Documentation of Marc Camille Chaimowicz's current solo exhibition at Cabinet Gallery can be viewed at the following link.

http://www.cabinet.uk.com/index.php?marccamillechaimowicz-2020

What follows below is documentation and texts on a selection of works from our gallery archive.

 




Documentation of
Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Celebration ? Realife Revisited
1972-2000
Mixed media
Dimensions variable
Installation view, Marc Camille Chaimowicz: Zürich Suite, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich, April 8 – June 18, 2006

The following text on the work from Past Imperfect, 1972 – 1982. 
Text by Jean Fisher
 
Like many young artists during the late Sixties, Chaimowicz' re-evaluation of the efficacy and morality of Western materialist society extended into that of art practice. Modernist criticism's insistence on the primacy of the formal qualities of the art object had eliminated any referential content with which a viewer, not cognisant of these purely aesthetic values, could invest meaning in the work. In the alienation of the viewer ensuing from this self-referentiality and apparent socio-political indifference, formalism could address itself only to the institutions of art. The response by those artists disturbed by art's hermetic view of itself was to reappraise both the traditional codes of representation and those of the institutions — gallery, museum and market structure — which framed and contextualised art. The objective, therefore, was to investigate how the heterogeneous set of codes that comprised the creative process produced meaning, and how art could be democratised within culture as a whole. For many artists, including Chaimowicz, this meant abandoning the phenomenological and 'permanent' status of the art object, which too readily allowed it to be institutionalised, in favour of more self-critical and discursive practices and time-based procedures which could involve the spectator as a collaborator in the direct experience of the creative process rather than as a passive consumer 'after the event'. Art as performance and as the temporary installation were two such strategies adopted by Chaimowicz.
 
Celebration? Realife stands as the inauguration of the artist's mature work, mapping the territory that was to be explored in the future. In contradistinction to the then popular minimalist austerity and neutrality, Celebration? Realife aimed for an excessive subjectivity which turned out to be quite bizarre. It also represents the artist's growing disillusionment with attempts to confront socio-political issues through Situationist events, or the use of documentation which tended to reduce art to 'information' at the expense of its sensuous or metaphorical potential: "Necessary for artists to help shatter the myths, false traditions and fake relationships . . . To rebuild a human art possibly fundamentally different to history art and reversed from present functions". This is a position that approaches the 'anthropological art' advocated by Joseph Beuys, and expresses the need for a more personal means of exploring the problem of the self's identity in the world.
 
The play of lights, the elusive partially reflective walls, created an atmosphere that was both hermetic and intoxicating: as artificially gay and provocative as a bordello, yet as sombre and reverential as a church. And yet its 'found' objects were sufficiently familiar in culture for anyone to be able to form a symbolic relationship to them: 'domestic detritus' redolent of a 'trashy' bad taste, a grotesque sentimentality that upstaged the polite kitsch of Pop art and functioned as a critique of the 'clean' art of the Sixties and early Seventies. "Begin with the real and the tangible . . . once seen it might lead to the intangible". As the sentimental nature of many of the objects provoked a sense of the residue of an attachment — discarded or half-remembered feelings — so their scattered arrangement on the floor suggested the residue of pleasure, a party abandoned, or the memory of childhood play, or the street bric-a- brac of a Parisian flea-market. This emphasis on activating the floor rather than the walls is usually associated with minimalist sculpture.
 
The work establishes that intangibility of time and space, tangential to 'real' experience and closer to memory and phantasy, that was to become characteristic of future work. It establishes, moreover, the question of what constitutes the personal and the public in the creative life of the artist. Chaimowicz had delineated those territories in the total space which were to serve private and public functions. His presence in the space was continuous but not in the conventional role of the performer in relation to an audience: his rather indefined multiple role of 'housewife', 'host', 'guide' and 'creator' was an attempt to avoid fixed relations and to explore the possibility of an alternative identity for art.
 
"You cannot simply be about you I cannot simply be about me My work cannot simply be about my work Simply be?"
 
Perhaps it is the iridescent light from the mirrored globe, refracted, disembodied and fragmented in the space, that stands as a metaphor for the presence or role of the artist here: contained in the space he has created but restless and transient, as yet without a certain or coherent identity, not quite in control of his creation.
 
All quotations from: Marc Chaimowicz, 'Celebration Realife', broadsheet, Ikon Gallery, 1972
 
 
 
Installation view, Inaugural Show: 3 Life Situations, Gallery House, London, March 29 – April 15,1972

Installation view, Inaugural Show: 3 Life Situations, Gallery House, London, March 29 – April 15,1972

Installation view, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, FRAC Bordeaux, October 3 – December 9, 2008 

Installation view, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, FRAC Bordeaux, October 3 – December 9, 2008 

Installation view, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, FRAC Bordeaux, October 3 – December 9, 2008 

Installation view, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, FRAC Bordeaux, October 3 – December 9, 2008 

Installation view, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, FRAC Bordeaux, October 3 – December 9, 2008 

Installation view, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, FRAC Bordeaux, October 3 – December 9, 2008 

Installation view, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, FRAC Bordeaux, October 3 – December 9, 2008 

Installation view, Dear Valérie..., Kunsthalle Bern, 22 February – 26 April 2020

Installation view, Dear Valérie..., Kunsthalle Bern, 22 February – 26 April 2020

Installation view, Dear Valérie..., Kunsthalle Bern, 22 February – 26 April 2020

Installation view, Dear Valérie..., Kunsthalle Bern, 22 February – 26 April 2020



Marc Camille Chaimowicz

Enough Tiranny
1972
Mixed media
Dimensions variable
 
 

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Installation view, Enough Tiranny, Serpentine Gallery, London, 1972

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Installation view, Enough Tiranny, Serpentine Gallery, London, 1972

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Installation view, Enough Tiranny, Serpentine Gallery, London, 1972

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Installation view, Enough Tiranny, Serpentine Gallery, London, 1972

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MARC CAMILLE CHAIMOWICZ: DESIGN FOR LIVING 

by STUART MORGAN

It is both apt and misguided to attempt a restoration of works by Marc Camille Chaimowicz. His is a poetic of loss, of ontological incompleteness accepted without demur. Above all, in bringing his activity to a stage of even mental completion commentators may be doing it a disservice by neglecting to keep in mind its very strangeness. A better term may be 'otherness'. “Strangeness,” writes Geoffrey Hartman, “involves a sense that the strange is really the familiar, estranged; otherness (alterity) precludes any assumption about this matter, or it demands of understanding an extraordinary, even self-absorbing effort.”Too exaggerated a claim for the artist who once welcomed viewers into an installation by chatting to them and making them cups of tea? I think not. Accustomed to employing a more or less disciplined mixture of empathy and exegesis, critics have served Chaimowicz poorly. One reason may be that his mental operations already incorporate that critical act they feel is theirs by right; within his own thinking is subsumed a subtlety of approach to the problem of “self” and “other” that remystifies their detective-work, an aesthetic so unorthodox that their very terminology — “art”, “artwork”, “artist” — must be consigned to parentheses. Chaimowicz has defended his own experimental approach: “All one can do in 1983 is to attempt to make art rather than making art.” And, “Making art itself isn’t that interesting.”Could it be that no critical method — only a sketch for a critical method — can cope with an aesthetic so decidedly “other”? At the outset no system is needed; texts contain the seeds of their own interpretation. It is necessary only to watch, feel, notice and unlearn.

