Olivier Castel


 Terrence + Malick + Philippe + Parreno + Badlands + Smell of the Moon 
79A Brick Lane, London, 2008

  A solo exhibition presented under the name Olivier Castel, as part of a series of seven solo shows organised by Katie Guggenheim, each confined to the duration of a feature film selected by the artist. The movie and soundtrack were played simultaneously in the two adjacent exhibition spaces providing audio and visual backdrops for the work on display.

SYNOPSIS BY JUSTIN JAECKLE: Walking down Hanbury Street towards the exhibition venue the other-worldly sight of a heavy drift of autumn leaves set the perfect context of generosity, mass and abstracted displacement to Olivier Castel’s first show under his own name. A trailer of sorts to a possible project by one of the artist’s many alter egos, Joe Lawrence, Dead Leaves in Westerns, 2004-8, transposed thousands of leaves from their seasonal fall months earlier, to an urban thoroughfare whose few, small, scant and bare trees looked on with a humorous melancholy at the incidental joy of passers-by kicking through the unexpected bounty of leaf fall in the middle of winter; a surfeit of leaves that exceeded the amount these trees could have ever shed themselves in the appropriate season. If these passers-by were to have looked up, they would have seen, projected onto the Truman Brewery’s external wall, Castel’s chosen film, Badlands, and images from Malick’s lyrical 1973 re-telling of the tale of two detached and unlikely killers asserting themselves in a landscape of barren grandeur, sneaking through the neon glow of Brick Lane from the window of number 79a.

Inside the gallery further works expanded this mood of poetic revelry in the form of art works and gestures that could be viewed as a map to past, potential and current projects; a conflation of times that brings these pieces towards a kind of immanence. A conversation with the artist reveals that one day Joe Lawrence’s Dead Leaves, could take on another life falling in the backgrounds of westerns, edited into the films. Works on show pointed to themselves in past, present and future guises; leading to an experience of the exhibition as both retrospective and prospective in nature.

Badlands’ ethereal soundtrack, and the Southern drawl of Sissy Spacek, filled the corridor and stairs to the flat, which offered a pair of heated benches in the front space (Olivier Castel, Heated benches (for the slide show My Graves), 2002-8), turning the venue into a social site and an indoor picnic, as guests consumed melons in the sticky sociability that Carl Laporte’s Moon & Stars Watermelons (And That is Called Dawn), 2008, offered to them. My Graves, on ongoing project by Castel is a visual library of images of sites that would seem to offer themselves as potential resting places, from water troughs to flower beds and beyond. The project was not presented here, but, like Fischli and Weiss attempting a memento mori, is rich in humour and sincerity. These benches referenced a pause in an ongoing artwork that shows no imminent signs of an end point.
The windows flung open onto the night air (Censor,an inflatable Venice (draught), 2002-5) and dusted with a thick cocktail of coloured glitter that was occasionally seen to drop off like psychedelic snow onto the street below, (Woody Pollen, Glitter on the Windowsills (wooden rollercoaster-shaped bridge with cinema, seen by night), 2007-8) diffused the show’s inside and out. 

A faint scent, a little like one might imagine metal to smell like were it to ever go past its sell-by date, drifted into the room from the work of an artist incorporated, or perhaps more accurately folded, into Castel’s group show of multiple identities. Philippe Parreno’s Odeur de Lune, a candle produced through a combination of NASA research and the expertise of Cire Trudon, former candle makers to Louis XIV and Versailles, sat on a bed of Woody Pollen’s windowsill glitter, and offered the only form of illumination to the space, aside from the glow of the signage and streetlights outside, and the pools of orange from the heating elements used by the benches, which bathed the floor beneath them.
A trip through the kitchen, home to Laporte’s mountain of melons, chopped and ready for consumption, brought you to the rear room where another glowing, heated bench offered a view through the window to Badlands’ external projection. A shelf, stacked high with a pile of outsized black and white posters, proffered giant flyers for the show, graphically listing the works presented and the ‘identities’ of their creators. One work listed, Olivier Castel, Names, 2001-8, offered a key to Castel’s strategy—its listed materials, ‘names under which work is presented,’ laying open the artist’s creation of multiple identities to author the artworks on show—a strategy owing more to screenplays; celebrities’ desertion of their birth names in search of a passport to the stars, and Eminem’s ‘My Name Is,’ than an instance of Multiple Personality Disorder. Indeed, Eminem’s calling card single was previously contained on an exhaustive CD compilation of name songs presented as a collaboration between Castel and Katie Guggenheim, another artist for whom questions of identity are tantamount. Eminem is also of course, an alias itself of Marshal Mathers. A fresh name can author new or parallel realities.

A pile of CDRs, free for the taking, saw the final identity brought in by Olivier to this ‘group show.’ Credited to David Whitney (an alias used by Terrence Malick in his writing of the ’74 comedy caper, The Gravy Train) the 90 minute CDR contained the complete audio track of Badlands, recorded live at a cinema performance. The displaced audio of the film, fractured from its visuals on the night of the exhibition, thus can possibly continue its life alone into the future. 

A show of plural identities and trailers to artworks and projects, presented with the cohesion of a singular and generous artistic vision. Avoiding the danger of this plurality of voices adding up to cacophony, the seven ‘trailers’ to artwork here were not bellowed like the voiceover to a promo-clip for Die Hard or Rocky Bilboa, nor whispered in the tone of a persuasive advert, but given the space and silence to exist for themselves, as neither/both stand-ins for grander projects, nor/and discreet objects serving their own purpose; something in-between. Signs. Castel curates himself into a wistful army of me, offering a force of identities, projects and artworks that add up to a network of narratives and a landscape of play.