Cutting and Grafting is the reconfiguring of things, with things into other things.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it creates monsters.
Henri Papin was born about seven years ago. I t might have been eight, it’s hard to tell because the gestation period for these things is unpredictable and irregular. It’s not linear, with a beginning and an end, rather at some moment in time there is a realisation that this, in some form, has been going on forever.
He was most concretely birthed into the gallery arena in 2006. When I say He, I mean – the things with which (He; fictional) chose to surround himself with. You see, Henri Papin is a collector of things. He is defined by them as much as any of one's objects might divulge. His stories, his very essence is reflected though the varying assortment of things that we have placed on display on his behalf over the last seven or so years.
The things collected in this instance historically, have been based on experience; Small tokens and souvenirs taken in order to trigger those important memories that enable our friend Henri to relive the experiences over and over again. You see, it is not so much the objects themselves, although occasionally fetishised, of course – but what they represent that is the coveted quality collected here. Whether that manifests as a lock of hair, a stray thread from a jacket, a discarded note, a certain kind of scent, or a particular sensation; these things etc. are de-constructed and notated thoroughly for future configurations.
Eventually though, we move beyond mere things and into the other things which have determined this character – what of his thoughts and motivations? How has he been shaped and defined?
As we have moved on throughout the project it is these mechanisms which we have chosen to manifest physically. And so we construct devices, and they stand in place for things we take for granted, for processes that are automatic and largely ignored. These things then, become the symbolic objects of Henri's larger compulsive collecting.
The Magnetic confluence.
Three stations – the liquid, the mineral and the particle – three iron-based compounds. Recently they discovered the presence of magnetite in the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers. Minute fragments; crystals growing at a scale of micro-meters, that gradually erase memories. Henri is obsessed with memory, and remembering, hence the obsessive collecting and recording; the coveting of triggers.
Gradually though, the obsessional behaviour forms its own trap. The remembering starts to weed out and eliminate the irksome details which interrupt the flow of the narrative, or which become problematic.
This inner censor pulls away the rotting layers to reveal the new, to re-create ever more perfect memories, and a kind of entropy is reached. The perfection is looped in an unending chorus which slowly, due to its inherent instability, eradicates itself. Those appealing things; symbols of attraction and desire, which themselves originally attracted and repelled no longer do much of anything.
Their gestation period is unpredictable; the thing that eventuates is a strange approximation of the original forms which inspired it.
Beside the forgetting, there is the transmitting and receiving.
Here also are minerals which determine the hierarchy of things. Here now, the metalloids Pyrite and Galena, receptive materials, prodded with cat's whiskers they determine the radio frequencies, change the course of currents from alternating to direct. They receive the radio waves, transform them into sound and give their secrets over with little more than a whimper.
These are different loops, loops which play over and over into the ether, largely unconcerned with external communication, they are something of the inner monologue, a retelling of two particularly momentous occasions – one conscious (memory, childhood), one unconscious (dream) – both equally important in his development, both formulate the basis of certain aspects of his character. Using hand-wound loop antennae and tuning coils, they extract the inner voice from one room, and transmit it through the space to be rectified, received and overheard.
The great pocket of Stibnite.
Downstairs the constructed self is punctured with a pocket of Stibnite.
Stibnite; Sb2S3, source of Antimony; toxic to the touch, descendant of Arsenic, used historically in eye make-up, pyrotechnic compositions and in the turning of base metals into gold.
It grows in the fissures left by the process of dissolution, amongst the vents that siphon off those excess passions and occasionally volcanic obsessions. It takes all the censored moments snipped from the perfection of the reconfigured memories and leaches them through the strata to collect in forgotten pockets. They saturate in those confined spaces, cut off from Henri's awareness, left to themselves they spread like veins into any other available space, and within them, sometimes, they form inclusions, concretions and phantoms.
Fractionally they crystallise. Inside the pocket, protected by stibnite (image, sensation, transformation) the discarded moments slowly fuse, and forge and meld into new forms. They take the shape of distorted figures because their raw materials were originally human experience. They hybridise with species that enforce their resilience: arboreal, fungal, bestial.
The raft of the Medusa.
Some things exist merely to be sacrificed.
The act of cannibalising one's own memories leaves a steady stream of unidentifiable limbs and dysfunctioning organs in its wake. The process of refining is a kind of distillation of the material down to its fundamental essence.
We are all meat. Under the skin and the teeth and the hair the essential matter differs only so slightly.
Some things in Henri's world exist actually in his realm. Most things exist to service the greater fiction. This glasshouse, and the intimate collections of fly fishing flies are actual things. The latter one of those obvious cutting and grafting things – hair taken, not always willingly and transformed into lures. The greenhouse is a laboratory of experiments. One material bound to another, inosculated, twisted and made into new forms.
They are a sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal meshing of incompatible media. Like the reconfigured memories there is a disquieting sense of overt control in their configuring.
And yet they are nurtured.
The Sleeper cell.
We are the voices in Henri's head.
The relationship is complex, and sometimes we all forget who is in service to whom. And what. One of us writes the stream of consciousness. One constructs the visual narrative. The audience can divert both or either by dropping an index card into the sleeper cell. Its not just the words themselves, or the suggestions – i's the placement on the cards and the handwriting itself. It's the tokens and triggers delivering themselves up for scrutiny, for subsuming into the larger overall story.
Speaking of stories, we, as always owe much to Jean Genet.
Divine, Darling and Our Lady of the flowers.
Green-Eyes, Maurice and Lefranc.
Madame, Solange and Claire.
Papin, Meijers and Walsh.