T&T Consortium, you're already elsewhere

Curator: Flora Katz
At French Institute, New-York

MISS NONE AND MISTER PEANUT- First Episode from julie béna on Vimeo.


Flora KATZ

The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) is pleased to present the first one-person show of French artist Julie Béna following her US debut in Performa 2013 last fall. For the Crossing the Line festival, FIAF opens the doors of its gallery for Béna’s site specific installation T&T Consortium, You’re Already Elsewhere, a continuation of Das Reiseburo (Béna’s 2012 Paris solo show), in which the display of objects was used to create a space inhabited by the phantom figure of a travel agent.

T&T Consortium, You’re Already Elsewhere is a space defined within the machinery of the here to compose a fictitious elsewhere. Playing with the language of affective labor (a type of work carried out to produce or control emotional experiences, especially in the advertising, and service industries), Béna experiments with images, sounds and objects to render the contours of a corporate esthetic that generates and manipulates affects. By enveloping the viewer in an artificial place built by the entity T&T Consortium, the artist sets in motion the lines between fiction and reality, utopia and heterotopia, provoking a calculated instability within the space.

In T&T Consortium, You’re Already Elsewhere, subtle signs of a fiction are embedded throughout FIAF’s first floor, including pens, badges, a fake evacuation map reinventing the layout of the building, and a short video in FIAF’s lobby slideshow. The latter functions as an introductory statement: Ms. None and Mr. Peanut carries the legendary advertising mascot of Planters’ Mr. Peanut into an irrational and tragicomic dialogue with another animated character taking the shape of a red wig, Miss None. It is through this Theater of the Absurd that Béna initiates the visitor to enter into the corporation T&T Consortium.

As a double-edged sword, two large fabrics prints (I Don't Know Exactly Where, But I'd Like to Look at It, 2014) and two videos (Condos, 2012) compose a disturbing pair. From far away, the former depicts unknown but harmonious window exteriors partially hidden by their own blinds. When approached closely, the pixel of the digital collage is revealed and the image becomes pure abstraction. If one daydreamed within the piece, it is already aborted by the insisting presence of advertisements displayed on the screen just a few inches from the blind. This disequilibrium disrupts the homogeneity of the messages embedded in each separate set of pieces until their point of rupture: the dream has failed. Béna unfolds the same process in Display, For T&T Consortium, where fake travel magazines are held on the angles of an aerial bronze sculpture, and in the sound piece Welcome in T&T Consortium. Paced by different melodies that one hears in what French anthropologist Marc Augé would call a non-place (airports, supermarkets, administrative public spaces), a neutral and soft voice addresses to the generic, the numbered, the consumer in this sound installation.

Whether it is a travel agency, an airport lounge or a waiting room, T&T Consortium, You’re Already Elsewhere contracts and disturbs the usual scripts produced by affective labor: fiction pervading reality, management and control of emotions, composition of desires and fears. Hence, this opaque place of instability conceived by Béna tends to resist the commodification of subjectivity and imagination; opening a space for the critique of these invisible mechanisms inserted in our everyday lives.

T&T Consortium, You’re Already Elsewhere is held under the auspices of Atoll Corporation, a phantom company created by the artist. It has been developing indexically, leaving its traces and signs throughout this project and the upcoming presentations in France in 2015.