This text was for Artist' Shelves

A publication with Rossella Biscotti, Katinka Bock, Gintaras Didziapetris, Patricia Esquivias, Simon Fujiwara, Joo Maria Gusmao & Pedro Paiva, Emre Hner, Reto Pulfer, Raymond Taudin Chabot, Carla Zaccagnini
Edited by Im-press

by Isobel Harbison

Raymond Taudin Chabot's works confront the politics of spectatorship, the hab- its and thresholds of social behavioral norms, and the barriers or devices that are adopted to subvert both. Recent projects Archive (2007) and Archive 2 (2010) illustrate the choreography of power through a series of photographs cropped - without title or label - from international newspapers. Archive is a looped video slide show comprising a series of images of white male politicians ordered according to gesture; powerful men alone, in pairs or groups, earnestly delivering speeches, confidently waving victorious, amicably shaking hands, in cars, on stages, celebrating, commiserating. Archive 2 adopts the same format of cropped press cuttings, this time of proletarian protests, their whereabouts suggested through the indicators of language and race. Both strip the performances from their particularities, and present these gestures as measured and rehearsed rather than improvised and 'natural', universalizing both demonstrations as political productions. Taudin Chabot's venture for Artists' Shelves combines several images from these two previous 'choreographies' with a new gathering suggestive of the symbiosis between the spectacle and the obscuration of power, their links associative rather than explicit. One image is of marble a Roman Patrician (c. 15 AD), carrying two busts of his deceased family members. This life-sized sculpture marks the Roman tradition where the masks of ancestors were carried or worn to official ceremonies by family members, a tradition that prompted Greek writer Polybios (202 - 120 BC) to ask, 'Is there anyone who would not be edified by seeing these portraits of men who were renowned for the excel lence and by having them present as if they were living and breathing?' The gesture of adopting a guise of stability and notability and making it plainly visible is one that keeps contemporary politicians afloat in the changing tides of public favour. Taudin Chabot explores the dependency of political showmanship upon public spectatorship, and the murky waters of disappearance - both personal and political - that inevitably surround these appearances. Another key image in this series shows the back of a jester, cropped from 'The Fight Between Carnival and Lent' by Bruegel, suggestive of disharmony and disappear ance at a public event. Carnival, as philosopher Mikhail Bakhtain defined it, was a medieval public event of disorder and excess, during which the antics of all citizens - who adopted masks and costumes to play out new or adopted identities - were viewed as equal. Arguably, Carnival provided a temporary release from the anxiety, tension and monotony of the cast system's lower rungs, preparing them for the increased austerity of Lent. This dichotomy resonates at several levels of Taudin Chabot's new work. Following the overpowering 'visibility' of a temporary carnival or its equivalent -illustrated here in images from a range of historical eras - citizens recede back into invisibility, and the platform that raised the carnival's ghouls vanished. In contrast to the pared down Archive images of campaigns and riots, these physical performances are emphasised. Both however explore the threshold between the spectacle of the rhetorical political event and the visibility of its nuances and possible impact.