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Céleste Boursier-Mougenot
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot

Press Release

NEW YORK—The Paula Cooper Gallery is pleased to present harmonichaos, an exhibition of sound-based work by French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. The exhibition will open on September 9, 2006 and remain on view through October 14, 2006. This is the artist’s third one-person exhibition with the Paula Cooper Gallery after Untitled; (1999), an installation of musical pools, and Videodrones (2001), where surveillance cameras translated New York urban activity into sound.

Although exhibited for more than ten years in a contemporary visual art context, Boursier-Mougenot’s work is perhaps best understood as that of a musician and composer. Using various unexpected objects from which he extracts a musical potential, Boursier-Mougenot creates situations where sonic events take on visual form, or conversely where visual information is expressed acoustically. As the viewer progressively grasps the processes at play, the conventional notions of sound and image merge and dissolve.

In the main gallery, thirteen vacuum cleaners are installed in a darkened space, each outfitted with a harmonica and a sound-frequency analyzer (an electric guitar tuner modified by the artist). An electric switch, connected to the tuner, turns the vacuum on and off, sucking air into the harmonica, thus producing “an unpredictable, fortuitous orchestration of instruments.”

In the front gallery, a wall projection further explores the connection between, and fusion of, image and sound. A video camera registers the variations of light emitted by the flame of a candle. This information is directed through a sound processor, which translates it into sound and feeds it to a speaker. The air created by the vibrations of the speaker blows the candle out. The video loop captures the entire cycle at a slowed-down pace.

The re-configuration of industrial components, as well as their deploymentin a gallery context, allude to the Duchampian notion of the ready-made. However, according to Boursier-Mougenot, “the ready-made is an accepted fact of Western culture whose chief interest is to be an identifiable rhetorical principle. As far as I am concerned, the preexisting technical elements of the installation (vacuum cleaners, harmonicas, tuners, etc.) and the configuration I lend to them is what engenders a [new form of] ready-made: the music… I think it is important to promote an aesthetic field in which technology and poetry are not dissociated.”

A native of Nice, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot was born in 1961. He lives and works in Sète, France. His work has been exhibited in venues such as the capcMusée, Bordeaux, France (1997), the ITT InterCommunication Center, Tokyo (2000), the Herzliya Museum of Art, Israel (2001), the Printemps de Septembre in Toulouse, France (2004) and the Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, Florida (2005). Most recently, Boursier-Mougenot presented états seconds, a one-person exhibition at the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne in Reims, France (on view through October 15). His work is in major public and private collections around the world, including the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CA, the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris, and several Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (FRACs) in France.

For more information, please contact the gallery: (212) 255-1105 or