Can Site-Specific Artists Really Claim Space? The Georges Rousse Apnalaya Benefit Collection

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart discusses appropriation in the site-specific work of artist Georges Rousse.

“Mumbai 2014/Shivaji Nagar IV” by Georges Rousse Photo Courtesy of StoryLTD

“Mumbai 2014/Shivaji Nagar IV” by Georges Rousse
Photo Courtesy of StoryLTD

Paris-based artist Georges Rousse is a master of layering perceptions for his viewers. Locations, shapes, and spaces that were once familiar are reformed and combined in unexpected ways forming a multi-dimensional work that presents itself as both familiar and foreign. This summer StoryLTD presents Rousse’s Apnalaya Benefit Collection. This location is an interesting choice for the artist who often works in ruins or forgotten architectural spaces. In contrast, the Apnalaya center’s mission focuses on rebuilding the lives and communities of individuals in the poorest slum neighborhoods of Mumbai. I see a noteworthy correlation between the artist’s dedication to revitalizing and repositioning locations through his work and the center’s goals for supporting and improving nearby communities. Both the artist and the center create change in seemingly bleak circumstances. But how does the artist’s process bring new life into a location while still honoring the true history of the space? Unlike deteriorating ruins or forgotten spaces, the Apnalaya center is alive and active, making it harder to find this appropriative balance. Can Rousse truly claim a space as his own when the singular purpose of the location is fostering greater communities? This brings forward an intriguing discussion in regards to site-specific work in general.

Georges Rousse and his team from the Apnalaya center Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

Georges Rousse and his team from the Apnalaya center
Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

 

Rousse’s work has been acclaimed internationally for his unique utilization of multiple mediums simultaneously molded together to create a single dynamic piece. His practice typically consists of creating a site-specific installation using paints and other traditional mediums to bring a new aesthetic to the space. In the case of the Apnalaya collection, large stars were painted in the space to create a playful effect of physical depth and perspective. After completing the space Rousse photographs it, creating a permanent and tangible testimony of the artistic occurrence. The photograph is intended to last, while the installation is temporary. Throughout his work we see the fleeting and liminal quality of public art installations in juxtaposition with the documented finality of photography.

 

Installation with the Apnalaya Team Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

Installation with the Apnalaya Team
Photo courtesy of Apnalaya

Although the pieces in this collection appear simple in composition and color scheme initially, they have an entrancing quality that invites you into a unique space that is only truly represented in the artist’s photographs. He achieves the perfect balance of removing viewers from the familiar and paying visual homage to an everyday location.  The familiarity and safety of a school works in dialogue with the slightly dizzying change of perspective. Rousse’s “Nagar” series (I, II, III, IV) allow viewer’s perspective to dictate how they take in the work. The iconography in these pieces is nothing new. However, the placement and technical choices both in the original installation and the photography create an open-ended product that gives viewers freedom to determine their own viewpoint. Simply viewing the work I found it difficult to determine what is a manipulated through photography and what is in the actual space. Rousse is successful in creating an engaging mysterious quality for his viewers; familiar landscapes are tweaked to transport you elsewhere. However, with this visceral appropriation in mind, is the original space truly honored or is it simply a stepping-stone to the artist’s final product?

The Apnalya Benefit Collection will be shown on StoryLTD through July 15th. However, limited edition prints are selling fast. Find out what pieces are still available for sale here. You can also learn more about Rousse’s process by watching a video by the artist here.

 

 

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