Unlearn first the idea of “artist”. Chaimowicz frequently portrays himself going about activities that make up his daily life. They are rituals which occupy him without preoccupying him, chores which scarcely constitute acts of work — indeed, they may serve to conceal indolence. Are we most or least ourselves when absorbed in this way? The coloured video section of Doubts... photographs from the Approach Road period which crop up again and again later, the final slide of Fade all shows Chaimowicz in a domestic environment filled with his creations. At the same time that environment serves as a source for other works. Before long we are forced to abandon not only the accepted idea of an artist but also of artworks as closed, delimited occurrences. Not only is Chaimowicz attracted to time-based activities but he also permits one stage of his career to overlap another, so much so that it may be more convenient to deal with his oeuvres a continuing text rather than a series of separate “pieces”.

Once recurrences are taken into account, certain types of interpretation are seen to be more relevant than others. Consider a single prop: the fox-fur. As featured in Table Tableau it might be read as a second skin, the strangely luxurious pelt left after a flaying which may already have taken place. (It relates to the wound on the protagonist’s back — visible to us but not, perhaps, to him.) What, then, of the fox-fur in Walking the Circle, isolated in a spotlight? Or the one in We Chose Our Words With Care. ..., thrown across the stepped structure? A memento mori? A hunting trophy? The skin of a dead animal? An elegant, if outdated token of womanhood, half garment, half ornament? Eroticism and death must enter any reading of the fur. Yet a major part of what it means must be that it is one of his belongings, will survive temporary arrangements and be inflected with specific emotions while retaining its status as a single item among a stock of images. His juxtaposition of specific and general is frequently unorthodox. Two realms — public and private — are brought together. The idea of the elevated existence of an “artist” in opposition to the daily life of the “ordinary” person is so powerfully challenged by Chaimowicz that it cannot be understood as anything but a political act. Lying on a bed or writing a letter are quotidian. So, it is suggested, is the act of creation itself. Possibly that act consists simply of regarding day-to-day existence differently.

Unlearn “art”. Unlearn “artwork”. Unlearn “closure”. Unlearn “public” and “private”. Finally unlearn “man”. Decoration, the use of cosmetics, most of all an insistence on abandoning machismo as a mode of artistic behaviour, have served to make his desire for universality even more evident. Chaimowicz performs striking sexual deconstructions. In Fade, as two figures disappear behind an illuminated scrim which has concealed a redrawn Cocteau Annunciation, the alternative to human orgasm evident in the idea of heavenly impregnation is brought into conjunction with an implied earthly intercourse between two men. The effect is to lend their meeting an air of that transfiguration which is fictionalised in religion but made available to the faithless by the power of art. The possibility of a fusion of identities, however temporary, in an implied sexual union can only be translated into other images of ideal, near impossible marriage. In Partial Eclipse there is a sheer glut of images.

“There's such a density of information that it's impossible to grasp it....to hang on to it for any length of time. So what happens for me in that piece given that I’m curiously within and outside the work anyway is that — as with music — one tends to happily lose it and then to refind it elsewhere.”2
The ambiguity of the number of characters involved and the prospect that the single, main figure — spoken by a woman, embodied by a man — has brought them all into being presents another association of sexual desire with artistic creation. Linkages of this kind are far more than confusions for effect. One of the things Chaimowicz has achieved in these cases, though by no means the only thing, is to align traditional male and female roles in some common middle ground. For him this has led to the abandonment of autobiography; that “private” world he wishes to discuss has altogether different uses. His abstract design — patterns on fabric, on wallpaper, on screens, in the borders of the pages of his book Cafe du Reve— suggest the kind of anonymity he strives for. In unlearning “man” he has learned “Man”.

Like Warhol, whom he respects, his is an art of context. So although a retrospective anthology of images and comment is one way of restoring Chaimowicz, it is faulty. Words are limited. Sequential, imprecise, they belie simultaneity of perception, subtlety or specificity of emotion. And photography, as Chaimowicz himself remarks in a footnote to Cafe du Reve, is unable to record certain sensations which seem eminently photographable. Nor can feelings be captured which are apparently very precise. The danger is of restoring the picture badly — of describing a man in a room, rather than a certain man in a special room.

“Je suis fait de la matiere de mes reves” — Gaston Bachelard

A man is standing in an interior, facing a window and looking into space. His photograph intrigues me without satisfying my curiosity. The face lacks expression; if he is thinking deep thoughts there is no way of guessing what they might be. One temptation is to accept the emotional emptiness of the picture not as a property but somehow as an achieved effect, to be fooled into supposing that since his photograph is vacant that he is being vacant. That would work better if he had adopted a recognisable pose. As it is, he has been taken unawares. Accustomed to another presence in the room he has turned his back and allowed his own thoughts free play. He could have been standing there for a few seconds or a few minutes. Even an hour. For the Romantics windows symbolised longing, promised access to other worlds. But in this case no grandiose interpretation is necessary. This fellow does not want to be elsewhere — he is elsewhere. If he heard the shutter click he ignored it, lost in a world of his own.

Marc Camille Chaimowicz uses the image repeatedly. Perhaps he intends it as a signature or a self-portrait: The Artist at Home. Surroundings mean a lot to him.

“He had decorated it to his taste and attempted to keep it tidy to wash the windows regularly, to water the plants, to house clean ....Keeping the curtains closed it was here that he could shelter from the external world, it was here within this privacy that he gathered energy for his spirit and reacquired contact with his self.”3

Is this what he means by making contact with the self? In reverie the mind drifts, distinctions between past, present and future are lost and an illogical part of the brain takes over, making collages of its own, dwelling on details, elaborating memories, never finishing a thought or reaching a goal. It is like consenting to be lost. “Not to find one’s way about a city is of little interest, but to lose one’s way in a city, as one loses one’s way in a forest, requires practice,” wrote Walter Benjamin. Reverie: willing abandonment of the mind to the unplanned. The condition is not self-sustaining. As a seagull hovering almost motionless shifts its wings infinitesimally from time to time to remain in position, the mind makes adjustments of its own to stay on automatic pilot. Why show the interior of the room at all? Because it may have promoted this state in the first place. Thought, memory, hopes, desires all change perception of time and space. The opposite is true too. We cannot guess it and he no longer cares about it, but Chaimowicz is interacting not only with his “self” but also with his surroundings. Home, his home, designed by the artist himself, gives him that sensual wellbeing which Matisse painted and Bachelard explored in his rhapsodies on the remembrance of space lost and its intuitive recapture. Artist at home? I think not. The title should be Artist at Work.

“May not the prime motive of any work be the wish to give rise to discussion, if only between the mind and itself?” — Valery

Talking about his early paintings Chaimowicz described them as “a cross between Jasper Johns and Ashlie Gorky”. The sensitivity and will to privacy in Gorky are only now being explored. They testify to a vulnerable, loving painter — who else but Gorky would call a picture Hugging? — whose works often provide stimulus to daydream and the spatio-temporal distortions it entails. Johns makes paintings that must be looked through rather than at, each taking its place in a progression of overlaps and repetitions as well as reflecting time in a more local way: the record on the surface of the canvas itself of the process of making. The relevance of both men to Chaimowicz’s later thought is undoubted. No-one could have summarised more crisply than George Poulet the dual condition of what for Chaimowicz has come to be a satisfactory “work of art”. In his preface to Richard’s Litterature et sensation he defines literature as “an imaginary world” and “a thought”.Transposed, art would be an imaginary world and an act of sight, or perhaps a visual thought. For Chaimowicz, whose creation lies in critical self-examination and for whom a “self” (or indeed a work of art) is constituted in an intersubjective relationship between inner and outer, author and viewer, the imagined environment and the conditions of perception of that “world”, no more convenient definition could be found. His preoccupation with rooms should make that plain.

