“Je m’appelle Cortana”: an exhibition that is literally yours!



#BESANCON “Je m’appelle Cortana” by Sylvie Fanchon at the Frac Franche-Comté de Besançon proposes a dialogue between Sylvie Fanchon’s works and the works of the two Frac Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.

Through an easily identifiable practice Sylvie Fanchon paint with a recurrent protocol: economy of means, bichromy, flatness, schematization… With simplified flat shapes she creates an alphabet of icons close to the signage or the logotype, without apparent expressiveness. It gradually integrates the text for the sole plastic beauty of the letters, again using the most neutral typographies possible. From 2014, with her series Tableauaux scotch, Sylvie Fanchon will experiment with a new technique by applying a first coat on her canvas, on which she will apply adhesive strips before covering the whole with a second colour. Once the scotches are torn off, the patterns appear in reserve, creating a disturbing relationship between form and substance. The letter that appeared sporadically is becoming more and more present in his work.

“I have always considered the painting as a place of thought. This thought is specifically plastic… Painting comes down to a simple observation: what to paint and how to paint,” she says, paraphrasing in the second part Gerhard Richter. Sylvie puppet questions the world, the world of art and the medium, today she works mainly by prints, using scotches, letters and stencils. This practice takes on such an important dimension that it leaves the canvas to express itself on entire walls, particularly with its SF series, as we have seen again recently with SagesFemmes at the MacVal de Vitry sur Seine.

The words chosen by Sylvie Fanchon are borrowed from our environment. In the case of the exhibition presented at the Frac Franche-Comté, it is a strange encounter with a synthetic voice that was presented under the name of Cortana. Following the loss of her phone, Sylvie Fanchon bought a mobile phone and it was then that she heard the voice of Cortana, the personal research assistant created by Microsoft. This assistant can provide its user with suggestions and reminders based on the personal data collected by Microsoft. Sylvie Fanchon therefore takes up the messages and sentences issued by Cortana revealing the strangeness, the incongruity of this intrusion, and finally a certain emptiness of our new digital world impregnated with artificial intelligence incapable of understanding meaning. At the same time, it denounces Cortana’s pseudo-user-friendliness, whose primary function is to collect private information in order to use this data for commercial and other purposes..

Cortana’s sentences are reduced to simple forms, to simple codes, in the same spirit as the schemas of Sylvie Fanchon’s early days. The words follow one another without spaces, without punctuation. The letters without accent are glued together and are partially obscured by tears in the scotch tape giving the text a geometric construction. It seeks to hinder reading, so that the viewer first perceives the whole work as a painting, and then the reading comes later. In some of her paintings, with a certain irony, she mixes comic strip characters with her texts, notably Tex Avery’s coyote, reinforcing the humorous dimension. She continues her disturbance process by dirtying certain parts of the canvas. In this succession of sentences that are intended to be friendly, like invitations to cordiality, and which finally turn out to be intrusive, intrusions into private life, Sylvie puppet manages with a touch of insolence to denounce all forms of authority, hierarchies in her references, whether they come from comics, cinema or literature.

In this exhibition, there is a succession of canvases and murals. These famous murals whose scotches are torn by hand in order to bring a more important dynamic. These large inclined bands, in which a horizontal text is distinguished, are in harmony with the architecture. “While the painting summons the scale of the body in a man-to-man discussion, by working on the scale of the walls it allows me to take the space by the arm, and to underline its monumentality. “says Sylvie Fanchon. This alternation of canvases and murals is put into dialogue with works by the Frac Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. “The works chosen refer to writing, they challenge the viewer in a transgressive way. They desacralize our great ideas about art and make our certainties falter, point to the authoritarian drifts of our society and of some of our behaviours. Animated by a corrosive squeaky humour, and practicing self-mockery, they question our notions of good or bad taste. “she emphasizes.

What brings all his works closer to each other and to the whole of Cortana is that they are addressed in an imperative mode, very direct to the viewer as an injunction. For example, in Marco Godinho’s first Remember what is missing room (2016), is a work on the ground with a text in reserve on a sand rectangle. Or with two works by Amikam Toren: two paintings purchased in a flea market representing peaceful landscapes worthy of a box of Christmas chocolates, in which he cut out a sentence reminding us that we are being watched, that our freedom is an illusion. The opposition is striking.

In a subsequent room it is with Hommage à Emile Coué by Alain Séchas (2006), a kinetic and sonorous work that hypnotizes the visitor by repeating tirelessly that everything is fine. It sums up Sylvie puppet’s art quite well; a graphic work in which one can imagine a cartoon character in the person of Mickey, a repetitive work with words that, when decontextualized, lose their strength. Richard Baquié’s work Fixer, whose word is realized as a metallic architectural structure in front of a landscape photograph. It shows both the archaeology of the making of the work, the doing is apparent and whose diagonals resonate particularly with Sylvie Fanchon’s murals.

Throughout the journey of Thomas Ruff’s major works, Alfred Courmes, Corinne Marchetti, Annette Messager, Ugo Rondinone… thus punctuate or highlight Sylvie Fanchon’s words. The exhibition ends with sentences such as: Sorry I didn’t hear anything or I’m sorry I didn’t understand, on a black background like a death announcement, which concretize Cortana’s total failure and give a final point to this textual and visual walk where the irony mixed in the critical sense reminds us of the tragic-comic of our time. The artist remaining master of his destiny and not giving in to the inclination of this pseudo modernity hastened to disconnect Cortana.

Sylvie Fanchon

“Je m’appelle Cortana” dialogue with the collections of the two Frac Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

From 21 October 2018 to 13 January 2019

FRAC Franche-Comté

Cité des arts

2 passage des arts

25000 Besançon


Patrice Huchet

Passionate since his childhood about all forms of artistic expression, he began his career in the world of tourism where he practiced travel photography. He then joined a photo agency where he held...

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