From altered atlases to room-scale fever simulations, French contemporary artist Etienne Chambaud has a conceptual and materially diverse practice that includes art objects, situational and multimedia installations, and text and film.Read More
Born in Mulhouse, France, Etienne Chambaud studied visual arts at the École cantonale d'art de Lausanne, graduating in 2003. He then studied at the National School of Fine Arts at the Villa Arson in Nice, later completing a postgraduate programme at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Lyon from 2004 to 2005. Following various residencies in France and the United States, the artist returned to study in Paris in 2018, taking up the SACRe doctoral programme in visual arts.
Whether tangible objects or created situations, Etienne Chambaud's artworks are gestures that generate questions and meaning in the act of their production and presentation. They are driven by themes of continuities and discontinuity, ecology, and the relationships between object, exhibition, and perception.
One of Chambaud's earliest works is Le Troupeau du Dehors / The Outside Herd (2004). For the live-streamed, situational installation, the artist introduced a replica of the black monolith from the science-fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey to the macaque enclosure of Mulhouse zoo. Animals and the natural world continue to be recurring themes in Chambaud's work, including in the animal skin-based 'Undercuts' (2012) series and 'Nameless' (2013), a series that uses animal urine as an agent for oxidisation.
Chambaud's conceptual gestures challenge perceptions of what an artwork is. In 'Flat Source' (2013), Chambaud marks the negatives of landscape photographs with a cross, indicating where the negative will be buried after the images are printed. A certificate engraved on the box they are buried in stipulates that the work ceases to be acknowledged as art if the box is opened. Etienne Chambaud's 'Fever' (2019) series turns the sensations of fever into an artwork, using an electronic installation to simulate the body temperatures associated with different illnesses.
Etienne Chambaud has often experimented with film and durational video works as a conceptual medium. In 2005, Chambaud created L'Horloge (2005–present), a durational work that used film stills of clocks from various movies to create a clock showing the exact time of day.
In other works, Chambaud plays with the documentary format. Counter-History of Separation (2010) traces the parallel histories of the guillotine and the modern museum in France through a 52-minute stop-motion film with out-of-sync text and audio narration.
Films like INCOMPLT (2016) document and reframe the artist's physical interventions. The artist documents the interaction of migrating butterflies with ice sculptures he placed in a mountain forest in Michoacán, Mexico during their annual migration. The accompanying backing score was produced by a software that transcribed the natural sounds recorded during the film's production, which were then played by acoustic instruments.
Etienne Chambaud's more tangible art objects vary in scale and longevity, while sharing in a deep conceptual underpinning. On a larger scale, Chambaud has produced On Hospitality (i.e. Exclusion) (2010), a mobile that is too large for its exhibition space, limiting the viewer's ability to conceive the object as a whole.
Etienne Chambaud's '"Atlas,"' (2008) works reconfigure old atlases. By cutting out circles, Chambaud connects geographically distant regions that are connected through historical exploitation or conflict. In Calculus (2019), Chambaud similarly takes a subtractive approach, presenting a replica of Rodin's The Thinker without the human figure.
Other works transform in the process of their presentation, such as the purposefully transient sculpture Cella (2017–2018), which configures oranges in a geometric shape that degrades as the organic components dry and rot.
Etienne Chambaud's solo exhibitions include Inexistence, Esther Schipper, Berlin (2021); Nœuds Négatifs, La Kunsthalle, Mulhouse (2018); Contre-Histoire de la Séparation, Centre international d'art et du paysage de Vassivière (CIAP), France (2010); The Sirens' Stage, David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2010); and Color Suite, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2009).
Chambaud's group exhibitions include I am Nature — Of Vulnerability. Survival in the risk society, ROHKUNSTBAU 26, Schloss Lieberose, Germany (2021); General Rehearsal, Moscow Museum of Modern Art (2018); After Dark, Musée d'art moderne et contemporain (MAMCO), Geneva (2015); New Ways of Doing Nothing, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2014); When Attitudes Became Forms Become Attitude, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco (2012); and Fun Palace, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2010).
Visit Etienne Chambaud's website here.
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021