catalog “Flow Lines”. Text Anne Kerner

Catalogue « Ligne de Flottaison » .

Insubordinate Christine Barbe.

“Her entire body of work is but an exercise”. Christine Barbe knows this, it is all she knows. She has been on a quest, since her childhood between Grenoble and Paris, during her times in New York or Asilah, on her many trips abroad. She has left the city and is now investigating the white walls of her new studio snuggled deep in nature. Dare experience. Dare emotion, let it submerge you. Brush with danger, take the risk. That is how Christine Barbe takes possession of her art and delves into the meaning of her life and of ours, cuts into the soul and rattles the body. Each work is a trial; her discipline could be putting herself to the proof. For her videos and her photographs, her paintings and her drawings she seeks out the location, the space, the time, the air, earth or water then dives in to find the origin of an existence. Exalted, disheartened, tormented? Oscillating. Perpetual, infernal mood swings from acceptance to insubordination. Accepting? Disobeying? Christine Barbe seemingly under some sort of charm rebels, and scrutinizes pain and sufferance. Transfigured by a vital need for freedom, she does not really embody physical entrapment — of political or societal origin — but rather that of the individual’s identity. “Rêve de rébellion” (dream of insubordination) is the title of a series of photographs. Michel Foucault’s shadow floats over the artist as it floats over several generations also haunted by the same fundamentals: exile, exclusion, imprisonment. Christine Barbe, with as much strength as subversion, with as many emotions as wounds, takes the measure of the chaotic state of our contemporary psyches.

Even the language of her work of veracity is under question. In order to seize and grapple with it the artist appropriates whatever materials are available to her, she might as well let herself be overcome. The exchange between body and soul is brutal, her artistic experiments radical, fundamental, she explores all their possibilities. It is quite something to see her let the medium takeover only to better contradict it and thwart it; to watch her abundantly rinse sheets of paper of canvases, splashing waves of solvent… Christine Barbe, delighted by the immanence of a conclusion, must hurry to obliterate it. Incessantly doing and undoing the same exercise. Constructing. Destroying. Reconstructing… Again and again. The “back and forth” process an inflexible duality at the heart of her work which is executed with the artist’s own body. She forces herself to become the subject of what are truely performances: in “L’attrait” (attraction) she floats so that she may drown more perfectly in the ‘Ophelian’ waters; in “I Can’t Do it Without You” she is blindfolded and with her face she scans the space to finally lose herself inside a closed world; in “I don’t Know” she shakes her head until exhaustion. On every occasion it is the body, her body, that is denied, disappearing into darkness, branded in the flesh. Liquid attacks, endless lacerations leave tears and wounds on each medium, just as the brazier ignites the artist’s soul. “In my case, young Goethe would say, no happy ending is possible”. Christine Barbe’s battle bears the stigma of unnameable beauty and translates the quakes that disrupt our contemporary existences.

Insubordination. Anne Kerner

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