Lucie Fontaine, Search for the Fountain, 2012, installation view, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, photo: Åsa Lundén/Moderna Museet

Lucie Fontaine, Search for the Fountain, 2012, installation view, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, photo: Åsa Lundén/Moderna Museet

Lucie Fontaine

Lucie Fontaine is an art employer who lives and works in Colmar, France. Describing herself as an »art employer«, Lucie Fontaine avoids harnessing her practice to a specific figure of the art field, preferring to cultivate a modus operandi driven solely by her relationship with two employees, a concept of self-generated labor. In the last five years Lucie Fontaine has conceived projects for T293 in Naples, Fruit and Flower Deli in Stockholm, Galeria Sabot in Cluj-Napoca, Various Small Fires and Anat Ebgi in Los Angeles, Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York, Galerie Perrotin in Paris, Iaspis in Stockholm and Artport in Tel Aviv. In the last five years Lucie Fontaine has hosted more than thirty projects in her space in Milan as well as in its related satellites in Stockholm and Tokyo. The website of the artist: www.luciefontaine.com

 

Lucie Fontaine, Souvenir, 2012, installation view of the project at Galerie Perrotin, Paris, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Galerie Perrotin, Paris, photo: Claire Dorn

Lucie Fontaine, Souvenir, 2012, installation view of the project at Galerie Perrotin, Paris, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Galerie Perrotin, Paris, photo: Claire Dorn

Lucie Fontaine, Souvenir, 2012, installation view of the project at Galerie Perrotin, Paris, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Galerie Perrotin, Paris, photo: Claire Dorn

Lucie Fontaine, Souvenir, 2012, installation view of the project at Galerie Perrotin, Paris, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Galerie Perrotin, Paris, photo: Claire Dorn

Lucie Fontaine, Souvenir, 2012, installation view of the project at Galerie Perrotin, Paris, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Galerie Perrotin, Paris, photo: Claire Dorn

Lucie Fontaine, Souvenir, 2012, installation view of the project at Galerie Perrotin, Paris, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Galerie Perrotin, Paris, photo: Claire Dorn

Lucie Fontaine, Souvenir, 2012, installation view of the project at Galerie Perrotin, Paris, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Galerie Perrotin, Paris, photo: Claire Dorn

Lucie Fontaine, Souvenir, 2012, installation view of the project at Galerie Perrotin, Paris, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Galerie Perrotin, Paris, photo: Claire Dorn

Lucie Fontaine, Estate, 2012, installation view of the project at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, photo: Genevieve Hanson

Lucie Fontaine, Estate, 2012, installation view of the project at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, photo: Genevieve Hanson

Lucie Fontaine, Estate, 2012, installation view of the project at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, photo: Genevieve Hanson

Lucie Fontaine, Estate, 2012, installation view of the project at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, photo: Genevieve Hanson

Lucie Fontaine, Estate, 2012, installation view of the project at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, photo: Genevieve Hanson

Lucie Fontaine, Estate, 2012, installation view of the project at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, photo: Genevieve Hanson

Lucie Fontaine, Estate, 2012, installation view of the project at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, photo: Genevieve Hanson

Lucie Fontaine, Estate, 2012, installation view of the project at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, courtesy of Lucie Fontaine and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, photo: Genevieve Hanson

On Museums


by Lucie Fontaine



EMPLOYEE: Lucie Fontaine has been invited to contribute to a blog related to an exhibition called »Museum Off Museum«, which is taking place at the Bielefelder Kunstverein. Instead of writing a formal text, it might be more fruitful to accept this invitation and engage with the issues that it raises through this sort of conversational format.

EMPLOYER: I think that’s a good idea, although I don’t understand why an institution that does not collect works is questioning the idea of the museum. What I mean is that, as I see it, the museum isn’t only talking about itself, of course. All the same, it is quite paradoxical to see all these museums acting like »laboratories«, doing panels, workshops, exhibitions and many activities that have nothing to do with their collections – which justify them actually being called museums – and, at the same time, a small art center in Germany decides to look at this notion. Anyway… do you go to museums? What do you feel when you’re there?

EMPLOYEE: I do go to museums, although it feels like going to church as a teenager; you know you don’t believe in it anymore but you do it by default. I guess museums are the churches of our times, the secular temples for those who want to believe. However, I am also surprised by the way presentating the collection, which, as you say, distinguishes the museum from the other art institutions – cca, Kunsthalle, Kunstverein, city galleries – has become just one among the many duties the museum has to fulfill in order to exist within the cultural landscape.

EMPLOYER: Well, I am not that surprised. The field of visual art has gone through an interesting metamorphosis in the last 5-10 years, from being a place for an elite comprising few international experts, who talked to each other and knew each other, to an arena where encounters have been replaced by events and engagement has been replaced by entertainment.

EMPLOYEE: You are right. I remember laughing about a degree, which was created while I was studying university. It was called »event planning«, and I always thought of it as one of the best examples of our paradoxical reality – just because events by definition cannot be organized… they just happen. Sorry, what were you saying?

