Laure Prouvost: It, Heat, Hit

Laure Prouvost: It, Heat, Hit

Laure Prouvost, video still from It, Heat, Hit (2010). Courtesy MOT International London and Brussels.
Laure Prouvost: It, Heat, Hit
Date
September 15, 2015

627 words by Stephen Squibb

Part 1:

The 627 words of this press release ask nothing of you. Don’t even read it. You’re reading it. Laure asked eight people to watch her video three or four times and respond. Maybe this is the ninth response. Maybe. The artist didn’t choose you herself but here you are.

If you don’t continue reading I’ll ask you to leave. We need you to read. You need to read to exist.

We found you in front of the screen with your legs falling asleep. It feels strange. Text spilling down. Screen so warm. You lick it. You lick the text up off the screen. Granddad could see better if he climbed a tree. But there are no trees in the rooms we sit in. No ladders. Just your attention. But now your leg is asleep. Tingles like bugs down your thigh. Climb a ladder and you’d only just hit the ceiling.

473 words left.

You’re already on the way to see her, reading fast, the leg still sleeps. Quick, behind you. Breathing quickly. Wait! It’s OK. The moment passes. The text continues. You were told this would happen. You read left to right. Not everyone does. Some people read right to left or top to bottom. You’re falling down the screen! You should stop smoking. You want to penetrate the text. Of course you’re in bed reading quietly. It smells like cleaning products. It’s too hot because we got angry and burned the images. The idea slips.

Slip.

Slip.

Slip.

The text had to change there. Reformat. But you held on. Here you are. Still reading. “There is something in every description that can only be a trap.” He pushed the words in your face. All over your face. Licking the text off your face. Without strength, we tell you to stay. Stay, stay. You read on with us on your sleeping leg. The future comes closer. The future comes closer. I’m sorry it’s so crazy. You’re smelling the heat, feeling the look of the ideas. Behind you the text falls like rain down your back.

Here is where you wanted to be. You made it. Cool water around your ankles like a breeze. The sun, some green light called grass. Lay in the light and it prickles your leg like a holiday. This is so good. Sorry I was horrible. I’ll let you go. I see you aren’t with us anymore. We don’t like having you here as we talk. It’s like minimal art. Feels sickly and not right. The idea of sugar isn’t sweet. The concept of intelligence isn’t smart. We have to ask you to leave.

185 words left.

(It won’t even show up in the formatting.)

We ask you one thing: concentrate, and don’t forget these ideas below.

Idea 5

Idea 1

Idea 3

You’re always in the way. The men are looking for you. They saw the nose by your face. You throw idea five at them.

Idea 5

They’ve got your nose. Moving your nose on your face. Left to right. Right to left. We didn’t know you were still reading. They’re moving your nose left to right, left to right. You can’t see it. We’re not happy. Why did you read our press release? We want to be alone. We use some ideas to move your nose from top to bottom. (This was a special text we wrote for you. You’re so passive. Do something about it.) Should press releases be anonymous? This should have been anonymous. We don’t want you anymore. We push you off the edge of the screen. Careful. Can you move to the bottom of the screen please? Push you to the bottom. Push you to the edge. To the edge. Can you leave this

Laure Prouvost was born in 1978 in Croix-Lille, France. She lives and works in London, UK and Antwerp, Belgium. Solo exhibitions include For Forgetting at New Museum, New York (2014), From Wantee to Some Signs at Extra City Kunsthal, Antwerp (2014); Laure Prouvost / Adam Chodzko at Tate Britain, London (2013); All These Things Think Link at Flat Time House, London (2010); It, Heat, Hit at Art Now Lightbox, Tate Britain, London (2010). Group shows include The Great Acceleration at the Taipei Biennial (2014); Portraits d’Intérieurs at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco; and Assembly: A Survey of Recent Artists’ Film and Video in Britain 2008–2013 at Tate Britain, London (2013). Provoust received the Max Mara Art Prize for Women in 2011 and the Turner Prize in 2013.

For more information, contact program [​at​] e-flux.com.

Reviews

“You cannot hold this: Orit Gat on Laure Prouvost”, The Art Newspaper • Orit Gat

The French artist Laure Prouvost’s current exhibition at e-Flux in New York ( It, Heat, Hit , until 26 October), opens with a subtitled explanation: “This six minute film requires all of your attention. Each detail of Part One will be essential to Part Two. The characters in the film are glad you are here to join them; they would do anything to get your...

The French artist Laure Prouvost’s current exhibition at e-Flux in New York (It, Heat, Hit, until 26 October), opens with a subtitled explanation: “This six minute film requires all of your attention. Each detail of Part One will be essential to Part Two. The characters in the film are glad you are here to join them; they would do anything to get your attention. They are desperate for you to engage: they need you to exist. If you do not collaborate they will ask you to leave the room on the sixth minute.” 

