Description: UGO RONDINONE (b. 1963)
man--polyester, cotton, acrylic
wall--wood wall, speakers, spots, sound (Bonjour Tristesse), 1 audio CD, 1 audio CD Player
part 1: 61 3/8 x 30¾ x 17 in. (156 x 78 x 43 cm.)
part 2: 196 7/8 x 106 3/8 x 39 3/8 in. (500 x 270 x 100 cm.)
Executed in 1997. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.
Artist or Maker: UGO RONDINONE (b. 1963)
Exhibited: Biel, Centre Pasqu'Art, Nonchalance, August-October 1997, pp. 133-134 (illustrated). Berlin, Akademie der Kunste, Nonchalance Revisited, August-October 1998. Kunsthaus Glarus; Leipzig, Galerie Fur Zeitgenössische Kunst, Ugo Rondinone: Guided by voices, pp. 142-143 (illustrated).
Lausanne, Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Le Monde selon Francois Dubois, September 2003-January 2004.
Lausanne, Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Private View 1980-2000: Collection Pierre Huber, June-September 2005, p. 156 (illustrated).
Literature: C. Doswald, "Nonchalance: be good, be bad, just be", Document sur l'Art, no. 11, Fall-Winter 1997-1998, Dijon, p. 31 (illustrated). M. Van Nieuwnhuyzen, From the Corner of the Eye, Amsterdam, 1998, pp. 42-43 (illustrated).
F. Bonami, "Ugo Rondinone: Erdung", Parkett, no. 52, Zurich, 1998, p. 113 (illustrated).
L. Bovier, ed., Across/Art/Suisse/1975-2000, Geneva, 2000, no. 152 (illustrated).
Notes: The Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone isn't best known for anything in particular but rather for everything in general. With an oeuvre that includes painting, sculpture, photography, and architectural constructions, Rondinone could be described as a modern day Renaissance man with his multi-disciplinary and eclectic approach. After an early career in theater, Rondinone found his place in the international art scene in the 1990s, but never fully relinquished his ties to the stage. Installation work ultimately provided Rondinone with the opportunity to reconcile his multiple interests; they included videos, photography, painting, sculptures of inert bodies, live actors and speakers emitting repetitive texts, songs, and short conversations within artificial but highly loaded environments. Combining these mediums within a strictly delineated space and layering them with various references to film, literature, and music, Rondinone's installation Bonjour Tristesse successfully objectifies the melancholic state.
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Featuring a makeshift wall and open door frame punctured by twelve speakers each emitting Souled American's deep sound, and an anonymous figure, or corpse, bathed in hallucinogenic light, it is unclear whether this work is the beginning or end of a narrative. Rondinone invites us into this beautiful yet disquieting tableau vivant, implying nothing more than possibility. Is it the beginning of construction or a ruin? The inside of a bedroom or the scene of a crime? This lack of plot and temporal confusion forces us to choose between our reality in time and space and an unfamiliar, exterior narrative of uncannily familiar emotions. As we stare at the scene before us, we are left alone to decide whether we are too early or too late.
Searching for clues, we begin to make associations between what we see and what we know. The title references Francoise Sagan's 1954 novel, which was later made into the eponymous film by Otto Preminger. Bonjour Tristesse is a story of the Oedipal relationship between Cécile, a self-indulgent teenager, and her father, a widowed playboy. The title of Rondinone's installation recalls not only the aloof and overtly sexualized Cécile but also her unnatural yearnings for her father. These complex emotions are restaged in Rondinone's mysterious scene. Desire, angst, loss, jealousy, and despair are manifested in the skeletal wall, lone figure, and romantic yet haunted lyrics. However, as one passes through the door, kaleidoscopic spotlights disrupt the mood and turn gravity into kitsch. Perhaps we have missed the party and the character before us is a pathetic drunkard who has passed out from too much alcohol. Should we be disappointed, horrified, or amused? Are we even in a position to judge? The artificiality of our surroundings becomes as disturbing and disgraceful as Cécile's covetousness for her father. We are reminded of the futility of her actions and her unsatiable desires.
Trying to make sense of it all, we stare at the limp, lifeless mannequin on the floor. Although harmless, the ambiguity of its presence is poignant and not without autobiographical implications. The life-size wax figure could be seen as an effigy of the alienated, melancholic artist, who is metaphorically lifeless until inspiration drives him to action. The body, featureless and androgynous could also be a reference to Rondinone's audience as well as an allegory of the troubled artist. There is some peace in the vacuum-like space, but this emptiness ultimately reinforces the vulnerability of the human condition.
Rondinone's installation encourages our participation but eventually frustrates this engagement, creating a sense of estrangement. Everything he makes is bittersweet--a paradox of pleasure and pain. As the sound track plays on constant repeat, one's senses succumb to the artist's theatrics. It is through these artificial scenes that Rondinone forces us to face reality and embrace life in all of its melancholy.