WE MARCH THERE BY EAR (THE CALL OF THE TERRAIN)
Associated exhibition of the 15th Lyon Biennale edition
La Villa du Parc contemporary art center in Annemasse (74) is pleased to offer an echo of Lyon’s “Là où les eaux se mêlent,” this year’s iteration of the Lyon Biennial of contemporary art, with its own show featuring art projects that have been developed within tighter circles in milieus that exist outside of the art world. The group show “On y marche avec l’oreille” brings together works by eight artists that were produced as the artists directly confronted a variety of experimental fields that sometimes proved quite difficult to enter (whether the artist was dealing with a natural site, an isolated group of people, a private business, etc.). The context of the work and its emotional range, the collective sharing of experiences, and the permeability of esthetic and societal practices have all fostered the works on display.
The show’s title, “On y marche avec l’oreille,” is borrowed from the writer Michel Leiris, a pioneering figure in fusing literature and ethnology, whose poetic and critical approach began raising the question in the 1920s of the subjective position of the observer in field studies. In his singular way Leiris heralded this contiguity of the fields of art and the human sciences, a gray area that has only expanded since, giving rise in the 1990s to what Hal Foster has called the ethnographic turning point of art. While spelling out this new paradigm, the American critic underscored its limits as well, questioning both the aloof position of the investigator-artist who remains, looking down from on high, and the social and political effectiveness of these practices.
The framework of the research and its presuppositions are indeed decisive and always demand to be articulated. The mixed expectations of the different actors taking part in the project; the concrete conditions of the inquiry; the participation of individuals in the field and their involvement in the creative process; the plastic and public results of the work – these constitute so many crucial questions that need to be raised and clarified. Today their modalities are the subject of renewed reflections in the field of art.
The idea of movement through listening suggested in the title can be envisioned in a twofold way. That is, it points to the artist’s attitude in the discovery and perception of a field where voices are heard within a specific social context; and it also extends to the experience and perception of the artworks in the show, spaces of translation and distancing in which an esthetic issue can crystalize and take shape.
The layout of the show has been conceived from an intimate, local environment that expands to include contexts that are clearly more isolated and/or distant. The ground floor features works produced at sites close to La Villa du Parc which are linked to the specific socio-economic elements involved in developing the region by lending an ear to its pathways, be they mountainous (Sébastien Cabour & Pauline Delwaulle), industrial (Joséphine Kaeppelin), or related to borders (Florent Meng). On the first floor, the pieces resonate with both present and absent voices in a few places of confinement, isolation, and/or social tensions in which the artists stayed for a time, i.e., a psychiatric hospital (Sébastien Rémy), prisons and factories (Nicolas Daubanes), or an industrial production site in China (Cao Fei). Finally, to help oneself be more attentive to the sounds at a specific place, Lauren Tortil’s acoustic installation invites visitors to prick up their ears in both the exhibition space and public space generally.
 “Marrons sculptés pour Miro,” Mots sans mémoire, 1969, Editions Gallimard.
 Hal Foster, “The Artist as Ethnographer ?” 1995, https://monoskop.org/images/8/87/Foster_Hal_1995_The_Artist_as_Ethnographer.pdf
 See in this regard Co-création (ed. Céline Poulin / Marie Preston), 2019, CAC Brétigny and Editions Empire.