November 17 2008 2 17 /11 /November /2008 16:51
Suicidal Tendencies. Is suicide trendy? Really? Or, in our general crisis times, the tendency to be suicidal is growing up?
Suicidal Tendencies is the title of the most recent Bruno Peinado’s exhibition at the Manet Gallery in Gennevilliers and it’s anything but a neutral choice. The S.T. Crew (Suicidal for life!) has recognized the name of the Californian skate punk cult band, but the very approach Peinado uses in his work includes other issues of the deliberate death: social, cultural, artistic; between embezzlement, nostalgia and denunciation of more or less deliberated suicides. The suicide is still quite a taboo theme in our sterilized societies. We try to hide every confrontation to death, and specifically for its most condemned form. Fortunately, art remains a free experimental field where we can exceed our inhibitions, fears and limits (a well-accepted process here, like Oleg Kulik’s example shows us in Paris or elsewhere, like Wim Delvoye’s tattooed pigs in Shangai….).
The suicide is frequent in art history, as a mythological or realistic subject (The death of Cleopatra by Alessandro Turchi or The Suicide by Edouard Manet). Logically, it is still a study object today. Well, other days, other ways. During the Antic Rome, it was considered as an ethic and courageous sign. Now, 2,000 years of Christianity later, it is a condemnable and condemned act (the book Suicide : mode d’emploi by C. Guillon et Y. Le Bonniec, ed. A. Moreau is prohibited in France since 1987….).
Artists choose different strategies to represent the tragic vision of the end of the life. First of all, the humor. Even if artists try to play things down, there is always a disturbing and worrying way besides the funny misappropriations. The solitary squirrel from Bidibidobidiboo by Maurizio Cattelan is a strange mirror of our tragic lives, of a lost humanity. The Saut dans le Vide by Yves Klein (the first is from 1960… he miraculously (!) jumped again) highlights the fall and rise of the luciferian artist and plays with the image power. An other vision, the Professeur Suicide by Alain Séchas is an experiment of the mysterious. As usual, Séchas uses irony and fierce discrepancy to point the needle where it hurts.
On the contrary, different artists pitch on direct representation. Some of them do not hesitate to put one’s foot in it, and even one’s hand. The best example, as usual, is Andres Serrano. The photographs from "The Morgue" series include many suicides (Rat Poison Suicide I & II, Shotgun Suicide) and leave us alone on a frightening and esthetical close-up with the death. Slightly outdistanced, Sam Samore’s "The Suicidist" series simulates photographed suicide, reminding Weegee’s aesthetic and Jeff Wall’s staging. The images, frozen but surprisingly alive, come out of pathos. Three hanged-up to come: The magical and mythical Jan Fabre’s Self-portrait as a devil-artist, Gino de Domenici’s’ Untitled (that was recently the cover of Flash Art), full of the typical mystery and loneliness of the artist work, and then, Anja Niemi, for her magnificent and ghostly The Coward Suicide, tactfully retiring.
Famous suicides: The Death of Kurt Cobain by Sandow Birk (a cover of Thomas Chatterton by Henry Wallis) confirms the symbolic status of the cursed star from Seattle. Conceptualized suicides : Anthem (twin-suicide) and Anthem (to future suicide) by Banks Violette, a referenced minimalism added to a tragic coldness. Expatriate suicides: Suicide Series by Wei Quangqing, Suicide by Zhang Dali. Helped suicides : the Fluxus Suicide Kit (Ben, Brecht, Maciunas…). Even Claude Lévêque welcomes us to Suicide Park . Suicides everywhere and forever… a real invasion!
This meaningful topic is widely represented nowadays. It is a reflection of the out of the ordinary situation of the artist, a romantic reminiscence, and of our drifting and lost situation. It goes with the over represented skull as symbol of vanity. The suicide is an act sociologically complex, relying numerous and different worlds such as philosophy, psychiatry, religion. It allows artist to work after possible explorative ways, from the deepest subtle one to the most outrageously sensationalist’s.
The young artist Kepa Garraza, in the "Y los llamamos ángeles caídos" series, paints famous dead artists, most of them suicide, in their fatidic act. A phenomenon dealing with ambivalent attitudes, between despair and absolute research of freedom. A misery rises to an artistic paradigm.
To be (hopefully) continued.
[Picture : Sam Samore, The Suicidist (continued) (#07), 2003. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Galerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris & S. Samore]