Laure Prouvost was born in the tenth and final century of the 2nd millennium. They live and work between the Croatian Desert, Antwerp and London. They received their BFA from Central St Martins, London in 2002 and studied towards their MFA at Goldsmiths, University of London. They recently had solo exhibitions at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; SALT Galata, Istanbul; Kunstmuseum Luzern; Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan; Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt Am Main; Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing; Haus der Kunst, Munich; New Museum, New York; and Laboratorio Arte Alameda, Mexico, among others. Prouvost won the MaxMara Art Prize for Women in 2011 and was the recipient of the Turner Prize in 2013.
Portals are to be conceived of in the most disparate ways. Carrying the dynamism of energy flowing in and out of distant worlds, they perform connectivity; doorways charged with the potential to see differently, while helping us better understand where we might be standing, at any one time. Through portals, Laure Prouvost ventures on whimsical journeys, telling stories that embark in time-space travels, and are never resolved. Tales that are carried around – ‘neither resolution nor stasis but continuing process’(1) as Ursula K Le Guin once defined the life of narrative; stories that are powerful because they eschew egos and heroes, and instead touch upon more common, tangible threads of experience.
In Prouvost’s works, portals are also channels things get lost in – words, objects, people physically disappearing, stuck in meaning or lost in translation, triggering a need for reinventing and re-materialising whatever is gone. In Wantee (2013) we see the artist’s grandfather dissolving while digging a channel that would allow him to reach the shores of Africa, and later reappearing in many of the artist’s narratives. A story building a portal, a hole burying a different reality: in loop.
In between these interstices – the real and the imaginary – Prouvost fashions tunnels lit with flashy and fleshy lights, tingling sensations chanted by the flickering tempo of staccato editing. Their films follow serpentine routes that seduce the viewer in alluring notes, images are visions pulsating like heartbeats; depicting the rhythms of life punctuated by gasping intervals. Called into the sense-making process that is the act of looking, you are asked to breathe the image; lick it, live it, become ‘it’. ‘You will taste all you see’ murmurs the tantalising voice-over in DIT Learn (2017) – playfully pointing at things as language leaps over their meaning. ‘Come with me, come this way’, repeatedly whispered as holding a secret: you could almost feel a force grabbing your hand, drawing you in. Where? Back in the past, far away, and into the future. And so you are invited to move around, get familiar with, even used to, the million of puzzling and seemingly unrelated patterns that concoct worlds.
Prouvost digs into histories, literally crawling underneath floors and scraping surfaces to glimpse at what’s below. Navigating hallucinatory spaces that propose dream-like scenarios of epicurean pleasures, liquid existence and carnal desires, we are reminded that we have the permission to, and hold the faculty of, switching things the other way around: we can find ways out of linear paths to embark in the abyss of unknowability. We are allowed not to understand, as language slips and falls into holes leaving us in-between gaps: the advice is to stay in this jumble for a while, enjoy its brisk tonalities. When re-emerging, what we are left with is surfaces often soaked in dirt, like indelible marks of a traceable past.
Just like the films, the mixed-media installations are a fragmented amalgamation of sense and nonsensical, impregnated with sensorial signs, suggesting orientations to the viewer. What is celebrated is an enormous conglomerate that is alive, and lives of its non-definitions, fed by mistakes and downfalls. They colour the grounds and atmospheres of generative force, and debilitate sanctioned histories of their magnetic power.
(1) Ursula K Le Guin, “The Carrier Bag of Fiction” in Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places, (New York: Grove Press, 1989)