“I wish I’d never come back home
It don’t feel right since I’ve been grown
I can’t find any of my old friends hangin’ ’round
Won’t nothin’ bring you down like your hometown”–Steve Earle
Antoine Donzeaud’s Hometown Blues exhibition showing at Kortrijk, Belgium’s Dash Gallery –running November 15 to December 13, 2015 –builds on a fiction of the domestic space. Humming the lyrics of a text written by Sonia Dermience, curator and co-founder of Komplot, and introducing the show, the viewer is set up to sit back on sofas, or run aground on pillows to watch the ‘Hometown Blues’ movie, looping on a flat screen next to a subdued neon light.
Drawing on Donzeaud’s ongoing interest in the idea of architectural modules, panels of painted, printed or silkscreened and see-through canvases act as partitions, dividing the territory. They are arranged in the space, sometimes horizontally like a roof or a ceiling, sometimes upright, against a wall or suspended in space. A door, lying upright on its side is another stranded element from the field of the artist’s personal memory –of his studio, his hometown, his childhood.
As space of transition, the Hometown Blues exhibition is a site of movement and moving. Its ‘Ordinary Objects’ –as so many of the works are titled –seem suspended; hanging, waiting to be emptied (or forgotten). The space looks like a teenager’s room, dragging its totems and memories along with it. The sofas are silkscreened on canvases, hanging upright on the walls. The pillows, foam mattresses, are abandoned. They’re still in their original plastic. There are posters rolled up and slid in the back of the transparent plastic partitions. Manga illustrations or images of customised cars are printed and placed, face down from the fake ceiling. A large poster, large-scale portraits of Japanese models is pinned to the wall. Scrawls of spray paint –you could call them failed graffiti tag –appear the clear plastic canvases as repetitive, automatic, stuttering messages. They’re symbols of a personal mythology which is reconstituted here, collecting its fragmented elements.
At the back of these left-behind forms, abandoned against armatures or metal feet,’Untitled Stand (hoodiez)’ (2015) , lumps of clay in plastic bags that the artist calls ‘ghost faces’, hide themselves. Made with condensed wet earth, dressed in plastic bag sweatshirts and presenting with eyes as marbles, these soft forms and their skin-like features hold down and anchor the rest of the floating, weightless display. These deformed faces linger behind their shiny sunglasses and adopt a kind of show-off posture. As disenchanted teenagers, they give a face to the suspended narrative.
The end of ‘Hometown Blues’ the film, concludes as it is introduced. Acting as a kind of window into the exhibition fiction, the video presents as a worn-out and jerky wandering; alternating inside and outside sets, snowy landscapes, suburban images, shadow figures, a dead animal, TV screen, reality TV broadcasts. It’s an overlap of visions, memories, key places and unconscious frenzies. A voice-over of Canadian screenwriter Guy Maddin speaking about his hometown of Winnipeg gradually makes way through the story of the artist’s personal memory, introducing a parallel reality in the movie space, as well as in the screen space.
As so many trophies, markings, ornaments; the posters, pillows, marbles, games, are the residue of the construction or reconstruction set that makes up the total work of Hometown Blues. Like a moving, flexible and convertible cockpit, all these “Ordinary Objects” are the totems of a narrative of reorganization. It combines images, drawings, marks and signs and could be experimented, cozied up in the back of a car, leaving behind the landscape that scrolls, becomes fuzzy and creating immediate nostalgia. **