Orangerie du Jardin du Luxembourg – Paris
Curator: Julie Crenn
While in California and training in the art of weaving, Etel Adnan wrote in 1968: "The human body is indeed this loom, the weft being these bones that try to stand upright in this illusion that is space; and there is this thread perpendicular to the weft that is called time, making us invisible crucified... [...] the vertigo comes from the fact that we are a tapestry that can no longer be unravelled and that no one can contain. "Marie-Claire Messouma Manlanbien amplifies the weave of time and space. She amplifies her body, which becomes a collective place where all forms of life are brought together. The artist places her own body at the centre of her artistic practice. It is both the matrix and the vessel of memories, eras, geographies, cultures, languages, tales and rituals. Listening to worlds, visible and invisible - ancestral, present and future, her body becomes the tool by which she connects, weaves or reweaves the fragile, silent, broken, forgotten or eroded links. The drawings, performances and clothing are the result of precise gestures. They contain the elements of a new writing and language. That of a song, an infinite poem, an ode to the living, to the cosmos, to the seas and oceans, to women, to love, to spirits.
Inside the vessel of memories and worlds are the objects of the Dja (Dja Yobuè) from Akan society. These are stones (yobwé) made of gold, lead or brass. Their surfaces are engraved with shapes referring to numbers and letters. The objects of the Dja belong to monetary or weight systems. Numbers and letters also translate an ancestral memory contained in proverbs, tales and historical accounts that are passed on from hand to hand, orally and according to a matrilineal heritage. The figurative weights and their cryptic writing silently guard the legends and stories of a civilisation. Marie-Claire Messouma Manlanbien in turn adopts the role of a griot, a woman who declaims, who speaks, who tells a plural history. Through her body and her own history, she generates ramifications and weaves those of her Akan and West Indian ancestors. To do this, she extracts forms or fragments of forms from the objects of Dja. She transposes them into clothing, weavings, drawings and poems that compose a plastic writing inscribed in the Relation. "There are not only five continents, there are archipelagos, a flowering of seas, obvious and hidden, the most secret of which already move us. Not only four races, but before today, astonishing encounters, which opened up the open sea. They were there, we see them. The fixed or performed works carry a cartographic, rhizomic, spiritual, cosmic and mythological writing. A writing that links worlds. "I think of the sacred writing that the Peruvian Indians had established, a system of hieroglyphs, symbols ordered, structured, inserted, in the weavings. Writings woven into the shrouds accompanying the deceased or rather opening the doors of death. [...] Ancient Peru (like ancient Egypt) entrusted fabrics, strips, the purest linen, with the power to bring life to life, from the visible to the sensible, from certainty to the absolute. Symbols, materials and gestures participate in an infinite weaving of everything that constitutes the body, the experience and the history of the artist.
The forms from the objects of Deja are moulded in plaster or cut out of different materials. They are connected to each other by conductive materials (especially copper), embroidered threads or assemblies. The coverings, which are at the same time hangings, sculptures and performative garments, also include metal sponges that are used for scouring. Their presence, both familiar and strange, echoes domestic work, the invisible work of women. The sponge, charged with patriarchal assignations, is reused here for its shine, its dangerousness and its preciousness. The clothes contain the creolisation, the bodies, the voices, the displacements, the violence, the transformations of the nomads, the exiles, the wanderers, the invisibilised, which the artist gives us to see and hear. "The different, not the identical, is the elementary particle of the fabric of life, or of the woven web of cultures. The narratives of their interwoven, intertwined histories are activated and embodied by the performance. The artist's body wears, connects, crosses, cultivates, touches, caresses, transmits, chafes, advances, chants and stands. She transmits and transcends both the fragments of an immemorial memory and the archipelagic manifestations of a present body.
"My roots go down into the depths of the world, through dry clay and wet earth, through veins of lead, veins of silver. My body is nothing more than a fibre. All the tremors reverberate through me, and the weight of the earth presses against my ribs." A living entity, human, vegetable, cosmic, organic, Marie-Claire Messouma Manlanbien declaims the plural tales of a story told in an expanse that goes far back into the past and extends into the future. The polysemic works manifest the need to understand and touch these temporalities that go beyond us, these archipelagic geographies, these physical cries and these infinite alliances between what we see, what we collect and what we sense. The artist delivers a political, sensitive, secret and spiritual poetry that reminds us to be in common in order to get rid of the thoughts of unbinding. It is an invitation to get out of the "entre-soi" to take the open sea, as a condition of our collective survival. "The works presented together constitute the magnetic and composite weave of a thought in constant metamorphosis. Between and among the wefts of space and time, Marie-Claire Messouma Manlanbien's shuttle body unfolds a weaving in motion.
Julie Crenn, Valognes, April 2021