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Issue 151

“Tourbe Chunky” — Guillaume Adjutor Provost in Conversation with Toshio Matsumoto
by Alexa Bunnell

Bile gathered at the bottom of my esophagus; I could taste it. “Câlice,” I muttered into the concrete of a Montreal alleyway. As I bent my chest to my legs, I folded my torso strategically to compress my stomach, easing the retching that would soon make focusing on anything aside from my heaving core impossible. My legs were splayed like a giraffe bending to drink water in the hopes of reducing the acidic splash, something one should consider when throwing up on concrete.

A series of resin vomit puddles by Guillaume Adjutor Provost titled Cioran Slapstick [vomit] (2020) are splattered around the gallery space, reflecting the stark and industrial fluorescent light of TRUCK Contemporary Art. Each puddle contains a collection of different expired dried goods and coins. Bending over to take a closer look at their contents, I’m reminded of that familiar, strategic position I took time and time again to quell my nauseated stomach. Swimming within the resin are small anchovies, corn, beans, and pocket change. The Cioran Slapstick vomit retch series evokes a visceral horror as I move within the space with a thought: “Someone was sick here.”

Throughout the Main Space of TRUCK, Guillaume Adjutor Provost conceives of a hypercapitalist society as an ailing body, whose deepening inequalities leave behind puddles of vomit, a leaden tongue, and a rib cage constructed of sliced X-rays. While “Tourbe Chunky” continually references this failing body-economy, the body is never fully revealed to us. Like a horror that lurks just beyond the camera lens in a film, or in the closet, we only see the detritus and the fluids that this body-society leaves behind. Within the cork sculpture titled Blurring Big Tongue (2019) a glossectomy results in a heavy tongue hanging under industrial light, disconnected from the mouth that used to houseit. Reaching for the concrete floor, swathes of cork are punched with lead, contrasted with curved X-ray strips that gracefully evoke the image of a rib cage. Grinning teeth and arched spines are exposed by the X-rays, vulnerable and ready for evaluation. Steel cables pierce through the X-rays, linking this rib cage to the cork tongue, like steel pins that hold together broken joints and torn ligaments. I lean in close to examine the lead stamps while consulting the exhibition maps, in a gesture that mirrors a doctor examining a strange mole, or perhaps an autopsy. As a spectator-doctor to the ailing body-economy, my attempt at a diagnosis is just to name what has always been there: dysfunctional growth at the expense of others.

Death, illness, and the body are continually referenced within the printed fibre works that line the walls of the gallery. In Melancholic Skeleton Looking at the Horizon [Philosophy] (2020), a skeleton rests with a rifle in its hands, pondering a sunset. Sewn in front of its ribcage is a handkerchief printed with an illustration seemingly out of a children’s book: a scene of frogs enjoying a leisurely picnic under a mushroom. Perched atop a motorcycle, a skeleton grins with a pair of aviator glasses in Happy Skeleton Riding a Motorcycle [Philosophy] (2020). The gas tank on the motorcycle is
shaped like a coffin. Within Red Foxgloves with Thorns [Neoliberalism] v.2 (2021) foxgloves are hued in a deep red colour and pierced by thorns. Also known as dead man’s bells, the entire plant is toxic, even when dried.

Entering the darkness of TRUCK’s Parkade space, Everything Visible is Empty [Siki Soku Ze Ku] (1975) by Toshio Matsumoto pulsates with flashing lights, imagery, and colours. The short film begins with the characters of the Heart Sutra, which are repeated five times throughout the film, accompanied by growing, vivid colours. Close-ups of eyes, ears, mouths, and hands emerge from the dark plane, flashing between each character. Gradually, the flashing intensifies and the images climax into a shattering of dazzling light. It’s physically hard to watch; my eyes and brain struggle to comprehend how wide to hold my pupil, to what extent my iris should contract. I can feel a headache coming on. I try blurring my vision, focusing on nothing. My ciliary muscles relax. The flashing lights and smattering colours don’t overwhelm anymore, instead passing by like a dream, or a thought. Contrasting the anxiety elicited by the ailing body-economy presented in TRUCK’s Main Space, Everything Visible is Empty [Siki Soku Ze Ku] is stroboscopic, enchanting, and seductive. With eyes gently glazed over, I exit the screening room, rupturing the lax position I took up to endure the flashing lights. Perhaps the inclusion of this film is a gesture to the Latin etymology of curation: “to take care of.” Matsumoto’s film can tend to an anxious viewer as they leave the exhibition or prepare them as they enter.

The conception of the ailing body-economy within “Tourbe Chunky” presents an urgent comparison between the body and the economy. Late capitalism has stripped bare public healthcare systems, while extractive systems bring environmental devastation and habitat loss, which in turn forces closer contact between industrial human regions with pathogen-harbouring wildlife. Accelerating late capitalism has dire consequences on a global scale for the health of many, as evidenced by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Capitalism, in its ceaseless hunt for growth and expansion, leaves behind skeletons that are at once abandoned, unnurtured, and grinning. “Tourbe Chunky” distils the dissonance and the emptiness brought by capitalist crises.

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