2013 - 2015 Marie-Andrée Pellerin: "Can the action of unmaking lead to something?"

Excerpt from Marie-Andrée's 20 minute presentation for Do The Right Thing ! ~ DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, July 2015.

Sometimes Unmaking Leads to Something (Breaking Carefully)


Working with a persistent tenacity and careful determination, Marie-Andrée Pellerin performed an “unmaking” of one of her earlier works, a plaster cast sculptural object with objects embedded within. While she labored to crack open the object using knives, saws, and a hammer, a parallel reading by three seated performers took place beside her. The text, “La Chambre Magmatique” by Pellerin, was read in French and English, alternatively. A fine balance was achieved by the two features of this performance; the calm and deliberate bilingual reading about climbing a volcano worked in opposition to Pellerin’s somewhat awkward efforts to undo her own work. The artist’s primary themes of making/unmaking, ascent/descent were demonstrated though this self-administered task to “work carefully”, and brought her initial question to the forefront: Is there relief in transformation?

Unlike her previous performances, here the artist took the role of the supporting actor in her own performance: the object, the action being performed on it, and the text were in the spotlight.

Maria Hlavajova reflected on the difficulty of staying with the moment of unmaking and considered this performance to be concerned with the question of tools, of looking for “heavy and strong tools to unmake the white cube.” Paraphrasing Bruno Latour, she said that he would say: with a hammer you cannot construct. This brought her to question the tools necessary to recompose prospects of another possibility, that is, “to gesture towards a form of things to come when there is a demand for artistic and intellectual stimulation.” Going back to the issue of the divide between audience and performer, she wondered if there are other ways to explore “being in things together.”

Bassam el Baroni answered Pellerin’s question with a resolute “no.” He backed this up by saying that unmaking cannot lead to something within the paradigm of contemporary art because contemporary art is already a process of unmaking. “Composition leads to a specific a priori notion of making that doesn't lead to anything except the gesture of something.” Referring to Deleuze and Guattari’s “What is Philosophy?” – he quoted, “composition is the sole definition of art. Composition is aesthetic and thus what is not composed is not a work of art.” Even silence, blankness and stillness are composed, and thus can be works of art or part of it. “The labor associated with art became associated with the labor of perceptual extraction.” El Baroni ’s analysis of the presentation came from a looking at it though the aspect of labor, which was extracted labor. Perception, he says, doesn’t come from the labor itself but from the reading. “What was extracted was an empty gesture. It doesn’t lead to anything. In order for it to do that, we need to remake the form of composition itself.”

For Alena Alexandrova, this brought up Derrida’s project of commentary as a way to reveal internal fissures. Now, she stated, you can’t claim to deconstruct something. It can lead to more understanding and the “the construction itself.” The object is indestructible. She addressed the artist, “Which object are you striking here? It’s the white cube, an excavation site, or Francis Alÿs’ ice block.” In Pellerin’s case, the stubborn presence of the object calls for a kind of excavation where we are asked to make some sense of what has been exposed.

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