until 31.07. | #3065ARTatBerlin | BQ Berlin shows from 8th June 2021 the group show Le saint ennui (The holy boredom) with works by the artists Ethan Assouline, Guillaume Dénervaud, Garance Früh and Mona Varichon, curated by Clément Delépine.
Le saint ennui was inspired by the central character of Mr. Bougran’s retirement, a novel written in 1888 by the multifaceted French novelist and art critic Joris-Karl Huysmans.
Resulting from an open dialogue between four artists whose practices address our normative modes of perception, this exhibition brings together works offering a reflection on the mutability of reality, from a bodily to a societal scale, from a sentimental to a political perspective.
In logic, the principle of non-contradiction states that a proposition and its opposite cannot coexist at the same time, or on the same plane. In theory, reality cannot contradict itself. While this principle cannot be demonstrated, Mr. Bougran seems fully determined to refute it.
Bougran is a middle-aged civil servant who is unfairly forced into early retirement by the administration he served loyally for a number of years. His dismissal comes with the label “psychological infirmity undetectable by men of the medical art”.
Unwilling to accept such dreary fate, and driven by boredom and stubborn habits, Bougran conjures up a desperate plan to recreate an identical version of his old office at home. From his desk, he writes letters and reports which he sends to himself, and to which he responds with official rigour. Nothing is overlooked to maintain the illusion of a work environment. To improve his workflow and keep up the pace, he even goes so far as to hire his former assistant. In this duplicate reality, the retiree in denial developed a performative relationship to the world. Not unlike another retiree in denial who relied on “alternative facts” to bend reality as he pleased.
The recent months have been the scene of various arrangements with reality. Like Bougran, we have manifested a relentlessness in saving appearances. From the early stages of the first confinements, we have developed an urge to retain normal, substituting sensible experiences for online ones. Online love, online family, online cooking, online conversations, online schools with online classes. In the field of arts, it translated in online exhibitions and graduation shows, online viewing rooms, and online art fairs.
More than ever, humankind did not seem to agree on what reality is and what it is made of. For those who advocated for a paradigm shift, this new world looks a lot like the old one.
What platitude and what a downfall! I felt very uncomfortable in these circles without genuine dignity and without propriety, but … but … from there, wanting to leave them … and, sighing, Mr. Bougran returned to his own situation, to himself.
Interestingly, as if torn between two realities, Huysmans wrote an alternative ending to Mr. Bougran’s retirement. In one version, the zealous civil servant dies at work, exhausted, in the other, he lives only to wonder how much time was wasted.
Today, 15 months after the first Covid case was diagnosed, things are now seemingly back to normal in a few, often rich, countries. Nevertheless, the pandemic is still raging in some parts of the world, offering us an auspicious reminder that normal is a concept in flux.
Vernissage: Friday, 4th June 2021
Exhibition period: Tuesday, 8th June – Saturday, 31st July 2021To the Gallery
Image caption: Courtesy of BQ Berlin
Exhibition Le saint ennui – BQ Berlin | Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin | Contemporary Art | Exhibitions Berlin Galerien | ART at Berlin