His early rooms take discontinuity as a norm; he “drifts” between separate fragments. For Enough Tyranny in 1972 he had wandered through the streets collecting objects he found — a beach ball, a cube of metal, a shattered mirror, a candle, a block of wood, ladies’ underwear, blossom, a red hat on a stand — and allowed them to take their place alongside less seedy, luxury items: a fountain with Japanese carp, a hired television. “I was trying to touch the threshold at which one could trust one’s own subjectivity”. Also included were barbed wire, broken glass, graffiti. At these points, perhaps, it could be argued that he overstepped the threshold. In essence the installation was similar to Celebration? Realife of the same year. While Enough Tyranny brought some of the ambience of street life into the gallery space, Celebration? Realife became a refuge, a place to read, rest, socialise, restore the spirits and have fun — in short, a cross between a church and a family home. By 1974, of course, with the move to Approach Road the idea of “home” was dominant. Yet the priority of the domestic lasted only five years.

“His search___ for a particular perfection was becoming stifling, constrictive___ a feeling deliciously close to a state of entombment. . . . and his foray outside of that condition held an immediacy tantamount to that of a reprieve.”5
Metaphors of breathlessness, strangulation, a grave or a convict’s cell describe the effect of the aestheticised interior taken to excess. (Interestingly, it was Adolf Loos, later a mentor for Chaimowicz, who regarded tombs as the point at which architecture connected perfectly with sculpture.) Ironically, the sense of threat Chaimowicz claims to have felt was due to the very success of the project — making an acceptable, potentially happy place to occupy in close proximity to his work. The single adverb “deliciously”, betrays almost breathless excitement at the prospect of self-annihilation, perhaps because of the prospect of a job well done (in his own strange terms), perhaps (in a more sinister way) from a masochistic urge to kill the ego by affirmation. From 1979 onwards he would embark on a set of tests in the form of journeys, adventures of the self.

The idea that the interior manipulated space or “home” is so dear to him that its violation will “unhouse” him in emotional sense crops up midway through the Approach Road period in Dream: an anecdote. The destruction of his living quarters disturbs his entire prospect of communicating with other people. In the early environments outsiders are brought into contact with the artist’s self. If Enough Tyranny fails to make a political point it was because ideas of disorder — the visitors were permitted to alter the contents of the gallery — only impinged on Chaimowicz himself, not on the body politic. The tending of Celebration? Realife that “housework” found so frequently in his art, confirms the direction taken by these early pieces. The initial move is to offer other people a place, then to allow that place to build gently into the presentation of an individual consciousness by a process of accretion; each component was arrived at by a meeting of self and other, a consciousness extending, delimiting and defining itself. The maintenance of the work, the slightly humorous attempt to offer the public the bare necessities for survival — tea, news, distraction, sensuous pleasure — looks forward to the later idea of the “religion of art". Non-aristocratic, in touch with everyday needs and duties, the rooms put forward a democratic redefinition of nineties Aestheticism. I exist, therefore I make art. The rooms are Ivory Towers brought down to earth.

Union with others, both a danger and a desirable aim in Chaimowicz, later takes the form of erotic attachment. He defines the self by specifying what it most lacks. Table Tableau gives voice to deprivation in terms of death. As Barthes observed, “In any man who utters the other’s absence something feminine is declared: this man who waits and who suffers from his waiting is miraculously feminised ....not feminised because he is inverted but because he is in love.”6In We Chose Our Words....the absent lover is evoked by the construction of an idealised, impossibly glamourised setting. Eroticism remembered slips into eroticism flourished as a hope for the future. Just as the title dwells tenderly on details that seem patently unrealistic, an excess of particulars in the installation itself forces the viewer into an elision. A summons in past tense changes to an act of conjuration and the tense finally comes to rest as a conditional.

Absence is implicit in another characteristic experience — letting the mind play over the entire course of an affair. One of the four sections of Cafe du Reve is devoted to such a reverie.
“It’s in seven parts. The first is casual and carefree, as is usual. The second is lustful or irresponsible — besotted. The third is perhaps a condition nearing the sublime. The fourth is a kind of slowing down and for the first time an attempt at an assessment. The fifth is something close to happiness and totality and a sense of wellbeing. The sixth is decline and death. The seventh ....is the condition by which the others tend to be judged, and that is as an ideal.” In Screens the photographs of a couple together, seen from the vantage-point of a third person outside their happiness, could be regarded as either celebratory or vicarious, a love poem or a soliloquy on loneliness. While other kinds of mental operation focus on a particular time and space, these are essentially circular; the “ideal” dominates over beginnings and endings, throwing a certain light over every other circumstance and condition, even “death”, by which he means the death of love. In Partial Eclipse to instance, a figure whose walking pattern enacts the cyclical structure of the whole may imagine the other two characters. (“I think we have one character really, and the others are fabrications.”) Here Chaimowicz comes closest to creating visual corollaries for bliss. Discussing the page of Liaison which corresponds to the seventh state, before deciding on the final image Chaimowicz dealt with the problem in this way:
“In terms of the words it will be the most difficult page and I’m sure I’m not the only one to face that problem .... It’s the most abstract and also the most elusive___ I’d really quite like to be able to use music___ There are moments in the photographic work I’ve done which could quite happily be appropriated ....I’m wondering whether in terms of certain layouts, certain pages, it might not be better to use pure, simple abstract design rather than something that is too open to literal interpretation___ The most obvious way for me to describe it would be to use certain flowers or plants as effective images of harmony because I see it as a condition that is so blissful that one has explicit trust in the other. I don't know that it’s therefore wise to try to be too graphic. It’s logical to try and go towards botanical gardens, the exotic, the hothouse climate which produces something closer to perfection than does the polluted climate that our cities now have.”
Music, flowers, abstract design, religious terminology all suggest another worldly harmony, cultured, artificial even, but just attainable as a release from lack of dependence.

In many ways the career of Chaimowicz is reminiscent of Proust’s. Certainly, their concept of the self seems similar. Sartre held that consciousness was a void except insofar as it could project itself into objects in the outside world. Proust too imagined the self as an “empty apparatus”:
“Now, since the self is constantly thinking numerous things, since it is nothing more than the thoughts of these things, when by chance, instead of having them as the objects of its attention, it suddenly turns its thought upon itself, it finds only an empty apparatus, something unfamiliar, to which — in order to give it some reality — it adds the memory of a face seen in a mirror.”Yet it has to be added that in writing his Remembrance of Things Past he succeeded in filling the void of his consciousness with a self that he could possess permanently. Soon after the passage quoted above Proust’s narrator finds fault with the male sex for rushing headlong into “action” instead of opting for the path of “knowledge”.
“Just as, throughout the whole course of our life, our egoism sees before it all the time the objects that are of interest to ourselves, but never takes in that Ego itself which is incessantly observing them, so the desire which directs our actions descends towards them, but does not rescind to itself, whether because, being unduly utilitarian, it plunges into the action and disdains all knowledge of it, or because we have been looking to the future to compensate for the disappointments of the past, or because the inertia of our mind urges it down the easy slope of imagination, rather than make it rescind the steep slope of introspection.”In writing he chose the latter course, built up a self by trying to be free of the external world. His own progress through his novel is to move gradually forward towards the future, looking behind him at every step of the way. Those moments bienheureuxwhich punctuate his life, small epiphanies by which he comprehends time and his own mental workings, were finally of no assistance.9Only self-recognition depending on acceptance of time as a shaping influence could mark the end of his search. The moments bien heureux are paralleled in Chaimowicz by attempts to double back and stop time: Table Tableau and We Chose Our Words With Care___ would be examples. But acceptance of time’s regular flow has always been problematic for him. (Perhaps that explains the small vocabulary of near-Oriental gestures in a work such as Doubts —) In Partial Eclipse the cyclical nature of the structure maintains the daydream at the expense of flux. The high incidence of repeated patterning in Chaimowicz’s design may support the same argument. What are the signs, then, that he may be moving towards self-recognition and of what might that self-recognition consist?

