Jeanne Susplugas, 11.9.– 30.10.2010, Think 21 Gallery, Brussels

Champagne in the Morning

first published in: Art Pulse, December 2010

It’s a wide range of media which Jeanne Susplugas covers not only in her recent show at Think 21 Gallery in Brussels but in her whole work. The French artist (born 1974 in Montpellier, lives and works in Paris) is not afraid of using diverse techniques and different formal approaches – drawing, video, installation, photography, stage design, sound pieces, etc. etc. – to pursue the matters she has been interested in for quite a while now. Thus she belongs to the happy few artists who owe the freedom to cross the media without restraint and without the fear of not being recognized for formal reasons. Her work is about content and ideas and it’s a pleasure to follow the artist through the wide field of her investigations of aspects of living in our contemporary society and our entanglements with anxieties and seductions. 

Ever since her first projects for La maison malade (an interior totally covered in pharmaceutical wrappings) in 2002 and the architectural structures that followed – little huts and houses, ostensible shelters that offered rejection rather than refuge –, the concept of “living” spaces has been present throughout Jeanne Susplugas’ whole body of work.

The center piece of the exhibition in Brussels makes the sculptural installation “Light House” (2009), a cage of LED-light circles. Entering the gallery, one can already sense the blue seductive light in the back space through the “Door of Serenity” (2009), a white quilted leather door pierced by the chemical formula of Bromazepam, a common anxiolytic. Invitingly the “Light House” glows in the dimmed space, and somewhat dazzled the viewer enters it only to find herself cut off of the light, surrounded by the backside of the circles, since the “Light House” only shines to the outside – the inside is dark. This is a strong image and physical experience which bring together Jeanne Susplugas’ fascination by housings and her interest in the body. The body which serves as the shelter we inhabite is at the same time disconcertingly prone to seductions. It gets easily addicted to supposedly appeasing remedies such as alcohol, drugs or medication which can turn the former shelter into a hoard of anxieties and confusions.

The sparkling LED-written slogan “L’Aspirine c’est le champagne du matin” (“Aspirin is morning champagne”) on the wall of the gallery space points to the normality with which our society deals with medical aids. The sentence is taken from the sound piece “Iatrogene” written by writer Marie Darrieussecq specially for Jeanne Susplugas. It’s a witty slogan, brightly radiating, yet discomforting with its contrariness between glamour and sadness.

The drawings (felt pen on paper) in the show take on a similar perspective, for example “No job, no money, no car, but I’m in a band” (2009), or “Womb for Rent” (2009) which does not only refers again to our body as shelter but also to its emotionsless use for making money (beyond the conventional ways of sexual prostitution).

Yes, it’s a wide range of techniques and approaches Jeanne Susplugas deals with but the energies never seem to get dissipated but lead to investigations around the human condition which are full of wit and right on the spot.