curated by Cathrin Mayer
February 1, 2020 - March 29, 2020
The practice of Leda Bourgogne is based on the production of paintings, texts and objects. The artist combines found objects as well as handcrafted items in her unconventional approach that has intrinsically surrealist qualities. Psychoanalysis, literature and feminist avant-garde strategies are important references. Through her work, Bourgogne literally tries to get under the skin of viewers, hereby placing them among her most important references and symbols. She deals with female sexuality and is not afraid to depict the suppressed, the subconscious or the abject. Her works stage the dissolution of boundaries between intimate and public spaces whilst emphasizing the political within the private.
Dead Heat combines existing works with works conceived for the exhibition which stem from a broader oeuvre shaped by painting and installation. The exhibition draws from the symbolic potential of language, contained in the words ‘dead’ and ‘heat’. The phrasing ‘Dead Heat’ is taken from horse racing lingo. It describes the moment when competitors reach the finish line at the same time and no difference in performance can be made. The expansive installation can be read as a metaphor for an overheated mechanism and a damaged social body, bringing symptoms of competitive pressure, fear and aggression to the surface. Another theme is the representation of ambivalences and contradictions, as well as the transformation of states that are located between hyperactivity, apathy and physical discipline.
This ambivalence becomes manifest in the space as a clash of aesthetically frictional positions. Fine-meshed fencing is used as an element regulating the gaze and body and transcends into the symbolic moment of self- and external regulation. Alongside, paintings,
objects and drawings are positioned on off-white walls, depicting the human body in its various facets as an organic and vulnerable mechanism as well as an object of erotic desire. In Dead Heat, the tension created between these opposites arises from an interest in aesthetic and formal strategies of delimitation and fragmentation.
This practice is also present in the wall hangings, which literally transcend and reinterpret the space of classical painting. The artist bleaches, paints, embroiders and cuts opaque, shiny or translucent fabrics on stretcher frames.
The two largest and juxtaposed works Varix (2020) and Bone Machine (2019) feature protruding, stuffed vaults. The shiny black proliferation in Varix, stands out against the translucent background. As a full, pulsating vein, it embodies a state of accumulated pressure which must be released. In the corresponding work Bone Machine (2019), the protrusions appear as ribs which ‘support’ the image and transform it into a cross. The smaller work Spook (2020), loosely translatable as Spirit, seems to transcend the boundaries of that body. The black velvet fabric, attached and sown onto a stretcher frame, shows an opened seam disappearing inwards, carrying within itself small, beige shells that seem to grow out of the picture like an undefinable fluid. For Bourgogne, this represents the haunting of a ghost, or more specifically, the representation of painting as a figure that evokes itself. The larger surface of the painting is determined by flame-like, ochre brushstrokes that show traces or effects of painting with chlorine, which has bleaching properties. The understanding of painting as an indexical imprint of artistic action also appears in the works, in which language and signs are relevant. In the work Samsara (2020), which translates as rebirth or eternal wandering, different sign systems appear in the form of embroideries on various surfaces. Arrows point restlessly in different directions. The lower part features a field of embroidered lines, a rhythm of tally marks: lines that are supposedly used in prison as well as in sports and represent a traceable temporality. Like a map this work visualizes a journey on an undefinable route.
Language is not only an important reference system for the paintings, but also tells of the artist’s interest in questioning social conventions that are consolidated through language. The so-called Chewing Gum Poems (ongoing) reproduce on the floor of the exhibition space like human cells or speech bubbles and literally-orally ‘infect’ the rooms through a kind of gentle vandalism. The sound work Punchdrunk (2019) reproduces the voice of Bourgogne over the sound of a rhythmically skipping rope. In this immersive work, which tells of a failed love, sports and physical discipline appear as relevant themes throughout the exhibition.
Driven by a desire to understand the contemporary state of body and psyche, Dead Heat does not only reveal dramatic moments of collision between attraction and repulsion, but also the artist’s sensitivity towards nuances and tenderness that reveal fragility and vulnerability to her eyes.