EMPLOYER: Encounters versus events, engagement versus entertainment. Although now I really don’t know why they wanted Lucie Fontaine to be part of this project. We’ve never done anything in a museum, but that’s not because we refuse to. We’ve never even got to that point. They just don’t invite her. In fact, we are the least suitable interlocutors for such an issue, just because we have no relationship – either conflictive or flirtatious. Just nothing.

EMPLOYEE: That is true, although we did exhibit once in a museum. It was in Stockholm, where Lucie Fontaine was invited to present one of her pink cuts within the context of Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit exhibition at the Moderna Museet. There was a particular focus on her new piece, »Search for the Fountain«.

EMPLOYER: You wouldn’t want to call that project a participation in the context of the museum. That piece was part of a work by another artist, so the layers of authorship were far more complex that what the museum can deliver, even though the Moderna Museet has a pretty advanced legacy with Duchamp and Warhol.

EMPLOYEE: Is the pink cut exhibited in that show still in the box made by the museum in order to send it back once the show ended? I always thought that showed just how shocking such an experience could be. It actually reminds me of the young boy in the movie, »East is East« – he never takes off his hood, his shelter against a reality that is rigid and governed by rules he doesn’t fit in with.

EMPLOYER: To answer your question, yes, the painting is still in the box. Besides, when I go to a museum, I always look at its power structure and its division of labor. This is quite fascinating if we look at institutions in the United States, where we experience complete clarity on one side and complete mystery on the other. In fact, all the donors, categorized according to nicknames that symbolize the amount of money they give, are listed, and even bathrooms, corridors, staircases and elevators bear plaques with the names of the persons who paid for them. On the other hand, we all know, when we read »curated by« or »organized by« and then the name of the curator, that this name is, in fact, the tip of the iceberg or rather the top of a pyramidal system in which many names really should be credited – assistant curators, curatorial assistants, interns, volunteers – but ultimately are not.

EMPLOYEE: The problem lies at the very heart of the museum, where the notion of authorship denotes an absolute singularity. In other words, there is no space for multiplicity in the museum, everything must be signed by one single human being, and it doesn’t matter if the one signing hasn’t done much more than a fraction of the thing itself. Even Duchamp signed his works Rrose Sélavy, but most of them have his real name on their nameplates.

EMPLOYER: I always thought of museums as cemeteries, and all the more so because the act of making an artwork, the process of doing it and signing it with your name, is actually very similar to the act of burial – where the artwork becomes the gravestone. Duchamp comes to mind again because he wanted the following sentence engraved on his tombstone: »Besides, it’s always other people who die«.

EMPLOYEE: As crazy as it might seem, the cemetery is much more advanced in terms of different kind of signatures, if you think about the tomb of the unknown soldier or even mass graves. If the museum had something similar, honoring unknown people or acknowledging that someone had done something great there, things would be much better. Although I guess something similar happens when you to go to encyclopedic museums and look at vases from the Mesopotamian era…

EMPLOYER: In that case, art, or rather the product of human creativity, becomes more like a souvenir. Do you think artworks are souvenirs? Objects filled with memory?

EMPLOYEE: I think there are two ways to look at the word »souvenir« in relationship to visual art. The first is related to the etymology of the word and means »something to remember«. Artworks can summarize an experience, a trip and an historical moment. They can really transform something very complex into something quite easily assimilated, an image. The second meaning is more ironic and it’s related to the current hegemony of the market and the related emancipation of the figure of the collector of contemporary art, who has become a player in the field able to step in and have an active role.

EMPLOYER: Do you really see the market dominating our field? I have the feeling that, ultimately, we like to be dominated. This hegemony is a kind of self-censorship. The world has become so multilayered that it is money that gives us certitudes about what is good and what is bad, a situation which seems crazy but does, in fact, perfectly mirror the insecurity of those who are the real decision-makers, the curators, the critics and so on.

EMPLOYEE: Well, that’s a quite apocalyptic reading, but I totally agree. These days, when A is not opposed to B but rather, A becomes B and then A again and then maybe C, the collectors come with their chequebooks and make everything clear. They »buy« things and give them a status into the real world. But now I wonder – what about the collection of Lucie Fontaine?

EMPLOYER: The collection of Lucie Fontaine, currently not visible, is part of Lucie Fontaine’s desire to incarnate all the different roles of the art field; it is an act opposing professionalization. When the field becomes an industry, with people studying to be artists, curators or even dealers or auctioneers, the only way to mount a critique is to speak about art as hobby. When it is not a discourse that decides what is good and what is bad but rather how much art »sells for« – and I don’t mean only financially, as buying also connotes consensus – the only kind of critique we can offer is to deconstruct this act, namely collecting. The only way to do that is to be a collector one day per week, an artist one day per week, a curator one day per week and so on.

EMPLOYEE: This brings us back to the idea of the sort of labor we have to undertake these days. Because the idea of one single job is not possible anymore, we have to do so many different things, every day of the week you have to pull out a different kind of expertise in order to survive.

EMPLOYER: What used to be opposites are now the same thing, and, therefore, the only way to destroy the system is to be inside and outside it at the same time. We definitely need ubiquity these days…