The work makes demands, as do many of Prouvost’s videos: you must concentrate, engage, exist. You must create your own system of viewing. You must respond to the work in all the different registers in which it constantly challenges you: visual, textual, audio. But when you listen to the voiceover, it doesn’t match the text on the screen. You watch the images and they escape too quickly, evaporating like a drop of water on a hot surface. You read the text and it’s beautiful—“the images got dusty fr om waiting”—but inexplicable. The threat is then realized: six minutes in and you’re asked “Can you leave this…?” “Room” is left unsaid. 

Prouvost’s work is so specific that it’s almost impossible not to adopt some of its linguistic manners. You start writing in “you.” You get a little convoluted. You want to race through certain sentences and then slow down with others. You wonder about whether it’s worth adding more writing to a work already loaded with words. Prouvost, an artist known for her large-scale installations, which often include video and architectural constructions strewn with objects, always speaks to language and its inability to contain meaning.

Her work isn’t about consistent storytelling or collected ideas. Instead, it’s a system of frustrated representation; it has a slippery meaning. It conflates environment with sound, image, and text (often read by Prouvost in a feminine French accent) but the connections are constantly shifting. With It, Heat, Hit, the viewer is bombarded with images: a car racing to a corner, a splash of red paint, a flabby green pudding on a white plate, a jumping horse, a fire. The film is interspersed with white text against a black background (“In his anger the images were burning” and “back home”) that doesn’t cohere to a narrative. Instead, it forms a reflection on the impossibility of coherent narratives. “You want to caress the image,” the voiceover in the video lingers, but how can you caress what you cannot grasp?

Considering how prolific Prouvost is—she has created at least ten large-scale, complex installations since earning her MFA from Goldsmiths University in London in 2010—the choice to show a five-year-old piece (It, Heat, Hit is dated 2010) seems puzzling. But with Prouvost, Goddard’s famous declaration—“a story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order”—rings true. Iterations of the same work include additions and other changes. When It, Heat, Hit was shown at the Taipei Biennial in 2014, it was screened in a specially-built diagonal room surrounded by plants and sculptures (some of which are recognizable from earlier installations like The Artist, 2011). At e-flux, the black-box construction almost fills the entrance of the gallery to the brim, but the installation around it is gone—no living things, no sculptures dangling from the ceiling—and has been replaced with eight framed texts, each written by a different professional (a rector, an ironmonger, etc.). Each was asked to watch the video and respond to it, creating yet another narrative and another set of response to the work. Again meaning is slippery, again it is individual.  

It, Heat Hit keeps with Prouvost’s earlier interests in complex, disconnected narrative. In Before, Before (2011–13), she created a maze of stage sets through which the viewer wanders in search of Gregor Samsa from Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis until ending up in a new installation,  After, After (2013), which the artist described as “a different kind of 3D film,” a darkened room wh ere flashes of light shine on different objects to create a story by way of sequence. The two works do not congeal, except in language. “Before” and “after” connote linearity, a coherence that is never present.

Prouvost’s work is messy, funny and playful, but it is also always serious. It adds another line to the long history of image literacy. It feels contemporary because it’s fast: in It, Heat, Hit, the shifts between scenes can take just one second. Images wash over you while you’re still decoding what the voiceover said. This aesthetic is exactly the meaning of her work. It shows how images, sounds, words—even when you try to hold onto them—are evasive.  Prouvost offers a very different suggestion from the prevailing sentiment that images are meant to be decoded, that pictures are meant to be read.

Orit Gat is an art critic living in London and New York. She is a contributing editor of Rhizome and the managing editor of WdW Review.

—September 25, 2015

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“Laure Prouvost, an Artist of Theories and Influences”, The New York Times • Martha Schwendener

In her current show, Laure Prouvost, a French-born artist who won the Turner Prize in 2013, combines the punchy urgency of movie trailers with ideas derived from film and literary and psychoanalytic theory. The central work, “It, Heat, Hit,” is a six-minute movie screened in a small, trapezoidal theater built for this show. The film starts with an...

In her current show, Laure Prouvost, a French-born artist who won the Turner Prize in 2013, combines the punchy urgency of movie trailers with ideas derived from film and literary and psychoanalytic theory. The central work, “It, Heat, Hit,” is a six-minute movie screened in a small, trapezoidal theater built for this show. The film starts with an announcement: The characters are glad you are here; they “need you to exist.” But if you don’t “collaborate,” you’ll be asked to leave. The film then hurtles into a series of jump-cut images that veer from the sensual (a feather grazing the camera lens) to the bucolic (horses and landscapes) and the suggestively violent (objects being chopped).