Throughout Chaimowicz a single pattern predominates: the self requires validation and the support that love can offer. Realising its isolation the singular consciousness resorts to masking, fantasy or passive contemplation of the course love must take — tactful, even reverential, yet receiving vicarious pleasure from a togetherness that excludes outsiders and, in an even more unhealthy way, satisfaction from the certainty that time triumphs over pleasure, that the initial position of emptiness is realistic and defensible. At risk always is the individual consciousness; falling in love with a couple or the idea of being included in some way is a temptation that can be resisted, the fantasy of being inside a closed relationship, and therefore a potentially stifling one, without ever surrendering to it.
Yet to suggest that escape is proposed as an ideal would falsify the complexity of Chaimowicz’s position. At the same time as he recognises that the extremes of isolation necessary for self-analysis are alien to his nature, his “self” must be preserved from too much perfection and the consequent engulfment. The dilemma is explored in Le Desert, a chapter of Cafe du Reve with a title borrowed from Albert Camus. Exotic yet arid, it is a wilderness in which the choice between boredom and temptation must be made. In contrast to Le Parc, in which a specific urban setting offers the protagonist consolation, the desert is less a physical space than a mental construct. To emphasise its boredom and sterility the same photograph, a found postcard of the Sahara, printed hard or soft, is used again and again, each time in the same position in the layout. Though it is associated with spiritual retirement it also provides an opportunity for what Chaimowicz calls “wantonness”. Oscillation between the two states of mind distinguishes this chapter of the book. As if to compound the choice, two footnotes are included, one an acknowledgement to Camus, the other about Cardinal Hume, leader of the Catholic Church in England.

Hume reminds us that it is necessary to go into the desert from time to time. But as Camus shows in his essay of the same name "The Desert” can be anywhere or nowhere. It is surprising that the essay is set in Italy, a place of natural beauty, fulfilled sensuality and a Mediterranean culture devoid of the starkness of the Algerian alternative he so respected. As night falls and he sits in the cloisters of Santissima Annunziata reading inscriptions to the dead he refuses to believe in sin and rejects eternal life in favour of greater intensity of feeling and the possibility of happiness.

The nearest approximation to a moral pattern it is possible to derive from Chaimowicz is a hedonism based on his having blurred the distinction between work and pleasure. The result is what Gide, quoted in Le Desert, describes as “that leisure within which nothing can blossom — neither vice nor art.” At the climax of his essay Camus describes the control such a philosophy demands.
“If Rimbaud dies in Abyssinia without having written a single line, this is not only because he prefers adventure or has renounced literature. It is because ‘that’s how things are,’ and because when we reach a certain stage of awareness we finally acknowledge something which each of us, according to our particular vocation, seeks not to understand. This clearly involves undertaking the survey of a certain desert. But this strange desert is accessible only to those who can live there without ever slaking their thirst. Then, and only then, is it peopled with the living waters of happiness.”10Perhaps the recognition that Chaimowicz has been working towards lies exactly here: an acceptance of things as they are.


“Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt ailein ist, wird es lange bleiben, wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben, und wird in den Alleen hin und her unruhig wandern, wenn die Blatter treiben.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke11

Looking back at the photograph of Chaimowicz in his Approach Road interior, smoking a cigarette and looking blankly at the window it seems that he is not daydreaming at all — just thinking of nothing and existing. When asked about the plot of Le Parc he replied: “For me what happens is someone understanding the value of something that is apparently hopeless .... What happens is an awareness of certain underlying values which would ordinarily be seen as valueless. So, for me it’s a kind of optimism, a recovery over loss.”
The photograph looks more anonymous by the minute. It could be anyone at all. Just an ordinary person living through another day. Except that now there’s something faintly heroic about it.

 

1.    Geoffrey Hartman Criticism in the Wilder-4. ness New Haven: Yale University Press
1980, p.27.
2.    Interview with Marc Camille Chaimowicz 5. 8.3.1983. Subsequent unfootnoted quotations are from this and other unpublished conversations.
3.    Marc Camille Chaimowicz Dream: an. anecdote London: Nigel Greenwood 1977,
np.
4.    George Poulet — Preface to Jean-Pierre Richard Litterature et sensation Paris: Le Seuil 1954, p.9.
5.    Announcement for exhibition at Nigel Greenwood Gallery 31 October-24 November 1979
6.    Roland Barthes A Lover’s Discourse. R. Howard, New York: Hill and Wang 1978, p.14.
7.    Marcel Proust A la recherche du temps perdue. P. Clarac / A. Ferr6, Paris 1954: ‘La Fugitive’ III, p.466.
8.    ibid., p.465.
9.    Not everyone would agree. See Roger Shattuck Proust’s Binoculars New York: Vintage 1967, p.37.
10.    P. Thodyed. Albert Camus: Selected Essays and Notebooks Harmondsworth: Penguin 1979, p.10.
11.    “Whoever has no house now will not build another. Whoever is alone will long remain so, will stay awake, read, write long letters and wander restlessly to and fro along avenues as leaves blow about.” (Rainer Maria Rilke "Autumn Day" Paris 1902)



Marc Camille Chaimowicz

Here and There
1978 
Plywood, acrylic paint, black and white photographs, text 
17 parts
Each part: 244 x 122 x 1.3 cm / 8ft x 4ft x 0.5in
 
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Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Here and There, 1974 (detail of photograph)

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Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Here and There, 1974 (detail of photograph)

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Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Here and There, 1974 (detail of photograph)

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Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Here and There, 1974 (detail of photograph)

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The following text on the work from Past Imperfect, 1972 – 1982. 
Text by Jean Fisher
 
'Partial Views of an Interior', colour and black and white videotape 'Notes Towards a Preface', text accompanying the installation.
 
The installation occupies two constructed rooms in the gallery. The most open of these functions partly as an entrance or hallway. Its walls are a soft pale grey and decorated with a white border of a faintly nostalgic design. A few items of furniture — a stool, a table with a vase of flowers, framed and tinted collages — add a note of domesticity to the space. One further room contains a number of large panels leaning against the walls and overlapping each other in a seemingly casual manner. One is pale green in colour; the others are either shades of grey or covered with the same stenciled pattern as the decorative border on the entrance wall. With a few exceptions, the panels ' display a rhythmic overlapping assembly of black and white photographs depicting scenes of a domestic interior. A narrower space contains a video monitor playing a pre-recorded tape of the same Interior and whose gentle pastel hues are reiterated in the tinted studies on the wall. The tape's soundtrack is the sound of a fountain. The text, presented in the catalogue and displayed in the space, is a reverie that complements the visual dialogue between the real and the represented spaces: the gallery and the domestic interior.
 
"... and in this instant preferred greys and silvers, sometimes hazy as a Venetian dawn and sometimes crystalline . . . Greys that seem to annex a depth of nuances and colours, in a sense not really greys at all but greys that in their handling have become more than a mix of two extremes, rather, a new breed..."
Marc Chaimowicz, 'Notes Towards a Preface'
 
"The enterprise is the obverse of documentation; evocative rather than descriptive, fragmentary rather than exhaustive, poetic rather than factual— artificed, subjective, ambiguous".
Teresa Gleadowe, 'Photography as Medium', catalogue. The British Council, 1981
 
The anonymity and pristine order of the large public gallery space is seldom sympathetic to the relaxed and quiet contemplation demanded by more intimate kinds of art. Such a resistance to intimacy provided the challenge that createdHere and Therewhich, as the title suggests, was a dialogue between two places.
 
