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Sylvie Fleury

Press release


Sylvie Fleury – Shame

It seems as if it’s the first time Sylvie Fleury enters an artworkherself.Enormous blob-like inflatables based on the artist’s personalized Bitmoji dominate her recent exhibitions, as well as her upcoming solo show at Mehdi Chouakri Gallery in Berlin. Rather than an alluring slogan drawn from perfume branding, such as Obsession, Escape, Joy, Envy andEternity Now, the three-dimensional artist portrait on view in Berlin carries “SHAME” in bold logo-like typeface. All of a sudden, we are confronted with the artist’s persona—or at least we are told so. Escaping the smartphone screen, the artist’s avatar comes to life as a festival prop, while the brutality of its enlargement makes you forget the cutesy effect of Bitmoji-texting. Thinking about Fleury’s oeuvre sheds light on a contradiction. The work is full of personification. Her shopping bag readymades imply that she is obsessed with shopping, yet in hindsight we wonder whether we might have been blinded by an orchestrated camouflage. Does she really like shopping? Are we really confronted with hercollection of high heels and herFord Cosworth from 1969? In preparation for this essay, I went back to the artist’s books and catalogues in my library and while studying them, I started to understand that she never reveals herself as an image or by using her own voice. Instead, Fleury subverts the tradition of the artist portrait by using surrogates: readymades, such as high heels, cars, shopping bags and furniture, divert attention from the void that confronts us. There is no human soul at work,one could argue.

The genesis of Sylvie Fleury as an artist dates back to the early 1990’s—the heyday of postmodernism, where the role of the artist enjoyed a surprising resurrection. As critics of late capitalist society—Maurizio Lazzarato, Frederic Jameson, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, to name a few—point out, the artist takes on an avant-garde position (again), albeit instrumentalized since there is no longer a “bohemian outside”—Yes To All.1With the rise of network capital2and the growing communication industry, the immaterial labour of conceptual art was at the forefront and defined a role model for new economic standards of labor. Subjectivity took on a new significance, as Lazzaroto claims: “The new slogan of Western societies is that we should all become subjects.”3In an age of information, the notion of work underwent a radical change: production was now regarded as handling information. In 1991 Tiqqun published Premiers Matériaux pour une Théorie de la jeune fille—a theoretical analysis of generic subjectivity solely defined who by consumerism. It is a persiflage on the “lifelongstruggle of rendering oneself compatible with Empire.”4In the 2000s the concept of the avatar entered the art world with the construction of such fictional artists as Claire Fontaine, Reena Spaulings or John Dogg. Perhaps this phenomena of the Readymade Artist5offered a subversive means of playing with the oppressive mechanisms of controlling subjectivity. A fake identity can’t be subsumed by societal authorities. According to my reading Sylvie Fleury is a Readymade Artistavant-la-lettre. Her voice asserting Be Amazing6is the one of the young girl saying: I want people to be beautiful7.And now—two decades later—when the promise of the once new millennial avant-garde has long faded and the avatar’s potential has been entombed in the grave of commodification in a Bitmoji application—de-sexualized like the jeune fille—Sylvie Fleury’s inflatables are a memento mori of authentic subjectivity.

— Niels Olsen

1 Yes To Allis an expression appearing in various art works by Sylvie Fleury.
2 Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, London 2018.
3 Maurizio Lazzarato, Immaterial Labor, in: Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt (ed.), Radical Thought in Italy, Minneapolis 1996, p. 134.
4 Tiqqun,Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, Los Angeles 2007. (English Translation)
5 Claire Fontaine / John Kelsey, Interview,http://brocblegen.com/collection/Artists/Claire%20Fontaine/Interview%20with%20John%20Kelsey.pdf
6 Be Amazing is another expression appearing in various art works by Fleury.
7 Tiqqun,Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, Los Angeles 2007, p. 24.