Essay by Arnaud Hée

[From the concrete abstractions exhibition catalogue]


Such a title, « Concrete Abstractions », suggests both likely clashes and potential reconciliation. It also raises a question that one cannot escape: how can we inhabit reality when the direct, or more precisely the concrete experience of the world – as described by Guy Debord – eludes us? With this question, artists have limitless scope for expression whatever instrument they may use. One of their challenges, precisely, is to go beyond and even reverse Debord’s observations. How can this be done? Maybe by embracing the essay Experience and Poverty (1933) by Walter Benjamin, where he mentions a “new positive conception of barbarity. Where does his lack of experience lead the barbarian to? It leads him to start all over, from scratch, to manage with limited resources, to build from almost nothing, without allowing himself to be distracted“.

Frédéric Caillard being a dedicated movie-goer, let’s take another side track around Film Socialisme (2010) by Jean-Luc Godard. The cruise ship that drifts over the Mediterranean Sea states, with raging and off-putting strength, the impoverishment of the experience of reality: on this ship sails a defeated humanity. It is by relocating his film in a garage in a remote part of France, that the director opens the way to redemption. The two kids of the garage – endowed with the power of incarnation that the specters wandering on the ship are lacking – attempt to reinvent, to grow a local re-enchantment which could eventually lead to a new universality. To embody and to reinvent a given territory is also what Frédéric Caillard is doing, in his own way, starting all over and managing as best he can. He goes through an obvious contradiction with those spaces delimited by arbitrary human rules and uses an hybrid gesture, breaking down some of the barriers of artistic practices (painting, etching, sculpture), of tones and matter – rough, smooth, harmonious, uneven. Spaces of tensions are thus defined, new imaginary topographies and toponymies are created and new territories for experimentation come to life as potential spaces and scenes of a future to come.

Arnaud Hée