Mendes Wood DM is proud to inaugurate its new gallery space in Paris with the exhibition entitled I See No Difference Between a Handshake and a Poem curated by Fernanda Brenner. Taking its title from a sentence in a letter by the poet Paul Celan in 1960, the exhibition brings together a wide range of artists from different contexts and career stages while considering its distinctive location: the oldest planned square in Paris, the Place des Vosges. The collective show proposes a divagation on touching hands across time: the hand imprinted on the rock walls of a cave, the hand holding another hand, the hand that caresses, creates, and destroys. The works on view invite a close look at what hands touch and circumscribe and what it lets slip away as a reconsideration of how we relate to living and non-living beings, starting from the simple acknowledgment that all things exist through mutual engagement. It is, above all, a proposition to look at subjects not as isolated and autonomous entities but as a flickering constellation between inhuman time, nonhuman forces, and geologic materiality.
Taking its title from a sentence in a letter by the poet Paul Celan in 1960, the exhibition brings together a wide range of artists from different contexts and career stages, while considering its distinctive location: the oldest planned square in Paris, the Place des Vosges. From artistic depictions of touch and hand imprints to gestures that changed and ushered things, the works on view do not respond to a theme but rather add a layer of meaning to a charged site.
Throughout history, civilizations have been defined by the work of human hands: painting caves, inventing tools, writing records, operating machinery, typing, texting, and sewing–to name a few activities of the hands. Brenner's show investigates what hands circumscribe or let slip away, overall, it attempts to grasp what happens through touch. In her words:
'The hand is one of the oldest symbols we can find; it has appeared in most cultures since time immemorial. The ancient handprints seen on cave wallsworldwide were mostly formed by spitting pigment over or stamping hands against stonewalls, perhaps as a ritual or prehistoric declaration of self. Maybe our first ancestors left those marks because they wanted to reach towards us through time. We will never know. A handprint is evidence of physical existence. It is a mark of one's mortality—the foundational gesture of humankind.'
Touching, or connecting, is essential in Marguerite Duras' 1978 short film Les mains négatives (The Negative Hands), a cornerstone work in the exhibition. Duras' film departs from the Magdalenian caves on Europe's Atlantic coast, where a profusion of handprints from the same person was found. Through a car window, Duras' camera films Paris through the break of dawn and captures some of the city's boulevards. Under a bottomless blue sky, we seem to witness the last passerby from yesterday greeting the first one from today, while a low disembodied voice describes the negative hands as a sort of petrified cry as when someone placed their palm and fingers against the cave wall some thirty-thousand years ago. Duras's gliding camera incidentally captures the presence of a certain section of humanity. Those who clean the streets, houses, and offices and will soon withdraw to leave the city for the ones who will come later in the working day. The images of the waking-up city and the voiceover are linked through an implicit analogy between the ancient man in the grotto, and those, mainly immigrant and racialized, workers of the early morning. Projecting this film today, in the same city once captured by Duras, invites a similar gesture: to touch another time without losing track of the present.
Fostering conversations over time and space is at the core of Mendes Wood DM's philosophy. The gallery was founded in 2010 with the intent of exhibiting international and Brazilian artists in a context conducive to critical dialogue and the cross-pollination of ideas. I see no difference between a handshake and a poem, takes forward this belief by presenting works by leading Brazilian and international artists, both from the gallery's program and the wider contemporary spectrum, in an exhibition that invites viewers to connect, both internally or intersubjectively, with other beings, other places and other times. The artists and works in the space will touch and add their imprint to walls which have been there since 1615.
Notable commissions include a new monochrome painting by Brazilian artist Lucas Arruda, and a hanging textile sculpture by Sonia Gomes. Artists from Brazil are represented elsewhere in the captivating image from Marina Perez Simão, a new work by Paula Siebra and pieces by Paloma Bosquê and Letícia Ramos. Contributions from Mendes Wood DM's roster of international artists include Free-Space Path Lost (2017) by Nina Canell, a fingerprint sculpture cast in copper; a site specific installation by Paris-based Matthew Lutz-Kinoy; and a new painting by Italian Giangiacomo Rossetti.
Featured within the exhibition's international selection of invited artists are the photographic works by Adrián Balseca, a silkscreen and video piece by Alejandro Cesarco, installations by Paul Maheke, works on paper by Tosh Basco, alongside new project commissions by Karim Aïnouz, Katinka Bock, Philip Fleischman, Hana Miletić, Charlotte Moth, and Jeremy Shaw and works by leading Brazilian contemporary artists such as the photography of Mauro Restiffe and stoneware sculpture by Erika Verzutti.
As the curator puts: 'There is some touch in all writing and artmaking; reading and coming close to an artwork is a question of intimacy... This exhibition is foremost a collective attempt to grasp what happens in a touch: when an infinity of others — other beings, other spaces, other times—are aroused. I like to believe that the experience of an exhibition or cohabiting in a space or a city is also a matter of touch. It is an experience of touching and being touched, like the touch of hands and bodies. As Ocean Vuong writes, sometimes your hand is all you have to hold yourself to this world-. Touching is reassuring, and so is art'.
Artists include: Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa, Armando Andrade Tudela, Lucas Arruda, Karim Aïnouz, Adrián Balseca, Tosh Basco, Katinka Bock, Paloma Bosquê, Nina Canell, Guglielmo Castelli, Alejandro Cesarco, Mariana Castillo Deball, Marguerite Duras, Philipp Fleischmann, Sonia Gomes, Barbara Hammer, Runo Lagomarsino, Patricia Leite, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Paul Maheke, Hana Miletić, Charlotte Moth, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Paulo Nazareth, Lygia Pape, Yvonne Rainer, Letícia Ramos, Mauro Restiffe, Luiz Roque, Giangiacomo Rossetti, Maaike Schoorel, Jeremy Shaw, Paula Siebra, Willard Steiner & Ralph Van Dyke, Davide Stucchi, Kishio Suga, Pol Taburet, Sophie Thun and Erika Verzutti
Press release courtesy Mendes Wood DM.
25 Place des Vosges