Galerie Maubert

BATTLING WITH THE WIND

Agnès Geoffray

PRESSE //

FRANCE CULTURELa dispute

AOC / Agnès Geoffray - du geste en Supsense, critique par Sally Bonn


September 8 - October 20, 2018

For example, the hand

How can we link words and images?
How can we connect language and body?
How can we silently fight the battle against oblivion?

These three questions permeate all of Agnès Geoffray’s work. They come to life in this new exhibition, in which writing and photography are intertwined, to make visible, to bring out into the open in a poetic gesture of reversal what is unspoken and unseen in history, political coercion, power. The gesture then speaks for itself.
To these three questions, Agnès Geoffray replies with Battling with the Wind: by the hand.
The hand makes the link. The intelligence of the hand, its poetic power and its resilience. Aristotle said it well: the hand is at once “tool” and “weapon.” For dancer Martha Graham, the hand is “a wonderful thing… as a hand and not as a poor imitation of something else.”[1] The hand does or undoes, draws, writes, measures, feels. It explores limits, the contours of things. The hand speaks the present. The hand makes it possible to shift from one space to another, from one era to another in atemporality or in a presumed transhistoricity. It is the organ of feeling. It is evidenced here in several series, real or suggested, as in the series Les élégantes, with its black gloves, posed like empty envelopes for absent hands, stamped with words that imply action. Awaiting gestures.
The words in the title perfectly articulate her concerns: the body in space, air, movement and struggle, resistance against the void or the violence of history. Like martial artists slipping punches who fight without touching. So poetic and airy, the title Battling with the Wind also refers to a neurological disorder linked to trauma suffered in the trenches during World War I. Soldiers returned home, their lives disrupted by unmanageable, uncontrollable movements and gestures – the only signs, in a silence that lies beyond speech, of memory of the violence that occurred. Agnès Geoffray stages these same bodies in an eponymous video projection inspired by Shell shock, but detached from the drama of its origins; she retains only the gestuality, the movement, the dance. This displacement is essential; it resists disappearance, it restores man’s humanity.
The subject of this exhibition lies here, in this displacement, which is also detachment and a gesture of resistance. Her work on images reveals the choreography within a set of movements. The pieces presented here explore a broader idea of ??choreography, the writing of movement, in which the body is quite significant.
In attitudes, in physical constraints, in images, Agnès Geoffray conjures the uniqueness of a presence in the world – our world. These postures taken from history, from painting, from everyday life constitute a memory of timeless gestures. The artist speaks of “the survival of gestures and archetypal images” and shows different ranges: gestures of presentation, measurement, submission, constraint, play, revelation. Gestures suspended or stopped, taken in this indefinite present but also kept in a momentum, that of the succession of sequences. Gestures as fragments of reality that reveal a significance in the body as evoked by Michel Guérin in his Philosophie du geste: “The gesture at times takes on a pragmatic utilitarian dimension, at times an affective and expressive dimension. In any case, it seems to reveal a property of the human body – and perhaps, beyond it, of the living – to signify the body.”[2]
The body is there, in pieces, in fragments, twisted, upright, resilient. Even so – and this is the singularity of Agnès Geoffray’s work -, the corporeality she reveals is always linked to its representation, which is re-creation. Photographic, filmic, sculptural pieces explore contact in a dimension we call haptic rather than tactile, because seeing is always invoked. From Aloïs Riegl to Gilles Deleuze, this term is used to evoke a specific aesthetic sensibility that combines sight and touch. A way to circumvent our perceptive bearings and see in another way.
This exhibition puts us in a state of suspension. Phantom presences cross through it, playing on history and its dates, playing on the categories that historical narrative imposes and freezes. Black and white are prevalent. Black silhouettes on a light background, light hands on black background, a few touches of color, settings on which injunctions are read, but the rest is a matter of traces, gestures and detachment.

Sally Bonn, writer, critic, lecturer in aesthetics at the Université Picardie Jules Verne

[1] Martha Graham, Blood Memory: An Autobiography, Actes Sud, 1993
[2] Michel Guérin, Philosophie du geste, Actes Sud, 1995, p. 15.