Le Grand Café, Contemporary Art Centre, Saint-Nazaire

One could say that Daniel Firman makes a faceless kind of sculpture, literally and figuratively speaking, inasmuch as its formal aspects and the discourse developed are particularly mobile. For, essentially, his interest is in precisely that moving space of art which, in his case, begins with the axis of the body of individuals so as to extend itself as far as the outermost reaches of their objective and mental projections (the commodities that model them or normalise them, the memories that constitute them)1. Thus the body casts that he makes are always engaged in a dialogue with the objects and the signs that characterise a contemporary reality (a car, an item of clothing, a computer icon…). Amid this relationship of constant exchange and reciprocal communication between beings and things, Daniel Firman chooses to bring to the surface the symptoms of a faulty organisation, of a weakness. The exhibition Toucher: coulé extends this preoccupation with previously unseen works, each of which in some way tests the space of the Grand Café. The title of Daniel Firmans exhibition offers some clues as to its interpretation. “Toucher” (to touch) refers to the ideas of physical contact and holding regularly invoked in past works (the manikins with accumulated objects on their heads). “Toucher“, however, must also be understood in the sense of “to affect”. The show presents a world in which objects are “affected”, struck, in turn blown away and exploded. “Coulé” (poured) invokes directly the technique used for body casting, as well as the pooling of matter. Daniel Firman has thus far presented a perception of reality based on a physical and mental relationship between bodies and objects. The well-known manikins carrying a mass of objects on their shoulders are in fact the result of lived experience (a performance in which the artist is carrying the aforementioned mass, comparing the resistance of his body with that of matter). This relationship articulated an idea of encumbrance and of compacting, generating a specific spatial and organisational system. In part this is the case for Traffic (2002), presented in Toucher: coulé and the sole piece of work pre-existing this show. The piece is emblematic of Daniel Firman’s work in the sense that it puts into action the scattering-gathering principles that the artist has often exploited in his sculpture. They concern the archaic gestures that regulate the relationship of the body to the elements: gathering-scattering, contracting, extending…, theorised by the dancer and choreograph Rudolf Laban. At the Grand Café, Daniel Firman inverses the relational modality of bodies and of objects and suggests a perception of the real on the mode of an expansion. Space is tested by playing out the questions of sculpture: fullness, emptiness, density weight, mass, tension, softness. Daniel Firman’s world is a world of cohabitation. He is particularly attentive to the way in which very different presences coexist. He elaborates a visual language just as complex as that generated by the modern city, operating by disruptions. A doubt creeps in: are beings and things in their rightful places? (1) Emmanuel Latreille Sophie Legrandjacques – Translation Richard Gray
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