On an installation by Ludovic Boney at Centre Action Art Actuel (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Qc), March 15 – April 21, 2018, subsequently adapted for Le Lieu – Centre en art actuel (Quebec City) in 2019 and Galerie Pierre-François-Ouellette Art Contemporain (Montreal) in 2021.
Known for his monumental works created in the context of the application of the Policy for the Integration of Arts in Architecture, Ludovic Boney completes a cycle of gallery presentations spread over the last year, his first solo exhibitions to date. Presented at the center Action Art Actuel d’artistes de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, the installation NSPSLL!, an acronym for the parental advice “don’t jump on the beds”, is a continuation of Afin d’éviter tous ces nœuds, exhibited at Oboro in April 2017, and Sous les chatons, presented at Galerie Michel Guimont in December of the same year.
Inspired by Oboro’s space and its creaking floors, Afin d’éviter tous ces nœuds consists of a wooden platform that crosses a narrow path lined with 2,000 vertical rods whose heads are adorned with plastic bag pennants. The flexibility of the planks, supported only at their ends, allows the whole thing to come alive as you walk along, making this metallic meadow waltz like the grasses in a meadow. The creaking of the wood, the clattering of the rods and the crumpling of the bags compose a soundtrack in phase with our wandering. In contrast with the alignment of the floor slats, the planks of this footbridge recall the arrangement of cultivated land seen from a bird’s eye view. This monumental sculptural gesture is also apprehended from behind as a landscape that we contemplate and that others animate in front of us.
Presented at the Michel Guimont Gallery during the holiday season, Sous les chatons unfolds like a cloud of 15,000 ceramic birch flowers suspended from the ceiling. The impressive quantity of elements forms an enveloping canopy, to which responds a crown of fir branches placed on the floor. Perceptible day and night through the gallery’s window, the multicolored ensemble is a monumental nod to the baubles with which Christmas trees are decorated and evokes the commercial seduction operation at work at this time of year.
Concern for the journey and the experience of the territory also serves as a primer for NSPSLL! The installation takes the viewer through the longitudinal space of the gallery on a path of mattresses surrounded by a forest of tangled timbers, supporting an array of trinkets from discount stores. Glittering decorations and streamers, decorative fruit, toy trucks, beach games and children’s paddling pools, fishing decoys and fleets and rubber boots, a whole range of accessories held together by an array of explicitly expressed materials ranging from square ties to gaffer tape, from string to flexible rubber tubes. A complex compressed air system, powered by five industrial compressors displayed in the window, activates the whole mess. Each step we take activates a valve that triggers a series of mechanisms, creating a joyful din of blasts, whistles, various flutes, bubbling and splashing, as well as impact and bumper hits.
Ludovic Boney seems at first to imagine this kinetic choreography of junk for our sole amusement. These trinkets, chosen for their eye-catching visual character, testify to a thirst for fantastical utopias subjected to a commercial and advertising enterprise. The installation includes various allusions to this aesthetic of excess and glitz, conveyed by a market that sells us and praises the emancipation of hedonism and appearance. These figures of superficiality, accessories of leisure and entertainment activities lead us to believe that happiness lies in the accumulation of things outside of any moral or social responsibility. However, they are easily exhausted and remain doomed to rapid obsolescence, both in terms of meaning and usefulness. The colossal work required to create the NSPSLL! installation is a gesture of resistance to this consumerism. The on-site installation mobilized a team of five people full time for more than seven days. The square brackets, the tape, the string, the flexible tubes and the planks that structure the whole, remain visible and testify to a patient work of assembly. This insistence on production does not contribute to the flashiness of the installation’s components and is an eloquent critique of their exaggerated spectacular dimension.
In order to maintain air pressure, the compressors placed in the window also regularly sound the end of this recreation and start up in a din of motors impossible to ignore, drawing our attention to the amount of energy consumed by the system. In the Hydro project, conceived in collaboration with Caroline Monnet in the context of the “Déranger” incubator, Ludovic Boney had already expressed similar concerns about our overconsumption of energy. The installation NSPSLL! deciphers and describes the causal links between the search for fleeting pleasures and the wastefulness at the heart of our consumption habits, turning the playful experience it proposes on its head.
Like the works Afin d’éviter tous ces nœuds and Sous les chatons, reproducing a meadow for the former and a canopy for the latter, the NSPSLL! installation also refers to a singular experience of a natural environment. Several objects that it integrates refer directly to outdoor activities, swimming, hunting and fishing or picnics, to animal figures, plastic ducks, paper geese and fake fish, or to different forms of plants ranging from bouquets of cut flowers to decorative garlands. This hedonism of the outdoors is also contributing to the transformation of natural spaces into dedicated places of consumption and leisure. Just like the previous ones, this recent work by Ludovic Boney confronts us with antinomic experiences of nature, that of a territory apprehended simply by the body, opposed to that of its artificial imitation and its spectacularization peddled by a frantic consumerism. The impressive quantity of products and useless merchandise that stand today between us and a simpler experience of the place, raises in a rather strong way the question of the survival of our planet. In front of this work, our amusement turns out to be more anxious than it seems at first sight.