Here and There is a dialectic between the idealised domestic interior and the real but almost aggressively neutral gallery space through all imbrication of the two that disrupts our perceptual expectations of the usual gallery show.
 
This is immediately established on our entry into the installation, where we are surprised to encounter the elegant walls and furniture and welcoming flowers more appropriate to a private apartment. The main room is different again, consisting of a number of leaning panels casually stacked against the wall and each other. Unfixed and theoretically mobile, they present a stark contrast to the neat 'permanent' fixture of the conventional painting exhibition that renders the work 'packaged', 'finished' and ’absolute’. The panels introduce a further architectural element into the work that we first saw in We Chose our Words...Their tastefully coloured and patterned surfaces provide a ’domesticated’ context for the display of photographs that both contrasts with and echoes the blandness of the gallery walls. Their photographs also are arranged, not in an orderly symmetry, but 'scattered1as if, indeed, there was no final and absolute order, but any number of possible permutations and a versatility of meaning. These images, some enigmatic; others literal, derive from Approach Roadand provide the incidence in the work that also invokes a sense of dislocation in time and space. The activities depicted are never overtly stated a partially viewed back, a gesture momentarily caught; and in the ephemerality of a shadow or reflection is contained that trace of a presence which is to become such an important representational feature of Partial Eclipseand Vienna Triptych.These images have the strangeness of the film still: an artificial, carefully framed image that contains its own internal drama, yet at the same time seems to be a perplexing fragment extracted from another place that remains obscure and elusive, resisting the precision and definition of verbal language. Meaning lies therefore not in the images themselves but in the syntactical relationship between image, space and context.
 
The image content - the figure and objects in their ritualised private interior undergoes several linguistic shifts. If the black and white photographs on the panels present a concrete and assertive public display, the small framed studies (Sol/Portrait. . . Qualified, Still Life . . . Qualified,and Interiors . . . Qualified)suggest a more personal and intimate relationship, not only with respect to the artist's act of making, but also to our reception. Their small overlapping, exquisitely tinted images are trapped like specimens between glass, imbricated with the wall but framed and 'floating': ambiguously both of the space and separate from it. The 'permanency' of these photographic versions is further qualified by the temporality of the images of the video-monitor whose 'unreal' dreamlike hues echo those of the collages. Finally, the text, 'Notes Towards a Preface', shifts the representation of the figure in its interior into the space of verbal language, and the sphere of the mythic. Written in the third person singular masculine, like the visual component of the installation, it is a reverie on the perceived qualities of two spaces:' 'Within this space, alien in its correctness, distant in its estrangement... he recalled it,..”: a reverie perhaps about memory itself. Or about the imaginative process, through which a glimpsed image acquires an identity in language, writes itself into the history of the self, and finds companionship with other images to form a syntax that begins to have the possibility of meaning. Within this depicted world there is no sense of urgency: memory, fantasy and perception need time together to negotiate a reality with the present before they can take the concrete shape of art.
 


Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Hier und Dort
1979
Slide projection with pendulum, text, vase, glass corner table and furniture designed by Marcel Breuer for Isokon
Dimensions variable

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The following text on the work from Past Imperfect, 1972 – 1982. 
Text by Jean Fisher
 
A quiet domestic atmosphere is created by three chairs and an occasional table set with a vase of flowers. A continuous wall-sized colour slide projection on the left shows a figure examining his face in a mirror. Overlapping the corner of this image and set at an oblique angle, is a further projection sequence of forty smaller colour slides illustrating views of an interior, but interrupted by blanks. At right angles to this, another wall-sized projection of black and white photographs presents a quasi-narrative sequence showing a figure engaged in simple domestic activities. In the angle of the corner between the two sets of projections hangs an automated silver pendulum which catches and reflects the light as it swings to and fro. The projector light casts shadows of the real life scene onto the projected images.
 
The predominant mood seems to be one of stillness and anticipation. The two chairs, set slightly away from the table, the freshness of the flowers, and the metronomic swing of the pendulum suggest a raise en scenethat waits to be animated by a human presence. Perhaps the static figure contemplating his reflection in the mirror prepares himself for an expected guest; or perhaps his anxious gesture denotes his thoughts on the past and the effects that time and experience have wrought on his features. If the face carries the signs of the subject’s history, the period furniture bears the marks of its use as well as its cultural history. Chaimowicz’s incorporation of Hoffmann’s furniture in the work is a foreigner’s affectionate homage to Vienna, a favourite city whose hospitality and cultural past had been a source of his own creative ideas.
 
Our perception of time and space seems to be the real subject of Hier und Dort.The pendulum marks the passing of (linear) time through a movement that contains within it both our memory of moments past and our anticipation of those of the future. The black and white photographs are essentially of a past time and another place, but their description of more immediate and less contemplative actions than that of the static figure gives them a ‘presentness’ that is reinforced by their almost cinematic presentation. The contrapuntal movement of the intermittent coloured views of interiors begins to function, by contrast, as a metaphor for the fragmentary images in the timeless space of memory. But it is the enmeshing of the shadows (absence of light) of the real objects in the space with the projection of corresponding photographic images (traces in light) that collapses time past with the present, an effect that we shall see again in Partial Eclipse.
 
 


 
Marc Camille Chaimowicz
“Jean Cocteau…” 
2003 - 2012
 
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The following text published as ‘1000 Words: Marc Camille Chaimowicz talks about Jean Cocteau, 2003’, Artforum Xlll, February 2004

 After moving from his native Paris as a boy, Marc Camille Chaimowicz spent the remainder of his youth in the somewhat less exciting surroundings of English new-town suburbia, before going on to art school. His family’s move, coming as it did in the aftermath of World War II, was felt as a bizarre wrench that continues to inform his work. He now divides his time between London and Dijon. With a deep interest in France’s modernist literary legacy yet equally alive to subtle shifts in the terrain of contemporary pop culture, Chaimowicz has, since the early ’70s, defied straightforward categorization in his pursuit of the beautiful. The sexually ambivalent sensibility that suffuses his environments, installations, and performances seduces the viewer into reflection and reverie. Visually rich and precisely observed, the objects and images he designs, makes, and gathers from elsewhere propose connections, set up oppositions, and trace narratives in a dense play of puzzle, metaphor, and interpretative possibility.

As far back as 1976 Chaimowicz paid homage to Jean Cocteau in Fade, performed at London’s ACME Gallery. Complex lighting, a faux-Cocteau backdrop, and disappearing figures referenced the French polymath’s films, particularly Orpheus (1949). In his current project, Jean Cocteau, installed at the Norwich School of Art and Design’s gallery last fall and traveling to Angel Row, Nottingham, in May, Chaimowicz has furnished an imaginary apartment for the poet, filmmaker, and artist, the fortieth anniversary of whose death fell last year. Alongside his own furniture, carpets, ceramics, and sculptural structures, including a double staircase dedicated to the late critic Barbara Reise, Chaimowicz has incorporated period pieces from Breuer and Isokon together with works by Enrico David, Paulina Olowska, Tom of Finland, Cerith Wyn Evans, Warhol, Giacometti, Marie Laurencin, and others, to construct a space that is almost usable yet thoroughly dreamlike.     

—MICHAEL ARCHER

 

Marc Camille Chaimowicz

TALKS ABOUT JEAN COCTEAU, 2003

 

A year ago Lynda Morris, director of the Norwich Gallery, reminded me that in the '70s I had taken her to one of London’s best-kept secrets, a mural commissioned from Cocteau by the French for their Catholic church in London, Notre-Dame-de-France. It’s a little miracle, very competent, very assured—Cocteau at his best. The project then slowly emerged through dialogue with Lynda. I’d never before developed such a complex dialectic between my own practice and the appropriation of other people’s work in order to construct what is, by default, a kind of portrait. I found the experience liberating. That end wall in my installation, for example, with a Warhol, a Stephen Buckley, and the Giacometti lamps: One can stand back and exclaim with joy as to how fabulous it looks, because one’s not burdened by the responsibility of one’s own ego.

