Pauline Beaudemont Finissage: Monday 8 December 2014, 6–8pm
5 Oct – 8 Dec 2014

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Opening: 4 October 2014 5–9 pm

“Come on girls, wait to see how modern it is,
they even have American stuff”
Playtime, Jacques Tati, 1967

For her first solo exhibition in Switzerland, Pauline Beaudemont presents new and existing works exploring the afterlives of iconic buildings of 20th-century architecture in popular culture. To this end, she has built an environment inspired by a fictional Hollywood character; it could be the house of a forgotten starlet or a ruthless producer. This imaginary environment epitomises Beaudemont’s longstanding interest in modernist architecture and popular culture. Testing the limits of good taste, it allows the artist to challenge the relationship between form and function in the objects that make modern life possible.

Within this space is a group of works based on the objects and accessories used by actors during a film or theater production. Meant to look like their models, such props are often deprived of their original function. Yet they bring the opportunity to improve the banality of an ordinary object and elevate it to the dignity of a work of art, through magic tricks, flamboyant materials and shiny surfaces... Each of them takes as its starting point a scene from a Hollywood film in which an iconic modernist building undergoes dramatic damage. Freed from the mundane considerations of weight, scale, and function, these replicas invoke a range of interpretations that sit at odds with the practical uses we are trained to identify them with. Each work in “L’Age d’Or” celebrates destruction and decadence as the original gestures preceding innovation, the principle of modernity.
The title of the exhibition refers to the film Marie-Laure de Noailles commissioned from Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí in 1930. A surrealist comedy, the film portrays a scandalous love story and features a series of blasphemous attacks against the Church and the power of the bourgeoisie. The night of the premiere prompted a huge scandal and bred a series of violent reactions leading to the partial destruction of the mansion where the after party took place. It was reported that furious guests shattered the mirrors in the living room with their champagne glasses and that right-wing militants lacerated artworks by Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro and Dali, which were hung in the hallway.

Iconoclasts vs iconoclasm
Sitting on an oversized concrete platform, James (2014) is a shiny (almost kinky) dibond-topped table, and an homage to the scene in the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in which Cameron Frye pushes his father’s convertible Ferrari through the window of the Rose House glass pavilion before it crashes a few meters below. A landmark of modernist architecture, the Rose House was built in 1954 in Illinois by James Speyer, a protégé of Mies van der Rohe, together with David Haid. The glass pavilion where the iconic scene was filmed was originally built to display the Rose family car collection. Both the car and the bay window were, of course, props. In Beaudemont’s work, the table’s concrete legs are cast from elaborate industrial cake moulds, one of the many applications of classical architectonic shapes in mass-produced commodities.

The folding screen Walter (2014) refers to the MetLife building in Manhattan after being partially destroyed by Godzilla in the eponymous film directed by Roland Emmerich in 1998. This building, former PanAm HQ, was designed by Emery Roth & Sons, Pietro Belluschi and Walter Gropius in the 1950s and is an icon of the International Style.

In the trailer of the 1934 film The Black Cat, starring Béla Lugosi and Boris Karloff, we see architect Hjalmar Poelzig falling through a glass screen in a Bauhaus-inspired house built especially for the set. The open crack in the screen gave its shape to Hans (2014), a mirror displayed against the wall of the gallery.
Shot in 16 mm in La Maison Blanche, the first house Le Corbusier ever built, Beaudemont’s seven-channel film If you put a roof on … (2012) features dance hall queen AmZone performing a series of suggestive dance moves in the different rooms of the building. As much an homage to the architect as a scornful comment on his remarkable misogyny, the voluptuous dancer creates a great contrast with the cold simplicity of Le Corbusier’s inaugural work.

Finally, in a bid to integrate “ASSOCIATIONS NEW”—the group show of paintings in the adjacent gallery—within the tale of her eccentric Hollywood diva/bigwig, Beaudemont designed two chairs for the garage cubicles. The spectator is invited to sit and contemplate what could be the fictional character’s painting collection. The pieces of furniture are designed in response to quotations taken from Ayn Rand’s book The Fountainhead, which tells the story of a young modernist architect driven only by his true vision of anti-conformist architecture, and from Playtime, Jacque Tati’s epic 1967 tale of progress and technology.

Pauline Beaudemont (*1983 in Paris), lives and works in Geneva.
Recent exhibitions include “2m2,” curated by Simon Lamunière and Christian Pirker, Geneva (2014); Swiss Art Awards, Basel (2014); Plattform 14, ewz-Unterwerk Selnau, Zürich (2014); Kunsthalle Basel at Art Genève, curated by Adam Szymczyk and Fabian Schoeneich (2014); “Tout Arrive,” curated by Sylvain Menetrey, Exo, Paris (2014); Kunsthalle Roveredo, curated by Elise Lammer, MJ Gallery, Geneva (2013); “Electric Fields,” curated by Mai-Thu Perret, Live In Your Head, Geneva (2013); “The Mediterranean Dog,” curated by Elise Lammer, Cole Gallery, London (2013); “The First and the Last Folding,” curated by Julia Marchand, with Martin Soto Climent, Swiss Church, London (2013); Bold Tendencies, London (2012);
“Toucher avec les yeux,” an exhibition for Le Corbusier’s Maison Blanche
100-year anniversary, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.

Photography: Gunnar Meier