Review of Push Your Art: Cécile B. Evans, Mathieu Mercier, David Ancelin, Philipp Engelhardt, Romain Sein at Palais de Tokyo, Paris

The group exhibition Push Your Art is a logical completion for the first edition of international contest for technologically innovative art creation. The 2013 theme is 3D relief. The committee received more than 100 applications and selected ten artists to attend a workshop with art experts, including the film director, Wim Wenders, and an artist Jeremy Deller. The jury, consisting of renowned contemporary art professionals, eventually awarded the young Belgian-American artist, Cécile B. Evans, the first prize and picked three finalists: David Ancelin, Philipp Engelhardt and Roman Sein. As the jury explained, their choice was influenced by the dynamics of the artists’ development through the participation in master-classes which attempted to enrich their vision of the medium, one completely foreign to human consciousness.

The visitors to the show at the Palais de Tokyo, which has also been taken over with the work of Philippe Parreno who currently presents a consequential solo project on three levels of the museum, are invited to observe the exhibition through stereo glasses. The artworks commissioned by the contest are positioned in separate white blocks.

Cécile B. Evans, the winner, presently residing both in Berlin and London, created a 3D video titled The Brightness (2013). Referring to the popular aesthetics of TV news magazines, the four minutes work commences with an interview of the artist’s phantom, Dr. Cécile B. Evans, by the artist herself: “We have the same name, but we are different” – two Cécile s affirm. They communicate; the camera closely follows the lines of the neck and a cheek-bone, then freezes on her splendid smile and guides the spectator into a psychedelic dream. The animated choreography of loose teeth on the dark background attempts, as stated, to put forward the uncanny feeling of being lost. The artist usually works using a video collage technique and is often a protagonist in her video. Abstract scenes, animations, uncertain dialogues in both voice and sign language structure her method to convey an emotion.

Mathieu Mercier, the initiator and sponsor of the exhibition, shot a video Le Nu (The Nude, 2013). The looped digital work displays a naked body rotating on a podium in front of cameras. An artist of various media, Mercier uses a stereoscopic process; his gaze steadily investigates a naked female body. The painstaking macro survey distorts visual perceptions of body: it becomes almost unnatural and inanimate. Exceeding the capabilities of the human eye, the artist creates a hypnotising and uncanny impression.

The other three compartments of the upper exhibition floor of the museum are allocated to the projects of the other contest finalists. Paris-based David Ancelin presented his creation – a Deep Blue (2013) video project. Here the artist scrutinises a descent of a drop of water landing in a pool. The work, displayed on two screens situated on the floor, comprises convex pixels, and questions the notion of movement through optical disorder. Frenchman, Roman Sein, was inspired by the architectural forms of “Der Teufelstisch”, a sandstone rock 14 meters high created by erosion millions of years ago. In the project of the same name, the artist realises a scenario: a young man, incredibly attracted by the sculpture, conquers the height and volume of the figure. The contradictive dialogue of a stable sculpture and a body in motion seen in the video are accompanied by the installation presenting elements of the preliminary preparation of the performance. The endmost piece of Push Your Art is Sunday Painter (2013) by Munich resident, Philipp Engelhardt. Inspired by enigmatic paintings of his amateur-artist grandfather, Engelhardt recreates a retro domestic interior, displaying the paintings by his grandfather, along with the grandson’s 3D video works, animating the protagonists from old canvases.

Ekaterina Shcherbakova

Push Your Art, 8 November until 23 November, Palais de Tokyo, 13, avenue du Président Wilson, 75 116 Paris.

Credits: Cécile B.Evans, The Brightness, 2013. 3D video. Courtesy of the artist.