 

I accept that in France the jury is still out on Cocteau. His blatant disengagement from the body politic is problematic. He made some mistakes out of nai'vete, I think. For instance, he supported the work of Arno Breker only because he was, at that point in his own career, reassessing the neoclassical. I think the ambivalence with which Cocteau was regarded had a lot to do with the fact that he came from a very well-to-do background. This would have been socially disadvantageous for someone trying to associate himself with the avant-garde. The modernist establishment—Andre Breton, for one—was very critical of him. It’s presumed this was because of Cocteau’s sexuality, but then Gide was critical of him as well, so he was forever stuck in the middle. And I think one can extend that problematic into Cocteau’s practice. The work is very erratic. His painting, for example, is dire. One has to recognize that, and I briefly comment on it by including artists—Buckley, Nadia Wallis— who have a real feel for painting. I like the idea of labyrinthine possibilities of interpretation and, in a way, a kind of intellectual puzzle in the project. For example, we commissioned Wallis to do a site-specific curtain painting for the show, and as we know, Cocteau was highly involved in the sociability of practice, in commissioning, in exchange, in collaboration.

 

We deliberated at length about which Warhol to use. Warhol evidently has a place as a kind of surrogate descendant, a symbolic distant relation of Cocteau’s, and yet the “Electric Chair” is so incongruous to the Cocteau sensibility. If nothing else, it’s so American. But Cocteau did have a fascination with death. As an ambulance driver during World War I he initially saw the Belgian front as a kind of Wagnerian scenario, but seeing death for the first time he became imbued with the reality and horror of the day-to-day. Then there was the tragic loss of his young protege, Raymond Radiguet, which led to a physical decline in Cocteau as well as a spiritual crisis. Warhol therefore becomes more relevant. And then the eye goes, one hopes, from the “Electric Chair” on the far wall to the foreground, where on the rug is a copy of the 1963 Warhol portrait of Cocteau commissioned by Pierre Berger for Liberation.

 

In parallel to dealing with Cocteau, I’m also dealing with a subjectively loaded kind of fiction, a sort of fantasy about that which is Parisian. This has to do with the reclaiming of what I felt had been taken from me in my formative years. If somebody in his early childhood is removed from a particular cultural environment and then has to process that relatively brutal displacement, that person is liable, is he not, to fantasize? During World War II, Cocteau was advised by many of his friends to flee Paris. To his credit he said, “I am Parisian and here I’ll stay,” with all that that implied. He gives specificity to something that in me is nebulous and yet perpetual and powerful. It’s a real pleasure to give materiality to this active inner life, to realize a fictional interior that is both a proposal for habitation and a mindscape.

 

The ease with which Cocteau could move from one area to another is fascinating to me, as I was educated in an art school tradition wherein something was meritorious only if it was hard- gained. He provides a bridge to the Proustian world of the salon, and yet toward the end of his life he’s not just helping out gutter angels like Piaf, he’s also fascinated by somebody like Jean Genet, partly because Genet could do what he could never do in writing, which is to be explicit. There’s a kind of disappointment, is there not, in what Cocteau did and what we presume him to have done. He was the reverse of the bland figures behind the sophisticated and coherent practices we encounter today. In his case, the persona was more resolved, refined, and complete than the results. 

 


 


Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Fade
1976
Betacam video
27:20 mins

1976, video documentation of performance with Colin Naylor
“The piece was specifically conceived and built for the space [at Acme Gallery, London], its structure was linear and developed through four stages. Around the room are carefully arranged matriarchal symbols: flowers, fruit, vegetables, a fountain and a small statue of the Madonna illuminated by a candle, the whole spotlit by coloured lights. in the centre, against the end wall, is a large stylised line drawing of an Annunciation, framed by scaffolding and behind gauze. This is the artist’s homage to Jean Cocteau (whose dynamic sprang from sexual conflicts). Towards the front especially erected ramp are two tastefully ornate chairs. the two performers enter to the romantic sound of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. They sit down, then at intervals stand, walk towards the Annunciation and back again. The difference in the movement of the two figures reflects the male/female pattern running through the rest of the environment. The ‘courting’ finally comes to consummation with the figures entering the scaffold frame of the Annunciation. At this point, oblique light, projecting a red diagonal cross, transforms the gauze veil into an opaque screen obliterating them at their point of communication. Eventually the figures re-emerge to continue their pacing and the Annunciation is restored to view. When the performers finally leave the ramp, the gauze screen metamorphoses once into an image of the artist, with his back to the viewer, silhouetted against the window of his studio.”
- based on the description by Peter Dunn, Studio International, Vol 193, No. 985, January, 1977




Marc Camille Chaimowicz 
Documentation of Table Tableau
From BBC Arena, 1976

The following text on the work from Past Imperfect, 1972 – 1982. 
Text by Jean Fisher

 A partially drawn curtain in the corner of the space reveals a dressing table and a chair. The artist enters, sits in the chair, and leans motionless on the table top with his head in his arms and gazes at his reflection in a mirror on the facing wall. His back, marked by a long diagonal scar, is to the audience who sees his face, made up in various colours, only as the reflection in the mirror. Objects are scattered on the table top: lighted candles, a bundle of letters tied with a ribbon, a vase of flowers, a half-consumed drink, an ashtray with cigarette butts, and an assortment of trinkets. Flowers decorate the wall, and a vase of gladioli and a fox fur lie by the figure's feet. The piece is accompanied by the soundtrack of a violin solo whose composition was based on a story told to the composer, Conal Shields, by the artist. The performance is concluded by the artist's exit from the space.
Table Tableau is a tableau oivant JL which contains the resonances of meaning of both the English 'still life' and the French equivaler, 'nature morte'. The figure functions partly as one amongst several 'inanimate' sculptural elements which is a familiar device in performance art; but here his mute and motionless form with its transformed features has an aura of self-effacement not the ego-projecton of a 'personality' with which the audience is usually encouraged to identify. On the contrary, the shrine-like effect of the tableau, and the sensual intimacy of the figure absorbed with its own reflection, actively inhibits the audience from identifying or approaching too closely.
What seems at first glance to be an autobiographical essay — the prominence of the fresh scar and the idiosyncratic choice of objects — gradually takes on a wider cultural significance. The naked back is a signifier of vulnerability, the bearer of stress, which is here accentuated by the scar. We will find that the view of the back is a recurrent image in the artist's work. The piece, moreover, has a formal structure which draws on the pictorial conventions of the vanitas, a genre popular in the Seventeenth Century, and in which a figure — traditionally that of a woman — contemplates her reflecion in a mirror surrounded by those objects (candles, flowers, and perhaps here we could include the smouldering cigarette) which symbolised the passing of time, or the transience of life. What, then, are the thoughts of the melancholy Pierrot whose mask-like face we see only as a reflection: a representation of a representation? It is a face that presents itself estranged from the body through a feminising disguise, and which surrounds itself with the mementoes of a sentimental journey. We may speculate, perhaps, that in order to invoke the memory of a past relationship or of an absent lover, he has assumed something of her identity.
Whatever phantasy we may construct around the piece, however, one of the issues central to Table Tableau and to the artist's later work is that of identity: how the self's sense of its self is negotiated between the conflicting forces of his private memory and desire and of cultural constraints, particularly those placed on the artist through the public nature of his work.
In Jungian terms, creativity is part of the anima, the 'feminine' principle of all human beings, and it is perhaps this mysterious and sensuous 'otherness' that Chaimowicz has overtly assumed 'In person' raiher than in the more usual neutralised and subdued form of the art object. Table Tableau addresses itself to a broad discourse on representation in culture which stemmed in part from the women's movement's attempt to determine how 'femaleness' was inscribed within a phallocentric order that 'naturalised' the representation of sexuality into fixed gender roles which had little to do with anatomical difference. If gender identity is largely a cultural representation, then identity in general may be a negotiable entity. Perhaps it is significant that the first creative act that the artist performed when he moved into Approach Road was to establish his identity in the space through the reconstruction of Table Tableau.
 


Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Partial Eclipse...
1981 - 2006
Performance documenation

Performance for Tate Triennial 2006,Tate Britain, April 15, 2006

 The following text on the work from Past Imperfect, 1972 – 1982. 
Text by Jean Fisher

 Like Doubts... , Partial Eclipse transplants an intimacy and a subjectivity into a formal and neutral public space, and presents us with a play of dualities: passive/active, private/public, real/represented. Again it is the performer who projects the greatest passivity and immateriality: a brittle and restlessly elusive presence that intermittently appears and disappears from view. When he interrupts the projector beam he does not erase the image. Rather, it obliterates him, enfolding and imbricating his form into its own, and absorbing his shadow as a negative presence into its scene. Now and then, the artist's image coincides with his presence in front of the screen; moments that poignantly collapse time past and present, the real and the represented, and question our perception of visual experience. For the photographic image is only a residue, a trace of an object captured in light and projected through light onto a screen, just as the figure's movement in the space is itself a trace in light captured on the screen of our vision. Perhaps visual perception itself is never more than a representation, a construction of the mind and its imagination?
The disjunctive sequence of slides, outside logical and linear time, traces a path through the objects and daily incidents that constitute the fabric of a relationship. But any documentary reading of these soft-focus grey-toned images is unhinged by qualities of framing, changes in depth of field, variations of light and shadow, which remind one of the artificial visual style of the cinematic film noir. This is echoed in the choice of objects: glimpses of a body, flowers and objects, mediated tantalisingly through reflection and shadow; objects whose fragmentariness is charged with the forbidden delight of the fetish — that part which stands in place of the absent but desired 'other'. There is a pervading scent of eroticism, therefore, in these part-objects, voluptuous flowers, coiling snakes and globous fruit, which is reiterated in the gestures of the naked limbs. If in Fade and Table Tableau the flowers signify purification or death, here nature is redolent of the obverse: desire and its imaginary excess of sexuality.
It is perhaps the woman's voice which is the most disturbing element in the work for, although it speaks in the third person masculine, it disengages the narration from the body of the man to create an ambiguity of identity:' 'Are the words the woman's thoughts of comments from the man?" This paradoxical relationship between the narration and the figure suggests that, like the masquerade in Table Tableau her voice signifies the creative self, here drifting in the space of pre-conscious reverie, and whose capricious thoughts and compulsive journeying through the labyrinth of memory — an infinity of time and space, an inexhaustive repetition — seeks a coherent meaning to past experience that it might discover a concrete form for the present. Her voice returns obsessively to phrases already visited, to fragments of the artist's past writings and images, in a movement which complements that of the figure as it elliptically circles the images on the screen, "... the artist walking in circles around his life, his art . . ."*, returning, but each time in juxtaposition with a different fragment, weaving the past into the fabric of the present.
Her narration is the passage of an intimacy drawn through the sensations of objects and places. It revolves meditatively around flashes of visual memory magnified in their intensity and significance, "... the pale green walls have a hint of dust and peppermint...”; and around moments spent with a lover whose “...quintessential definition is that of smell, more than letter, lock of hair or photograph, for both pleasure and recollection". If smell is the most evocative of the other, it is also the most elusive to recall and impossible to represent. With what sadness, then, does the alienated self search in vain through the tangible familiar objects and places, touched by that other, in its desire to recapture the sensation of its presence, to recuperate its loss? It finally must acknowledge, “How it is not possible to transfer his reality to another . . . the impossibility of possessing a sensation or feeling in its entirety”. In our daydreams the past becomes idealised, fictionalised through the desires of the present, narrated into 'another' reality where the self becomes yet 'another' self: "Are these characters an extension, a fabrication, an invention? They are perhaps a qualification of experience and a fiction; simultaneously as idealisation; speculative in content, in form hermetic and resolved. The separation between real and fictive is obscured but accessible".
In its Proustian sensitivity to a language whose compulsion to define the intimate nuances of an estranged moment is motivated by the desire to re-live the exquisite memory of its jouissance, Partial Eclipse is nevertheless a melancholy recognition that the passage of time carries the burden of an unmeasurable loss: "How the transfer of an experience qualifies that experience; how an idea once subjected to change is no longer that idea, how its purity is violated, modified...”.
*Tom Lawson, Artforum, December, 1981
All other quotations are from the artist's text of Partial Eclipse.
 
 
Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Partial Eclipse
1980-2006
35mm slides, CDs, choreography
Boxed dimensions - 40 x 60 x 10 cm
Edition of 5
Published by Cabinet Gallery
 


Marc Camille Chaimowicz 
The Casting of the Maids... 
2012 
Digital video 
7 mins 48 secs

The following text is taken from a talk given by Roger Cook at Focal Point Gallery in 2012

...So to conclude I turn to the work which is central to this exhibition here in Southend Marc Camille’s short film The Casting of the Maids. I want briefly to say something about this film in relation to question of gender, sexuality and masquerade. Genet may have desired men sexually, but he was certainly fascinated by gender and attracted to the frisson of its ambiguities. Strong unambiguously masculine men as well as drag queens such as Divine and Our Lady of the Flowers feature in his fiction.
Our theoretical understanding of gender was dramatically advanced through psychoanalytic understanding by the publication in 1929 of a groundbreaking paper by Joan Riviere: ‘Womanliness as Masquerade’ which has been further worked upon by the contemporary philosopher Judith Butler in her 1990 book Gender Trouble. Gender and sexuality are now understood as ‘performative’ i.e. there is nothing natural about our gender or our sexuality, however deeply embedded our masculinity of femininity might be felt to be, it is a role we learn through imitation as we grow up. Anyone who doesn’t feel they fit into the gender stereotypes they are inculcated into understands this instinctively; homosexuals born into a predominantly heterosexual society are made painfully and humourously aware of gender as performative masquerade as with the masquerade of ‘camp’. 
Masks quite often appear in Marc’s work in fact last year the artist appeared himself as masked on the cover of the magazine Art Review. When it comes to gender and sexuality Marc Camille Chaimowicz is an anti-essentialist. By this I mean that he is not a subscriber to any notion of identity or essence in relation to sex and gender; which I see as reflecting a fluidity and fearlessness in relation to both; his adoption of his gender ambiguous middle name Camille is a reflection of this.
Genet’s play The Maids as well as being an examination of games of domination is also a brilliant riff on the trappings or accoutrements of femininity. Set in the opulent bedroom of a rich bourgeoise lady, her maids Claire and Solange play a lethal game of masquerade as they act out the power games between their mistress Madame and her maids by dolling themselves up in her outfits, playing with her make-up, trying on her shoes and jewels whilst she is out. Marc Camille’s short film The Casting of the Maids plays further on this game of charades in which objects, jewellery and masks play a significant role, as the young women prepare for the casting of their roles in this infernal drama. The literary historian Terry Castle in her book Masquerade and Civilization: the carnivalesque in eighteenth-century English culture and fiction writes of the relation to what she calls ‘rites of rebellion:’...

