'A part of the Murmur of the world slipped with me', Françoise Vanneraud

Artist: Françoise Vanneraud
Dates: November 17th 2018 to January 18th 2019
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Journey to the Centre of the Earth (Brittany – Atacama phase)

By Virginia Torrente

Jules Verne was born in Nantes in 1828. Françoise Vanneraud was also born in Nantes in 1984, 162 years after the illustrious author. Journey to the Centre of the Earth was published in 1864, a year after Five Weeks in a Balloon, and one year prior to From the Earth to the Moon, which was published when Verne was 42 years old.

Throughout her career, Vanneraud has concerned herself with anthropological and geopolitical issues, which she represents in an imaginary world that places nature in the foreground. A cactus; mounds of salt; parched, devastated terrain, plagued by guano and stones – forming part of this exhibition, these elements are all present in the Atacama desert in Chile, where the artist spent a residency last summer.

In Vanneraud’s creations, she links Brittany and Atacama in a way that seems natural to her, although they appear to be more the fruit of fiction, a result of the fantasies involved in a Journey to the Centre of the Earth.Vanneraud creates three-dimensional landscapes stemming from a dystopian romanticism that we can also classify as positivist in style. As the artist herself explains: “I am interested in complementary borders between the visible and the invisible.”

These explorations of a distant territory appear to be located outside “real” time. They give rise to a dramatisation based on the concept of the diorama, a romantic installation par excellence that seeks to include viewers within the work itself.
Vanneraud’s work is characterised by this cathartic practice of creating landscapes as an artistic and ethical resource. She represents nature as the “centre of the universe”, showing both its reality and its fiction; a place from which to pose a range of uncomfortable questions: Where do humans belong in this dystopian place? Can we domesticate and tame what is wild? Or is nature’s independence guaranteed, as it is currently debated and defended?

A landscape constitutes a collective memory, the resistance of which we have been testing for several centuries. Until it explodes. In any case, this debate remains an interesting resource for certain artists, and it is such a contemporary subject that denying it would be as absurd as saying that global warming is a lie.

Using postcards and old engravings which act as backdrops for stage sets, the artist transports us to the centre of the earth, and shapes these new works into living dioramas.These montage installations in life-size dimensions mix archetypes with the intention of questioning the complex relationship between humans and nature.

As if Robert Smithson was the main character in Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Vanneraud presents us with a static visualisation of a fossilised era, frozen in the past in papier-mâché clay. Vanneraud’s creative sources are amplified with vintage illustrations which grow and blend within her field research: in these new works geological time becomes somewhat literal and fluid, moving us closer to reflections related to the Anthropocene.

Three-dimensional materials, treated in the same way as drawings and collages, tell the story of a fantastic journey within the landscape, exploring the evolution of this genre and its confusing, ever-changing identity. Vanneraud’s three-dimensional still lifes take possession of the gallery’s space, creating a line of succession between what is wild and what is domesticated in nature: the psycho-geography of a fractured, extreme landscape, constructed from maps and novels referencing the sublime, and transforming basic notions of perception to reveal an imaginary experience projected onto viewers.