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October 13 2008 2 13 /10 /October /2008 19:04

Following the example of Norman Bates, the unobtrusive hero of Psycho, Benoît-Marie Moriceau is fond of a certain style of taxidermy. In Psycho, he stretches an absolute black skin on a mansion skeleton: a solidification of Mrs. Bates or the Mummy returns?

It looks like psychosis. Well, like Psycho actually. Not Hitchcock's movie but Van Sant's version. It looks like a cover, an interpretation, an homage and a distant, critical copy.

The original version of Psycho is from 1960 (a time when looking at Janet Leigh's underwear were censored...). The story relies on a simple and classical dichotomy between Good and Evil, visually expressed by the contrasted use of black and white and vertical and horizontal opposition. This latter is emphasized by Norman Bates' motel against the famous house of the mother on top of the hill. A mansion that became notorious, a real archetype of the horror house, definitively implemented within our collective imagination. Hitchcock wanted it to symbolize the American Gothic, mixing The Addams Family House with Edward Hopper's House by the Railroad painting. Born from Art, it only made sense that it turned over, covered again, embezzled, fantasized, directly or not. In Sarah Woodbine's Alfred's Story, the drawing of the house haunts the background of a scale model that obviously refers to the suspense master.

Psycho is also the title that Benoît-Marie Moriceau decided to give to one of his pieces. At the Espace 40m3 - Le Château, Rennes, he offers a simple project. He's completely re-covered this town house, and its evocative tower, with black paint. Sort of a 3D monochrome. The house becomes suddenly frightening, and turns into a giant sculpture, a sort of black monolith, the one which appears on Kubrick's 2001: a space odyssey. An installation in which we cannot enter, which rejects us. We're not used to receiving this sort of attitude, we are not used to suffering in the face of art, we're used to getting everything easily. Actually, it is a work of emptiness, of absence. There is nothing to see or do except to feel black. A colorful experiment that reminds us the (no-) interventionism of Yves Klein. A conceptual dialectic that suggests rediscovering our environment. An urban Land Art work. A graffiti that would have degenerated....


Not that many artists deal with issues linked to architecture. Gordon Matta-Clark was the Old Master, but he died 30 years ago. The modus operandi consisting in reinterpretating an pre-existing construction is not a brand new thing. There are other ‘wrapping' and exciting examples. The act of Moriceau remains unusual. Maybe we could compare it to the work of German artist Gregor Schneider. Surprisingly, he also alludes to a scene from Psycho in Die families Schneider, Walden Street 14, a performance-installation dealing with banality and imprisonment. The link is clearer when a man takes a shower behind a translucent shower curtain, giving us the opportunity to consider ourselves as potential killers. The piece Das Schwarze Quadrate, homage an Malewitsch is more obviously in relationship with Moriceau work. The homage to Malevitsch distracts attention from the mere copy of the Ka'ba, the sacred cube in the Mecca, which directs Muslims prayers (the Koranic verses of the kiswa are erased). A work that comes close to debating, especially when it looks like... psychosis (we already warned you)!

Be that as it may, Psycho by Benoît-Marie Moriceau is a scheming piece with a fascinating aesthetic. It succeeds in providing us with a new reading grid for architecture, playing with exterior instead of interior space. One might object that the paint used can be removed with water. It would have been so powerful to leave the house irremediably stuck into its blackness, defying the city: as a useful public sculpture? A miracle! A masterstroke! As a sequence of 90 shots, 70 different camera angles for a 45-second scene. Well, I guess that, in this case, Beauty is a question of ephemerality...

[Photo : Benoît-Marie Moriceau, Psycho, 2007, production 40m3. Photo Laurent Grivet. Copyright: B-M Moriceau]

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Published by Benjamin Bianciotto - in Art and News
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