 


 
Available publications



Marc Camille Chaimowicz
One to One…
2018
English
72 pages
Hardcover, 22 × 26.5 cm
ISBN: 978 88 6749 330 2
£25.00 GBP



Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Celebration? Realife: Revisited
Alberta Press, 2005
Soft cover, full colour including CD rom
26.1 x 21.3 cm, 98pp.
£75.00

Any enquires and orders please email art@cabinetltd.demon.co.uk




W3.CSS
 
Marc Camille Chaimoiwcz
Dream, an anecdote
Nigel Greenwood Books, 1977
36pp. soft cover 19 x 15 cm


 
Please click here to download a PDF of 

Marc Camille Chaimoiwcz
Le Parc
Chapter from Café du Reve
Editions du Regard Galerie de France, 1985
188pp. soft cover, 126 x 21 cm

(File size 4.4mb)
 



 
 
Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Past Imperfect
Bluecoat Gallery, 1983
Soft cover, colour and b/w plates, 64pp

 
Introductory Essay by Jean Fisher
 
Marc Chaimowicz' work is of the nature of a journey, an epic poem that recounts a quest not through dramatic actions and gestures, but through a modest and tender exploration of the microcosmic world of everyday experience. As James Joyce, through the un- heroic figure of Leopold Bloom in Ulysses, wanders nomadically, in memory, through the streets of the city, so Chaimowicz weaves through those images and evocations of place, those gestures and objects of a relationship, that are the mementoes of his own history and feelings, in search of a sense of the self and its creation of an identity in the world. The mythic contest is narrated through the conflict between the critical role of the artist and his private self, between the requirements of art and culture and those of his own desires and creative sensibility. In his scrutiny of the minutiae of his own life, he reveals something of the universal condition of being human.
 
The artist's work takes many forms, from the fine art modes of the video or slide installation and performance, the photograph and the sculpture, the text and the book, to the more vernacular applied art of furniture and fabric design. Despite thisapparent diversity there is a cohesion, an overlapping of one mode with another, and an interlocking of recurrent images and motifs. A content that expands into the public arena of the performance may become transferred and re-presented through the intimate page of a book. The memory of a sensation embodied in the image of an elusive play of light and shadow, or the voluptuous curve of a plant, may be re- invented as a reverie in a poetic text, or in the abstract lyricism of the shapes and colours of a fabric design.
 
The subject matter lies within the accessible fine art conventions of the 'still life', the 'interior' and the 'portrait'. Of these, perhaps the portrait is the most significant for it is by way of the imaginary space of the still life, the interior and its objects with all the meanings that they hold, that the self draws its identity in the objective world. Location is important to the artist. It is the site or the context of the body: the source of its sensations and the vehicle for its exchange with the world. Location may be the city — London, Paris, Vienna — with its nostalgic scents and sights; or it may be a room, or a piece of furniture locked into whose form and history is also the key to the memory and the cultural identity of the owner: or it may be the intimacy of another's body.
 
This is an art of pleasure, of the self that strives for a purity of expression and a perfect harmony uncontamin-ated by the discordant noise of the outside world; an art in whose exquisite formality, however, there yet resides a restless and unquiet spirit. For it is a sensibility antithetical to a New World vigour; one that is introspective, and deeply embedded in the French tradition that gave rise to Proust and Gide, Camus and Genet: a psyche born in the evening shadows of a culture ancient and possessive. Alive to the nuances of the fleeting moment, seeking to recapture and hold forever its significance, it knows also the melancholy impossibility of this dream: memory fades, sensations recede or transform, and the self must continually pursue its unconsummated desire for perfection. It must constantly re-negotiate its reality, re-invent itself through the past and the changing experience of the present. This work, then, is a richly textured tapestry of correspondences and recombinations through which the self constantly narrates and re-narrates its own mythos.
 
 
 




The complete contents of
 
Marc Camille Chaimowicz
The World of Interiors
Published by Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst Zürich, Switzerland, 2006
Edited by Heike Munder
ISBN 10: 3905701677
 

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Lucy McKenzie
Appropriation, Replication, Imitation
From Parkett 96, 2015
 




 
 

Curved Paravents


Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Laura Street, for Georgy (Curved paravent)
1987
Hardwood frame, marquetry, oil paint on canvas 
201 x 225 x 15 cm / 79 x 88.6 x 6 in


Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Festivity
1987
Hardwood frame, marquetry, oil paint on canvas 
201 x 225 x 16 cm / 79.1 x 88.6 x 6.3 in


Marc Camille Chaimowicz
A Sort of Truce…
1987
Hardwood frame, marquetry, oil on canvas
201 x 225 x 15cm / 79.1 x 88.6 x 5.9in


Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Autonomy…
1986
Hardwood frame, marquetry, oil paint on canvas 
201 x 225 x 16 cm / 79.1 x 88.6 x 6.3 in


Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Caress…
1986 - 1987
Hardwood frame, marquetry, oil paint on canvas 
201 x 225 x 16 cm / 79.1 x 88.6 x 6.3 in


Detail of reverse, Curved Paravents





Selected furniture

Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Desk...on Decline
1981
MDF, cellulose lacquer
217 x 75 x 61cm / 85.4 x 29.5 x 24in

Installation views, Summer’s Song..., Centre d’art contemporain La Synagogue de Delme, France, July 8 – October 28, 2000



Desk...on Decline (Technical Drawing) 
Screen print on paper with B/W photograph 


Advertisement for Hennessy cognac
Published in The Observer Magazine, 28 October, 1984


Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Installation view, Jean Genet… the Courtesy of Objects, Chapter Two, Nottingham Contemporary, July 16 – October 2, 2011
Works shown (left to right):

Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Wallpaper (Nottingham) Chartreuse 
2011 
printed wallpaper, edited by Nottingham Contemporary
Roll size: 52cm x 10m / 20.5in x 32.8ft

Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Console (long)
1994
Birch veneered plywood, formica
160 x 160 x 30cm / 63 x 63 x 11.8in

Alberto Giacometti
Portrait de Jean Genet
1954-1955
Oil on canvas
73 x 60 cm / 28.7 x 23.6 in




Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Sideboard
1983
Birdseye maple veneered plywood with exposed edges, finished in clear varnish
230 x 11 x 90cm / 90.6 x 4.3 x 35.4in
Unique

Installation view, Summer’s Song..., Centre d’art contemporain La Synagogue de Delme, France, July 8 – October 28, 2007




 
Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Malevolent Coat Hook
2005
Glazed earthenware
15 x 7 x 11 cm / 5.9 x 2.75 x 4.3 in
Installation view, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 2005



 


Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Dual
2006-2007
Finnish birch ply, woven fabric and painted metal
160 x 60 x 55 cm / 63 x 23.6 x 21.7 in and 62 x 174 x 49 cm / 24.4 x 68.5 x 19.3 in

Installation view, Summer’s Song..., Centre d’art contemporain La Synagogue de Delme, France, July 8 – October 28, 2007



Installation view, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Secession, Vienna, November 2, 2009 - January 24, 2010


Installation view, Jean Genet… the Courtesy of Objects, Chapter Two, Nottingham Contemporary, July 16 – October 2, 2011





Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Bibliothèque (green)
2009
Veneered wood and lacquer
188 x 130 x 50 cm / 74 x 51.2 x 19.7 in

Installation view, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Secession, Vienna, November 2, 2009 – January 24, 2010




Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Bibliothèque (pink)
2009
Veneered wood and lacquer
188 x 130 x 50 cm / 74 x 51.2 x 19.7 in

Installation view, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Secession, Vienna, November 2, 2009 – January 24, 2010







Marc Camille Chaimowicz
Prie-dieu
2011
Wood, metal and fabric
170 x 90 x 60 cm / 67 x 35.4 x 23.6 in