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November 29 2008 7 29 /11 /November /2008 16:22

Repetition: reiteration, retelling, come back of the same idea, action to do what you already did.

Repetition officially exists on Fine Arts as a reproduction of an original work by the author himself or under his directive. Repetition is not copy, homage, quotation, critical or not. Repetition is artist’s gesture that re-does, re-produces a process already set up. More precise than the simple style exercise or the recognizable touch of an artist, repetition denotes an iron will to impose a rhythm to one’s work, to analyze one’s creation on long term. To repeat is to integrate the notion of mastered time on one’s pieces. 

Repetition: reiteration, retelling, come back of the same idea, action to do what you already did.

This notion of temporality reminds its sense on the musical field. Repetition is an important prerequisite to improve a song or to compose it. But repetition, like in art, is different from the cover or the remix. It’s closer to the loop, the perpetual and hypnotic movement of an often not-melodic come back. Typical of the electro music, this repeated scansion can be found in industrial music  (Throbbing Gristle) or drone (Sunn O))), Earth), until, for this latter, the almost complete disappearance of the markers. The serial music intellectualized, almost against its will, the reflection about the implementation of similar models with, as fermatas, Stockhausen and Boulez. Repetition becomes a pattern, a drawing, a wallpaper (see and listen Quatorze exemples authentiques de triomphe de la musique decorative by Cinema Strange) and leads us back to art. 

Repetition: reiteration, retelling, come back of the same idea, action to do what you already did.

We just saw that repetition is not a matter of style. Djamel Tatah (until December 30 at Kamel Mennour Gallery, Paris) does not repeat himself. His solitary bodies painted on monochrome backgrounds are a family, a lost souls society inextricably linked. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish repetition from series. The Furniture Sculptures by John Armleder, and more precisely his "Zack Wylde" series (abstract painting + juxtaposed guitar) are a reflection on the confrontation of similar elements on the same mode. The series are a game on possible combinations. The limit is passed with the 11 Saint Sebastian tended by Irene by Georges de la Tour. Copies of the Master, of his workshop, lure of money, anonymous forgers ? Hard to know the truth. But this idea of the repetition of the same work influenced another artist like Yves Klein. The anecdote is well known: Klein painted same-sized canvases in blue with a paint roller, hanged up side by side and sold with different prices… The fierce irony of Klein should not mask his conceptual genius. Pushing to an extreme and no coming back point the idea of repetition, he transcended even the gesture of the artist and made sacred the idea… after Duchamp. Now we know that Duchamp always comes with Warhol, it’s time to speak about the silkscreen of the Man Machine (for monotonous lovers of Kraftwerk). A lot of Marilyn, Mao, Dollars…. Few variations that force you to look after details and to become attentive to changes. The (falsely) mechanized treatment of the work induces a simplified vision of repetition. 

Repetition: reiteration, retelling, come back of the same idea, action to do what you already did.

Repetition is definitively relevant when it becomes a palingenesis, an “eternal recurrence” of the same, but on a volunteer way. Not like Bill Murray stock into the Groundhog Day by Harold Ramis. No, it’s the transition ad lib. of inexplicable and cold murders on Alan Clark’s Elephant. It’s more the sequence of identical shots on Gus Van Sant’s Elephant. On this latter, repetition is not exactly the same : the camera angle is always different. It makes a big distinctness. Buren (La Coupure is exhibited now at Picasso Museum, Paris) never does the same thing. The adaptation to the context modifies deeply and definitively every work that seems to repeat itself. The stripes (talking only of these is absolutely reductive) are never the same (well, yes they are, 8.7 cm wide, colored and alternated with a white stripe…). Buren, as his colleagues Mosset, Parmentier and Toroni, had the fascinating idea to work on the place, on the adaptation, on the look and on memory. Yayoi Kusama is another example (recently exhibited at the Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris) with her obsessive dot: repetition of the pattern on a variation of the support. Jim Lambie and his Zobop is a magnificent demonstration too that stripes of colored scotch-tapes on the floor are never exactly the same, never exactly different. 

Repetition: reiteration, retelling, come back of the same idea, action to do what you already did.

As usual, Damien Hirst is the one missing to conclude. The English artist repeats himself and sells again the same pieces on a strange come back. He reminds us how important is the notion of cycle in art, as in life (working a lot on death, does he resuscitate himself?). Scratched record or scratch held by the hand of the artist, repetition is an ambiguous phenomenon, hard to apprehend but that can quickly become a psychoanalytic obsession of the repetition, leading to the psychic dependence. 

Repetition: reiteration, retelling, come back of the same idea, action to do what you already did.

Thank you for not reading this text again.

[Picture : Daniel Buren, peinture issue de "Corridoscope", 1983. Peinture acrylique sur toile, 204 x 280 cm. Courtesy de l'artiste & galerie Jean Brolly]

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