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07 May 2014

Ian Simms at 3 bis f - lieu d'arts contemporains

Ian Simms, 2014

Les espaces autres : passages / IAN SIMMS
3 bis f - lieu d'arts contemporains


From May 7 to June 6 Opened from monday to friday 1 - 5 PM // free admission Exceptional closing 8th and 9th of May, 29th and 30 of May

Laurianne d'Eaubonne

Hôpital Montperrin
109, av du petit Barthélémy
13617 Aix-en-Provence cedex

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Ian Simms is a South African artist, born in Johannesburg where he lived until his exile to Britain in 1983 when he refused to do his military service. In Britain he continued working as an activist against apartheid before moving to the south of France where he has lived and worked for more than twenty years. The exhibition Of other spaces: passages brings to a close the artist's residency at the 3 bis f. The exhibition space is filled by an installation, a fragmented mental space which circumscribes an internal space within an other space, that of the former restraint ward for women. Heterotopias or, other spaces are, for Michel Foucault, psychiatric hospitals, prisons, retirement homes, cemeteries, but also brothels, holiday villages, gardens or boats. Closed or open, they are often under surveillance, protected, regulated. Cities within the city, yet located on the peripheries, their function determines their organisation. In previous work (If I ever returned I would live in a shopping centre - 2003-2013, Establishing territory #1- 2007) Ian Simms has explored their most contemporary expressions, the shopping mall and the gated community. These real utopian mirages, these actual spaces sheltering the imagination are like extracts from J.G. Ballard's novels forming 'myths of the near future'; structures emerging from a psychological space, an internal space.

In the exhibition space, Ian Simms opens a passage from one space to another. The installation unfolds under the glass roof, cohabiting with the pan acoustic corridor, the walls of granito and ceramic tiles and the now vacant isolation cells. Five light-boxes have been inserted into the wallpaper that covers two of the walls of the wooden structure making up the installation. The colours of the photographs, in turn warm or cool, result either from the techniques used to capture the image, or from the passage of time deteriorating its support. The corpus is a series of landscapes, wild, arid, semi-urban. The oldest are from the 1930s and the most recent from the 1950s, four are from an archive on South Africa in Paris. The fifth is of a landscape in the Sahara taken by Ian Simms in 1987. This photograph constitutes, almost anonymously, the artist's only 'work' in the body presented. This conscious withdrawal is part of a 'warburgian' approach to the archive, which together with the notions of collecting and quoting, is central to the artist's approach. It is in the juxtaposition of the fragments that the work emerges and takes on meaning.

'Fragmentary' is one of the adjectives qualifying the writings constituting the main references of the exibition: The Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin and The Atrocity Exhibition (1969) by J.G. Ballard. If this aspect defines the form, Ian Simms explores the anticipatory character of a modernist political utopia in the former and its contemporary update in the latter. It is thus that he has elicited from The Atrocity Exhibition thirteen 'images', either described by the author or recurring throughout the work, by entering Ballard's descriptions of the images into a search engine and using the images produced. A spectro-heliograph of the sun, the front elevation of the balcony units (Hilton Hotel, London), Chronograms by E.J. Marey, reproduction of Max Ernst's Garden Airplane Traps, fusing sequences for Little Boy and Fat Boy (Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombs), a white Pontiac, or a portrait of Jayne Mansfield are printed onto photographic paper. Following a protocol established by Hollis Frampton in the video Nostalgia (1971), where 'each image is set on a slow-burning hot plate. Each shot lasts until each respective photograph turns to ash. On the sound track we hear a description of the photo we are about to see in the next shot while we watch the photo we previously heard described incinerate.' For approximately the last 45 seconds of each shot there is neither a photographic image to see nor a commentary to be heard. The commentaries are taken from Ballard's own notes to The Atrocity Exhibition (added to the 1990 edition), mixed with extracts from Walter Benjamin, William Burroughs, Winfried Georg Sebald, Sigmund Freud and André Breton.

From the collages taken from Ballard's newspaper advertisements, reworked as a wallpaper into which the archival images are inserted without any form of commentary, to the sequence of video images, destroyed, described or evoked by anticipation, Ian Simms takes us on a trip through the twentieth century, highlighting the difficulty, as he himself feels, 'of finding oneself in the tension between history and memory, truth and fiction, place and territory, image and memory'. The image having disappeared, only the words of Walter Benjamin (The destructive character) and J.G. Ballard (What I believe) remain scrolling across a panoramic screen.

Since 1983 3 bis f, situated in the Montperrin Psychiatric Hospital, has developed a place of contemporary creation in both the theatre and the visual arts within its art centre. Each year artists and theatre companies are invited, for periods varying from a few weeks to several months, to propose and develop projects within the framework of creation or research residencies. During the residencies a number of meetings, open to the public (hospitalised or not), are proposed (workshops, encounters with the artists, visits, creations, performances, exhibitions).