<![CDATA[The opening]]>
Following a month-long residency in Saint Petersburg last summer, Loft Project Etagi (Formula Gallery) is hosting French artist and performer Carole Douillard's first exhibition in Russia, as part of the Franco-Russian Cultural Season. Focusing on Russia's Avant-Garde legacy in the contemporary art landscape, the show recalls Malevich's famous "white on white" paintings in an unexpected way and explores notion of visibility in the back-and-forth between public and private spaces.
In Michel Foucault's essay "Discipline and punish", the philosopher describes how modern society exercises its controlling system through the supervision of certain humans by others. What started with an analysis of prison led to the control of everyday life through glass architecture and a system of transparency, as well as an ever-growing tracking system of individuals via new technologies, blurring the boundary between what can be kept private and what is publicly exposed.
For many years, Carole Douillard?s practices have borrowed from avant-garde artists a common interest in reducing gesture to a minimum in order to reveal the ambiguity of contemporary society in an age of the "spectacularisation" of intimacy. Being there, watching people, falling asleep in public, describing the audience or singing back to the viewers , her work often starts with a simple act, which she performs publicly and documents in a variety of media, from pictures to video.
Using the pervasive motif of the curtain, visible in every Russian Museum as well as in private apartments, she directs at the visitor an historical and political concern, attached to the specific context of Russia that could relate to French society as well. Curtains are, metaphorically, a way of preventing us being watched, at the same time its transparency allows us to see through. Used as a pattern that partially covers the no-white cube of Formula Gallery, the large-scale wallpaper of curtains motifs pictured in different museums of the city, serves as a stage set for a performance to start. Here, the visitor is potentially the performer as well as being kept at a distance.
Playing with familiar historical references, the artist invites us to look at things differently. Searching for Malevich?s Suprematist paintings, which she never found during her journey, she pictured the memory of the "white on white" canvas, regardless of how far removed her memory was from the original. With the neon light statement "Docile bodies", the artists has extracted the title of one of the major chapters of Foucault?s book and turned it into a tacit injunction, if not a comment, addressed to the public. By using a codified form of language (an English statement written in Cyrillic alphabet) she points out how language structure tends to structure a society.
As the title "The Opening" suggests, the exhibition plays with time and space, by using a specific reference to the shared vocabulary of the art community, designing a private event prior to the public opening of a show that will last until the end.
Combining a wide range of media, from neon light statement to pictures, posters free to be taken away to performance footage, documentary pictures and video documentation, the show invites visitors to reconstruct the puzzle of a complex play to start.

Christian Alandete, november 2010