On the wall opposite the mini-theater is a row of texts offering fictional viewer responses. The butcher’s wife thought the film was “modern and different,” and the priest felt “apprehensive, nervous and deeply unsettled.” The ironmonger responded by making a twisted metal object, while the psychoanalyst observed that “the provocation of the gaze provokes sexual satisfaction.”

All of this feels familiar. Freud and Lacan are cited in the texts, and the film owes a clear debt to theorists like Roland Barthes, Laura Mulvey and Teresa de Lauretis, and particularly the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. (There are also echoes of Surrealism, the Situationists, Sophie Calle and Bernadette Corporation.) Nonetheless, the work is seductive — that is, until the last seconds of the film when the pictures disappear and the narrator commands you to leave the room. Suddenly the liberated reader proposed by Barthes in essays like “The Death of the Author” (1967) is banished, and Ms. Prouvost reminds you who’s really in charge of the artwork.

—October 20, 2015.

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“Laure Prouvost”, Art in America • Joseph Henry

Laure Prouvost’s latest outing in New York was up front about its own capriciousness. Upon entering the gallery, you encountered a printed sign reading: “Keep left (to the right).” If you did go to the left, you saw It, Heat, Hit, a film made in 2010 by the London-based French artist, in a recessed black-box room. Its opening title card says, “THIS 6...

Laure Prouvost’s latest outing in New York was up front about its own capriciousness. Upon entering the gallery, you encountered a printed sign reading: “Keep left (to the right).” If you did go to the left, you saw It, Heat, Hit, a film made in 2010 by the London-based French artist, in a recessed black-box room. Its opening title card says, “THIS 6 MINUTE FILM REQUIRES ALL YOUR ATTENTION. EACH DETAIL OF PART 1 WILL BE ESSENTIAL TO PART 2.” Yet Prouvost’s film is not conducive to focused concentration. Images and sequences appear only momentarily. Garbled snippets of text flash as intertitles between segments of video. Rattling percussive music clamors throughout, becoming increasingly erratic, and Prouvost utters cryptic messages and responses to on-screen imagery (“It smells damp,” “It feels wrong”) in both intimate whispers and commanding pronouncements. The film’s text and the artist’s interjections form a murky diegesis centered on domestic encounters (“YOU ARE WELCOME TO HELP US IN THE KITCHEN”) and poetic visualizations (“DROWNING AND SWALLOWING THIS TEXT”). At certain points, Prouvost’s voice counts down the time left in the film. “THEY USE SOME RED TO SQUASH YOU TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SCREEN,” reads the last title card, before two palms clasp together, barely visible against a hostile scarlet monochrome. The experience might be seductive if it weren’t so aggressive.  

When It, Heat, Hit was shown at the 2014 Taipei Biennial, rows of sculpture flanked the film’s black box. But at e-flux there were no sculptures, and the theater occupied most of the gallery without distraction. The structure’s tunnel-like shape drew the viewer into the viscera of the film, where glass breaks, charcoal burns, skin sweats, gelatinous substances rot and cars take off in plumes of exhaust. The film’s logic is not one of continuity or categorical affiliation, but rather one of surrealist association. Throughout It, Heat, Hit, comma signs flicker on-screen to the sound of a thin snap. Like the commas in the near-homophones of the title, the film accretes connections without explaining them. Phonetics can connect words as much as meaning; affect can chain images together no matter what they depict. Reading the film is a task of synesthetic sense-making. 

Prouvost supplemented the film with a second room that housed a small iron sculpture of a tree and a collection of printed responses to the film by an audience Prouvost selected in London. Each text was labeled with the writer’s name and day job. A neuroscientist drafted her response in the form of a scientific paper: “Perception and Association of Visual Information in the Imagery of It, Heat, Hit by Laure Prouvost.” A ghostwriter responded with an aestheticized description in elliptical sentences. Scanning the texts, you started to understand the fallacy of both the analytic and the poetic readings. It was the iron worker, the tree sculpture’s maker, who seemed to get it right: “When I watched the film I felt comfortable. It felt relaxing, like I was paralyzed. The story is like a new galaxy, a new world . . .” In Prouvost’s provocative aesthetics, the sensorium learns to trust its instincts, absorb phenomena, feel it out.

—Decemebr 14, 2015.

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Subject
Fiction

Laure Prouvost was born in 1963 in Moulennbreak, Albania. She lives and works in an underwater mobilhome to research tunnel engineering, currently in the Channel. She practices making video, boobs, sounds and tea cups, objects and installation.

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