In her introduction to the performed lecture Temple of Love (2020), recently presented at MO.CO in Montpellier, France, Gaëlle Choisne addressed the public with a Haitian Creole expression: cric crac. According to oral tradition, the person wanting to tell a story shouts out ‘cric’, to which their audience responds ‘crac’ if they wish to listen.
To those who want to hear it, the artist outlines her personal details: a Haitian mother, a Breton father, and the difficult transmission of a story marked by the ravages of the Duvalier dictatorship. Then, the subject of her work: vestiges of colonialism (universal expositions, gardens, greenhouses, architecture) and the incarnations of its continuum (merchandise and commodities, extractivist practices, vernacular survivors and globalized cultures) at the time of the sixth mass extinction.
To invest the density of these complex and shifting dynamics in perpetual revolution, Gaëlle Choisne uses choral art forms that she readily describes as experimental. If sculpture, installation and a taste for abrupt confrontations with raw materials have always accompanied the artist, her video practice, which navigates between documentary, found footage and speculative narratives, plays an equivalently important role. Between these two great families consistently populating her work intervene collections of found objects, some of which have been preserved for many years, showing her special attention to charms, amulets, talismans, and playing cards, among many other things. These collections convey the artist’s interest in the occult, in taxonomy, exoticism, merchandising, spirituality and popular practices sometimes referred to as ‘amateur’.
In the publicatio Autobiographical Voices: Race, Gender, Self-Portraiture, published in 1989, Françoise Lionnet borrows the ideas of métissage and bricolage from Édouard Glissant and Claude Levi-Strauss to form an aesthetic category of ‘creative instability’, in which the pure and the unitary are irrelevant, as with Choisne. In contrast, the affirmation of a practice of multiplicity and hybridization enables the production of new empowering narratives that nourish the heterogeneous and shifting identities of postcolonial subjects. Amongst them, F. Lionnet focuses on describing autoethnography, a strategy of disrupting colonial cultural economies through a self-writing method – reflexive and anthropological – that constantly navigates the multiple to the individual, allowing itself to borrow the voice and tone of the colonizer while distorting the objects of study.
In her recent film Accumulation primitive (2020), Choisne sets out to meet several women: a healer (docteure-feuille, in French, which literally translates as plant or leaf doctor) and a voodoo priestess in Haiti, as well as the French artist and music producer Christelle Oyiri and her mother, Marie-Carmen Brouard. These stories are intertwined with archival videos, poetic evocations of Haiti and philosophical reflections on the enslavement of women. Through trial and error, Choisne seeks out the emancipatory connections that can link a collective and personal history to the disorders of the present. Playing the role of an orphan, she constructs her own genealogy through the capacities of endurance, mutation and transmission of the subjects she represents – and of herself.
Text by Thomas Conchou
Gaëlle Choisne (b. 1985, France) lives and works between Paris and Berlin. She also works with a number of public and private institutions in Haiti, where she is engaged in various alternative, collective and cultural projects. Selected solo exhibitions include Frieze London, art fair with NıCOLETTı, London, UK (2022); Blue Lights in the Basement, NıCOLETTı, London, UK (2022)Temple of Love — to Hide, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, GE (2022); Temple of Love — Atopos, MAC VAL, Vitry-sur-Seine, FR (2022); Mondes Subtiles, Air de Paris, FR (2021); 999, Galerie des Multiples, Paris, FR (2022); Défixion, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, archaeological site of Lattara – Musée Henri Prades, in collaboration with MO.CO., Montpellier, FR (2020); Temple of Love, Nuit Blanche, Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, FR (2020); Temple of Love — Adorable, The Mistake Room, Los Angeles, CA (2019), and Temple of Love, Bétonsalon, Paris, FR (2018). Her work was exhibited in international group exhibitions including Hypernuit, Base sous-marine de Bordeaux, FR (2022); total climate part 1: the infinitesimal and the mobile, NıCOLETTı, London (2022); Separate/Together, Cooper Cole, Toronto, CA (2022); Soft Water, Hard Stone, The 5th New Museum Triennial, New Museum, New York, USA (2021), the 15th Biennale de Lyon, FR (2019); the 14th Curitiba Biennial, Brazil (2019); the Sharjah Biennial 13, Beirut (2017); the 12th Havana Biennial, Cuba (2015); and the 13th Biennale de Lyon (2015). She has also had the opportunity to exhibit her work in international institutions such as the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon; the MAMO, Cité Radieuse of Le Corbusier, Marseille; CAFA Museum in Beijing, and the Pera Museum in Istanbul. Her upcoming projects include a solo show at the Musée National de l’histoire de l’immigration, Paris (2022–23).