PARIS.- The work of Jimmy Robert deals with performance and the experience of limits: of the works, of his body, of identity itself and of the disciplines Robert occupies. Spreading from sculpture to drawing, film to movement, Roberts practice questions both the gap and the intersection between image and language.
For the Satellite project, Jimmy Robert conceived an exhibition that inhabits language as a non-place, as a site for testing and expanding boundaries. Robert reflects on language as being conditioned by history, institutions and society, ascertaining it as a construction. A theatricality of language and of movement is at the centre of most of the shown works.
In the video Paramètres (2011), Robert endeavors to fit in his facial contour cutout geometrical drawings. For each movement, corresponding to each attempt, the artist utters a paragraph of a text written by him. Each image is used twice and there are ten paragraphs in total. The drawings are two-dimensional depictions of three-dimensional figures. Once cut, seemingly arbitrarily, they become sculptural forms with which the artist negotiates in strictly choreographed and concentrated movements.
A choreography of movements is also at play in the video Untitled (Folding 2) (2011). It starts with the image of a white piece of paper laying flat on a surface. We witness the folding of the paper as if the hands were constructing a simple origami form. Little by little, as in a puzzle, an image is uncovered on the other side of the paper. Throughout this ritual, the artist also plays the rock-paper-scissors hand game. If an underlying obvious metaphor in this work is that of the (self) image as a performance and a construction; a more in-depth meditation reflects on the objectification of the body, body as two-dimensional image, and simultaneously the materialization of the video (as the display of the work converts it into a sculptural element).
The last video in the exhibition is entitled Vocabulary (2011). Although much more unrestrained than the other pieces, it is also an intense reflection on language as a construction and how apparently natural, innate movements such as dance are also constrained by limited conceptual frameworks. Robert enters the video, turns on his ipod and starts dancing to techno music (which the spectator does not hear but can intuitively guess). Each silent movement he initiates is repeated for a certain period of time and classified with either a profession or a category. The cataloguing of movements - which he had previously observed in clubs as a sort of ethnographer and now imitates/performs for the camera - is a way of translating movement into language, and creating a new order, a new classification and a new grammar. More than an accessory to speech, gestures are thus considered a component of language.
Connecting and dialoguing with the three videos are two floor sculptures. There is no apparent relation between them (videos and sculptures). The effect of their proximity is both enchanting and disconcerting. The sculptures are much more abstract and formal than the videos, but the vicinity suggests readings, perceptions. In a way, they suspend what is suggested by the videos and transport it to a displaced phenomenological dimension. They embody the concept of heterotopias, spaces of alterity, both physical and mental.
The conceptual framework of the show is mirrored in its title: Langue matérielle (material tongue). Language is performed both for its materiality and for all the conventions it embodies. The literal meaning of that expression gears towards a materiality of language, its objectification; on a linguistic level it constitutes itself as a word play between langue matérielle and langue maternelle (mother tongue). If Robert is by birth French-speaking, having lived outside of that idiom for many years, English has become as important as his first language. Which language does he inhabit now and which does he perform, which is innate and which is foreign and what is the tension and gap that lies between the two?