To activate the space

By Paul Ardenne, 2000.


Cecile Hartmann got interested in the colour orange during a stay in Berlin in 1997. Indicating danger or warning,  it's the fetish colour of urban beacons when applied to temporary works of construction or garbage dumps. Another  characteristic of orange is its adherence to the city in construction which is  reunified Berlin.  Doubles characterization of a colour, one chromatic, the other social guiding the artist into plastic research.
Cecile Hartmann's concern to remain "a painter" coupled at once with an intention of "intervention" fed by the imperative : put face to face painting and public space.


Colorize reality

The colorization such as the artist requires has this function: interrogate the capacity of the painting to surround the contemporary visual space. At first, she takes different photos of public places, generally places of passage. Then she re-configures the obtained image by covering deliberately chosen parts with colour:: advertising supports in a station, road or railway panels , parking places, fences of construction sites, etc. This appearance of a unexpected monochrome colour there where one is usually confronted with descriptive information modifies the usual relation to the photographed place then recolored. Either the eye no longer recognize the norm, or that the appearance of the painting creates an incongruous effect. The pictorial covering offers to the vision the beauty of coulurs and cracks of the pigment which have dried, the particular chemistry of a medium. If such pictorial realizations stay at the level of project, nothing stops one thinking that they can see a concrete realization the next day, the colorization becoming then real and not a  photo studio brush.

The main part is not there. Import at a experimental level, the reactivation of a possible relation for the painting as dissident vector of animation of public space.



The sculpture-painting of  Cecile Hartmann , in a elementary way, is reduced to present such monochromatic picture, canvas on frame. The colour obtained comes from colored fabric, industrial materials stretched out on boards of variable dimensions.
If it forms volume, it is because most of  the time it is removed from the wall and expected to hand up as a bag on the back or as a suitcase in the hand, then the painting becomes a portable sculpture.
The public presentation of the work takes on  an unexpected nature, even controversial. The principle of exhibition, for this artist, should  be subversive: to invests and finds a field of application, to act as a formula of contamination rather than giving importance to the appearance. That is the reason of the mobile pictures, this objects equipped with straps that one or several performers are urged to transport on their backs in various public places. The work put in motion, in the real sense, takes place in the corridors of Paris subway, during demonstrations, on the road at night, or still in places where the appearance of the bearer of colour comes to create an effect of counterpoint or contrast: industrial waste land, seaside, etc. Eating  space and at the same moment, imposing the disturbing appearance of the pictorial. The mobiles monochrome constitutes a probation of the painting in  relations which they produce with the environment where they move , according to the terms of the artist, "this mobile painting reloading the space and being reloaded by this space ".
The artist recently puts in movement rucksack mirror, conceived  by technical criteria authorizing its transport: a reflecting surface "walked" in city, the performer becomes himself a mobile mirror. A walker of reflections, whose movement will remind us this  mobile house pulled by a moped and covered by reflecting metal squares, created by François Roche at the occasion of the Parisian exhibition mobile Comments in 1998.


A motive in situ

The mobility is a direct consequence of the "exit" of the object of art outside the traditional context of exhibition, gallery. But not only. Direct consequence, yes, if exposing in the street, for example, makes the artist choose a place in a strategic way (the law of impact), a public space not necessarily convenient where it will be advisable sooner or later to move and to move again (any impact has its conditions). In this process of the "exit" of the work arouses the effect of mobility, witch overlaps the metaphoric order, a principle of activism and appropriation of space. The object of art made mobile by the artist is not only an moved object, but also a consciousness of the space in action. Declension of this active consciousness of space, the photography depends then on a choreography strictly connected between the invested environment, the body of the bearer, in the relations they produces. The mobility of the work, this way, is not without send back to the mechanism of the walk, included under its most extreme and most motivated shape. To walk, it is to reach a point, to advance in the big body of the territory. To walk, it is also because the body is in tension, tension which, besides being ambulatory, dedicates a physical power of investment, in other words a state of force, an attitude asserting the capacity of the subject to face the world as much as to go through it. In fact, this artist gives  this dimension of the walk as corrosive tension facing reality and turns his back to those forms of urban artistic movements that were able to be, at their time, the "drift" of situationnistes or the Fluxtours of a Nam June Paik, accomplished movement at random, trails round or passagietta of unpredictable destination. With Hartmann the effect expected from this "visit" is programmed, pre-thought in its implications. The raid of the work, doubtless, disrupts the constructed or acquired landscape of the city, but this disorganization is tactical, it aims to bring colour or  reflection, to create echoes, even to arouse open conflict:: it is the sense of this action in spring 2000 within the framework of an exhibition in St Germain where the artist introduces into the narrow streets of the district, bearers who slowed down the traffic. Hartmann's in situ motive, is not without conforming to a in situ traditional grounded by Buren since the 60s, installation of an unusual object of art in a place unprepared, in order to modify the appearance. In this important nuance, for the carried works, their mobility gives a more fluid, dreamlike, less noticeable, elusive offer, a spectacle which passes. One would even say: a conflict of crossing,  political but aesthetic conflict seeing the visual acquired renegotiated offer for the benefit of an eruptive, inorganic and  nonauthoritarian offer.


The aesthetics of the sherpa and still more

How much nomadism to conceive is a major determiner for the body of Cecile Hartmann 's work. What moves bodies in movement? It is not a question for the artist to stage a shape of mime from the aesthetics of the Westerner as sherpa, mimer of our modern condition of urban nomads always blocked by bags, having to transport something non-stop . What especially suggests this nomadism,  is  a relevant allusion to the contemporary tyranny of the future, the decline of the being as inviolable figure, the massive recession of the stasis. In fact, we no longer have time to be.  Contemporary time? It is less the time of stop or  suspension or the non-time of speed, time denied by the world which pulses and  pants reality, thrown in a crazy journey. Forms as affects, alive substances as representations, different materials as human genetic dedicated at the moment to all the syntheses, to all the conceivable reconstructions… Nothing has ever being known to last, nothing, has a consequence, seems  done for inscription, we would dream however only about  inscribed memory and nothing else (make the present a acquired form of eternal life, to have been for something, to establish us in historic figures, to remain young for ever, etc.). In this insistently abolished time  is the future, colored panels or mobiles mirrors which Hartmann walks under our eyes only add to the future, they stop nothing, adequate propositions to the nature of reality, in phase with contemporary phase. In a sense new organs for the human being of today, this transit being whom one will presume the functions is not at first to make effect but much , rather , to signal.