The space of our life is neither continuous, nor infinite, neither homogeneous, nor isotropic. But do we really know where it shatters, where it curves, and where it assembles itself? We feel a confused sensation of cracks, hiatus, points of friction, sometimes we have the vague impression that it is getting jammed somewhere, or that it is bursting, or colliding.
Georges Perec, Espèces d’espaces
Joël Adrianomearisoa (Madagascar, 1977) develops his artistic work in the fine threshold produced by an indiscernible combination of personal references, allusions to Madagascar’s sociopolitical reality, a certain anthropology of the urban space, and haptic poetry. If the first of these themes is always indexed to his autobiography, and therefore compels us to a certain discretion, which is also inherent to his poetics, the anthropological, spatial and haptic issues he raises can be the object of some reflection.
In the Western world, anthropology of space has had a tradition that, in certain ways, is in opposition to a history of architecture that develops from image (Adrianomearisoa trained as an architect, he is therefore familiar with these issues), particularly obvious in the notion of spatiality advanced by Paul Frankl in the early-20th century (Principles of Architectural History: The Four Phases of Architectural History, first published in 1914), according to whom space is mostly an object of optical perception, a notion furthered by Siegfried Gideon in his Space, Time and Architecture (1941). This an idea of space anchored in visual perception — space as an image —, and one that disregards the body that brings space about, in the sense that space is perceived through vision, and therefore is a datum of experience. The notion of space as a construct arose with Henri Lefebvre, with the creation of representational spaces in which space was always seen as a secretion of the subject — either individual or social. It is upon this possibility that Joël Adrianoamerisoa’s oeuvre is built, in the sense that the sculptural or imaginal situations he creates — which are not limited to their objecthood — are always devoted to a perceptual construction that implies touch — or the anticipation of it. It is based upon this hapticity that Adrianoamerisoa offers the viewer a range of possibilities concerning the creation of intensities. In this respect, it is worthwhile to refer to Gilles Deleuze when he (in Difference and Repetition) notes that the notion of intensity does not exist in the Rationalist and Euclidean formulations of space, where it is possible through repetition.
In this exhibition, Adrianoamerisoa presents works that, in several ways, are declinations of the possibilities of constructing spatialities that, generated by a process of repetition, establish the several declinations of our lived space, which is anisotropic. In fact, this selection of large format pieces, and a sound work that reinforces the project’s spatial nature, proposes both an intensity based on repetition and a hapticity that emerges from the sensual sophistication of the rigorous choice of materials, from their achromatism, and from our craving to touch them.
Waiting for the seventh day that will bring us together in the first hours of the night (2011) is a sculptural set composed of twenty-one elements on a wall, shaping a tension between its material (paper), its near-weightlessness and the massiveness created by repetition (the iteration of paper sheets). This tension is antinomic; repetition, mass and weightlessness oppose in the creation of an interstitially that cuts across the entire exhibition.
The increasing density of the two components of Labyrinths of Passion Act IV and VI (2016) introduces the baroque intensity of the fold, or pleat, reinforcing once more the inevitability of assembling a spatiality from its negative, from the space that lies within it. This produces an intensity that is also made possible by the scale of the work — a monumentality that, nonetheless, is based upon the delicate nature of the work’s construction, tissue paper sheets are bound in folios that make up their density.
The sound piece Somewhere Over the Rainbow (2018) presents us with a sound palimpsest that combines fragments of urban sounds, the poetry of Jean Joseph Rabearivelo (a poet of Madagascar who died prematurely in 1937, and whom Sehghor considered to be the first African modernist), and songs from the artist’s personal memory, in a way repeating the methodology of layered accumulation of different semantic and perceptual levels we have identified in the previous works. On the other hand, the utilization of sound enhances the spatial hapticity of the project, establishing a poetics of space that is based upon an emotionality and contributes to the proposed intensity, while adding a political layer we can discover in the contrast between the camp choice of title, taken from the famous ballad Over the Rainbow, sung by Judy Garland in the movie The Wizard of Oz, and the political situation in Madagascar.
From the different planes of a proposal that is simultaneously aesthetical (in the sense of its plea for a sensorial cognition), spatially haptic and guided by a poetics that emerges from an individual anthropology, arises the fourth characteristic of his work: the persistence of liminality. We owe the concept of liminal space to anthropology; it results from Victor Turner’s appropriation of the interstitial nature of the rites of passage theorized by Arnold Von Gennep. Victor Turner focused his later works on this issue, and particularly on the performative nature of interstitial states, especially in social settings, and defended that these states — the tension between “what lies within” and an outlying shape, and how these fluid states imply a particular performativity — meant the end of the road for the modern concept of perspectival space. The performative space of liminality and its poetic potential are the field of post-modernity, as they refer to human, social, identity or merely subjective states that are not reducible to conditions, but only exist as fluid states.
The work of Joël Adrianoamerisoa is built upon this fluid and negotiated condition; in the interior of the density of his fragile material compositions, in the intensity of the black, within the baroque folds and pleats that produce the different widths of the space he proposes. We remember Perec, as he mused about life, “But do we really know where it shatters, where it curves, and where it assembles itself?”
I do not think so, but that uncertainty is the nature of life.