Eric Giraudet de Boudemange (artist) is interviewed by Garance Chabert (curator and director of the art center la villa du parc), talking about the special video on the 4 rivières show that is posted online
GC · The video piece we’ve put online offers viewers a rather odd virtual tour of your “4 rivières” show since it is accompanied by a young man who makes a number of gestures that are very specific to the venue and the space around your works. Who is the person we follow around the show and what is he doing?
EGDB · I met Johnny Croisonnier during my regional residency, invited by La Villa du Parc, in partnership with the Paysalp Ecomuseum and Archipel Butor. My work combined delving into vernacular beliefs linked with water and examining the marketing strategies of the major corporations that capitalize on the region’s natural resources, like Évian and Oréal. Johnny is a healer and a water diviner. The stories featured in the 4 rivières show are partly inspired by our interactions and working together on a film that was shot during my immersion. In this virtual tour, Johnny makes his way upstream armed with his pendulum while following the chronological layout of the show. He magnetizes the works and the galleries to energize them and influence visitors’ view of the display’s rhythm.
GC · Did you commission him to do the work? What was the process?
EGDB · Originally, I asked Johnny to effect a rebalancing of the energy at La Villa du Parc, inspired by his expertise in feng shui and geobiology (the esoteric study of the connections that the environment, buildings and a particular way of living have with living persons). According to what he was sensing, La Villa du Parc’s building didn’t need any particular work. So Johnny went through the show focusing on the artworks and the materials that addressed visitors. The process was fairly intuitive according to the way the exhibition signs resonated with him and the vibrational level of the works as measured by his pendulum. For example, he suggested I participate in magnetizing a scepter whose rigid hand reminded him of a vibratory gesture. I also helped him with the work on the exhibition booklets and flyers so that visitors could leave the art center with an energy mark of their experience. To help, I used the training I did with a Cajun healer in Louisiana during a residency in 2016.
GC · Does the sweatshirt he’s wearing indicate his occupation?
EGDB · Not quite. The sweatshirt is a parody interpretation of the recent collaboration between Évian and Balmain, which was called out as greenwashing.1 It comes from the exhibition shop, which was designed as a work of art in its own right. There visitors can enjoy a glass of magnetized water, the 4 rivières fictional brand, before walking around the show/spa with the vibratory water while wearing the name of the brand. It’s an immersive experience, 4 rivières, where marketing has glommed onto beliefs (vernacular ones), myths (the fountain of youth), and unconscious images involving water (Gaston Bachelard, l’Eau et les rêves).2 So I asked Johnny to wear the flocked sweatshirt with the brand logo so as to make it part of the exhibition’s corporate look. So he donned the mysterious garb of a spa employee who is simultaneously an actor, guide and magnetizer, paving the way for a possible interpretation of the magic gesture towards fiction.
GC · What are visitors to make of his magnetism session in the show?
EGDB · The magnetism session lends the artworks an additional aura, the aura of practices that Johnny inherited from his family’s tradition of mountain healers and his contemporary sensitivity as a bonesetter. This magnetization is combined with my physical involvement with the works and their symbolic representations. For me, Johnny revives a phantom trace of life in the work. I’m thinking especially of my daughter’s placenta fossilized in a cast, as well as the disturbing sloughed out examples of my skin in silicone.
There’s also something like a conceptual (possibly replicable) protocol that consists in contractualizing the magic gesture in the show. I’ve already worked with the healer Manon Escoffier for a similar collaboration during my solo show at Les Capucins in Embrun.
GC · And what are visitors to make of the video? Is it promotional, documentary-oriented, artistic, all of the above?
EGDB · The film reveals a secret activation of the show.
When we brought up with you the idea of magnetizing the exhibition, we quickly rejected the option of asking Johnny to carry out his gestures during the show’s opening, fearing we’d spoil the privacy and attention that that kind of ritual requires. Above all we didn’t want his intervention to come across to the audience as a performance with its aspect of spectacle within the framework of an art event.
The video also documents the artworks, offering a reading that links them through the magic gesture. That reinforces my desire to display the exhibition as a narrative loop in which all the elements are arranged according to a symbolic energy flow. The layout of the show is in fact inspired by the cycle of Évian water, each gallery offering a physical and spiritual elevation in the mountain, starting with the fountain of youth and going to the original drops from the Alpine peaks.
Finally the video assumes the ambiguous stance of all the show’s promotional and educational supports, extending the 4 rivières experience into digital space. The poster looks like an EVIAN ad, the gallery fact sheet is a pastiche of a spa brochure, and the art center’s reception desk has been turned into a wellness boutique… The show itself wears many masks and it’s up to visitors to unmask them. They tap into experiments in grace, the grotesque, irony and the intimate.
TO WATCH THE VIDEO, CLICK HERE
1 https://www.lemonde.fr/planete/video/2023/04/29/greenwashing-balmain-et-evian- montres-du-doigt_6171529_3244.html
2 Gaston Bachelard, L’eau et les rêves, José Corti, 1942.