What do flagged pages in books, infrared eye-tracking, and hand gestures all have in common? Artist Julien Prévieux’s exhibition at Blackwood Gallery, The Elements of Influence (and a Ghost), combine the above subjects in a thought-provoking way.
When I entered the gallery, the first thing I saw was random images and snippets of text located on the main wall. Shelves of books stood on the left side. The words, images, and well-loved novels appeared to tell a story. Prévieux tells me, “These are the books of Bernie Madoff. He is a famous fraudster. In 2008, he was caught by the FBI because he swindled 65 billion dollars.” Prévieux named his collection of Madoff’s books “Forget the Money.”
Prévieux explained how Madoff tricked investors into putting money in a fund that supposedly collected a lot of interest. When the investors tried to reclaim their money, Madoff had nothing to give them.
“I was looking for ways to visualize or understand what was going on during the time. When I saw the auction of Bernie Madoff’s economic books, I said to myself, ‘There’s something really interesting here,’” said Prévieux. “It was like looking at [Madoff’s brain]. It showed me what [interested him]. When you look at [the books] more closely, the titles are, in a way, related to the scandal.” He points at the collection on the wall. Novels about mystery, fishing, and economics huddle together on the shelves.
I glanced at the images of flagged pages on the wall. I asked Prévieux about the tagged image of William Blake’s poem, “The Lamb.”
“I tried to make sense of [The Lamb],” Prévieux continues. “It’s strange that Madoff flagged the page. It can tell us something.” Prévieux refers to the other images of text on the wall as mixed puzzle pieces.
Despite Prévieux’s desire to provide more context to the pages, he wanted the viewer to undergo a process of speculation and discovery, similar to the way he first approached the documents.
An extension of Prévieux’s exhibition, “The Elements of Influence (Modulation),” resides in UTM’s e|gallery. This display features lines of black wool on stark white walls. Prévieux worked with students, staff, faculty, researchers, campus police, and employees at UTM to create this piece. Prévieux recorded the eye movements of participants as they regarded the work on display at Blackwood Gallery. Using infrared technology, he recorded the participants’ pupils. After sketching the eye movements, he used black wool to recreate the infrared patterns on the wall. This piece creates an added layer to Prévieux’s exhibition. Viewers can witness the main exhibition in the e|gallery through the materialized eye movements of participants.
“The Modulation is the ‘ghost’ part [of the exhibition]. I wanted to incorporate the university’s community into my work,” Prévieux says.
He also aired a filmed performance within his exhibition. In the far corner of the gallery, Prévieux projected the performance on the wall. “What Shall We Do Next?” includes three sequences that feature both men and women, clad in blue and black clothing. Prévieux shared Sequence #2 and #3 with the gallery.
“The first film is about attentive gestures, particularly the way we can visualize different things, specifically within the social context we live in,” Prévieux says. “The second one involves small gestures, like ‘pinch to zoom’, ‘slide to unlock’—the gestures we use everyday on our phones.”
“I wanted to create a sci-fi mood. Since the film is about both new gestures and gestures from the 70s, I wanted costumes linked to [feelings of obsoleteness] and anxiety. I wanted the costumes to make the viewer wonder if it is in the past or future.”
Prévieux’s art focuses on feelings of distance, mystery, society, and technology. Through different artistic mediums, including displays, photographs, heat mapping, visual technology, and wool yarn, Prévieux attempts to express prevalent issues in the world today. According to the Blackwood Gallery’s micropublication on the exhibition, “Prévieux highlights each mechanism’s potential for play, creativity, productivity, and counter-productivity.”
The Elements of Influence (and a Ghost) will be displayed at Blackwood Gallery, UTM’s e|gallery and the Bernie Miller Lightbox until March 4.