“Cinema of the Present” is the first endeavour of the Bored Curators United platform, presenting artists photographs on the windows of closed stores around Paris.
24th to 27h Abril 2021
5, Rue des Blancs Manteaux, 75004 Paris
Reversed, in a gesture that aims at a reversal of perspective, at a flip of the gaze.
In 2020, Jojo Gronostay captured the loose gestures of street vendors holding bags that imitate other bags. Every vendor ties the bags to a rope so they are ready to run, should the police manifest itself. The ropes hang all day long and as time goes by, the hand relaxes.
So much that it can appear to be passive. Mistakenly so, as through the work of those hands — via the gap in which the imitation takes place — a parallel economy unfolds that is capable of sustaining entire families back in Africa.
In order to pay homage to these hands, Gronostay flips them. Upside down, they no longer resemble beggars’ hands and join the hands of a pictorial tradition that ennobled its subjects. During Renaissance, models coming from the street would become gods and mythological characters at the hands of artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo.
Reversed, a hand holding a rope in a street far away from home is now reminding of the Creation of Adam that adorns the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, in which God is about to touch the hand of Adam with his own hand, and create life.
With a flip, the boredom of waiting for someone in the street becomes the sophisticated idleness of a god. A street god hidden in the palm of a hand, and a homage to the artist’s father who, emigrated from Ghana to Germany, provided for his family with his low-income job—his own son, eventually, becoming an artist now working between Europe and Ghana.
They are known as Top Manta. They used to sell the top hit singles to passersby, the hot tunes of yesterday, when digital files didn’t exist and consuming music still implied something tangible, like a tape or a CD. You can still run into these sidewalk vendors in big cities like Barcelona, Paris or Venice. Whether they’re called Top Manta, vendeurs à la sauvette or venditori abusivi, they display their goods on white sheets or improvised stands made out of cardboard—installations that can be set up or taken down in an instant when the police pops up.
Bored Curators United acts with similar quickness: setting up a three-day only exhibition, occupying a store window while it’s empty, exhibiting artworks on makeshift displays.
With his photographs, Jojo Gronostay subverts the unwritten rules of art and fashion, upending the Western way of representing—and shaping—the world.
With Dead White Man Clothes, he diverts the colonial grip of the 20th century simply by creating a line of clothing from upcycling in Ghana. Sent from Europe to Africa, these second-hand clothes are nicknamed “the clothes of the dead whites”. Ironically, he resells them online to Europeans, duly numbered.
This series of photographs depicts gestures: the hands pulling the strings here are those of the Top Manta. They follow a precise and delicate choreography; they embody the hope of being lucky, they retain a sense of frailty, they hold their breath; they are suspended in time like we remain under the control of our attestations de déplacement dérogatoire (lockdown exemption affidavits).
In another series of the artiste, photographed near Château Rouge in Paris, the sidewalk vendors’stands also testify to a sense of precariousness paired with his subversion of rules, while his frontal and exacting point of view reminds us of Bernd and Hilla Becher.
Jojo Gronostay’s work reveals the sheer vulnerability of a world where you must be ready to run if you want to save yourself.
Photographs: Jojo Gronostay
Curators: Silvia Guerra and Chiara Vecchiarell
Scenography: Raquel Estrócio
6th to 22th April 2021
5, Rue des Blancs Manteaux, 75004 Paris
There is a state of emergency: there is a sense of urgency and, simultaneously, there is something emerging. Though distinct, both feelings go hand in hand. They lie deep within our lives, in the cells of our bodies, even in the atoms we’re made of, next to particles we’ve never seen but know to be whirling at the same pace the universe does.
The darkness of movie theatres can no longer harbour cinema: they’re all closed. Now, cinema flows in the streets, the city squares, public transport. Avenues resonate with a new sense of importance; sidewalks see many snapshots being taken. One look, and the photographer’s hand retrieves her smartphone as she would a trump card—it’s a trick, to capture our hands.
For hands bear the imprint of our inner life. We take them everywhere with us. Our gestures express love or frustration, the emotion brought by a page we read or a message we receive: each a guessing game for the gaze of others, an offer to look into our lives, beneath the bare skin. Skin is the largest organ we have, enabling us to feel and touch, from objects to variations in the atmosphere. Hands make us humans, and individuals. More than ever, we need a show of hands, we need to see them gesturing at us, as public spaces become more and more alienating, rationalized, and compartmentalized.
Delphine Chanet watches hands in their environment, looking for gestures, ready to capture them in the blink of an eye. She was photographing hands before the March 2020 lockdown, before it emptied out the streets. Months later, she went looking for hands again, uncovering the effects of space and time on us, the signs of isolation on the lines of our palms.
The idea for this exhibition, in the empty—useless—store windows of closed shops, comes from the will to stop waiting and postponing altogether, the desire to reunite with the present.
The title of the project is borrowed from Lisa Robertson’s poetry book, a film script made of moods and thoughts facing and mirroring one another. “You are being internally photographed,” “expose yourself to the sensitive paper,” “You are the silence they exchanged,” “a quorum of crows will be your witness,” she writes in her Cinema of the Present.
I remember being in Athens at the peak of the economic crisis in 2013, and seeing empty or closed shops everywhere, street after street. Today, the global health crisis spares no country, be they rich or poor. We don’t know what will happen, but as our eyes become the only visible part of our masked faces, those who will pass by our store windows will be able to see these hands that bare all their emotions for all to see. Emotions are the only real things in the world. They might very well be the most stable ones; they guarantee our stability.
There is a sense of urgency, there is something emerging. There is an aspiration to reveal ourselves, to exhibit how we create bonds with one another, how we become free living beings. This urgency is necessary, and what emerges opens up on the future. It is time for the cinema of the present to be released.
Where does the moving go when everything comes to a halt, when encounters become scarce, when the whole of life seems to slow down, hanging between the science of distancing and moments lost in time?
Where does life go when we can’t make it happen between us anymore, as we did, entertaining each other, or through chance encounters, or even strife? This part of life seems buried deep, yet it is still passed around thanks to something as powerful as it is hidden, able to short-circuit space and time and tell everything in an instant, no explanation needed. Its vehicle is the image, as it can capture its movement and bring it close to us. The “Cinema of the Present” is the activity of living images, images that need not move on a screen to be alive, for their very nature is to be life itself declaring how it is moving, and how it moves us as living beings. What is moving is at home in the city, where cinema manifests embryonically when life, flowing and traveling, is framed by windows and store windows. When the city hesitates to pass by this or that store window, BCU will claim them, enabling life to pause there for a while.
For this first screening, Delphine Chanet shows us hands and their gestures, photographed as they went by and through the city. Their flow is now supported and made present by images telling us the many lives of what is moving.
Photographs: Delphine Chanet
Curators: Silvia Guerra and Chiara Vecchiarelli
Scenography: Raquel Estrócio