bodies evoke a futuristic transposition of 1930's art deco <bronze and ivory figures. A more imposing sculpture such as "Time Continuum Device" combines a spy mirror in a metal structure and evokes the door between two worlds, whose limits are in fact only those of our abstraction capabilities. Other sculptures combine metal and forest wood painted with black tar, like the asteroid on which two young mutants are interrogating a questionable horizon, in a very futuristic tribal look complete with penis cases, their heads connected by a black vein ("Asteroïde"). "Virtuality" shows us a man with a virtual reality helmet, his body smeared with black tar, his legs caught in a block of cement, in which he seems to grope helplessly as if in the worst nightmare.
A series of paintings of medium and large formats (1 x 1 metre and 2 x 2 metres) uses the silk screen image of Mdvanii and Rhogit-Rhogit in human size on acrylic painted backgrounds, giving a very personal interpretation of the Warhol-ian concept of repetition. Obviously here, this addresses the notion of human cloning, double and alien presence within some beings. The personal realisations of BillyBoy* include the colour photographs he has taken of Mdvanii printed in large size, notably those of the "Intro Spectrum" dolls, exhibited in Autumn 2000 in Tokyo by Sumiko Watanabe Japan (a poem of Belgium poet René Lyr was sealed in the head of each doll), as well as those from the Is the Doll World Ready for a Little Discipline?" collection, which gives a glamorous insight of SF couture transcending SM (or the other way round). Some of the dolls of this last series are presented in the exhibition.
A number of sketches and drawings , made with pastels, crayons and gouache, are displayed in the different rooms. The colours have a bright dynamism and the movement has a spontaneous style which gives priority to emotion. These works express some of the themes developed by the sculptures themselves. The female figures appear to be distant, protected and somehow isolated by organic membranous forms, the male figures all express a contrastingly provocative sensuality. The oil paintings by BillyBoy* combine recent and past works where one can easily follow Ariane's thread of futuristic inspiration, with many alien figures, always very human (as some may have noticed) such as “Alien on my Doorstep"[pop] or “Alienated" , amongst many others. It is useless to expect a representation of shapeless monsters, as according to the artist, aliens seem to have been among us for quite some time already, and they obviously know the art of camouflage. The self-portrait of BillyBoy* ("Self Portrait as an Invader") pictures him as an invader at the time of his encounter with Lala, of whom he also made a portrait [pop=803]("Portrait of Lala as a Guardian Angel"). One looks like an alien - or an alienated human - whose scrutinising eyes one feels behind the dark chequered glasses (the ones BB* wore incessantly at the time, even at night), on a totally claustrophobic plum-coloured background. Next to it, the portrait of Lala pictures a very serene face, a pure spirit, whose aura, in a vibrant gradation of yellow and green, seems almost tangible.
It is quite natural that this multiform work would be invited to the Maison d'Ailleurs (House of Elsewhere), on the initiative of Mr Patrick Gyger, the museum's bright and dynamic curator. The Maison D'Ailleurs is also home to Utopia and Extraordinary Journeys. The "Souvenirs de la Terre" exhibition ("Memories from Earth") reminds us that there is no such thing as a future without past. Mdvanii, sculpture with a lifestyle, is an invitation to meditation towards this "over there", this elsewhere more dreamy than fictitious, of which she is the enigmatic frontier runner.
Lala Jean Pierre Lestrade
Fondation Tanagra, August 2001.
Design by Lefty© Fondation Tanagra