The video Sans Titre (2007) by Boris Chouvellon bears a stimulating dimension. A man is mowing a “lawn” in the middle of what seems to be an urban area – a prototype vision of the waste ground – that has manifestly been elapsed from the great development plans of the city where the action takes place.
The absurd of the situation does not quite reach Patrick Sorin’s burlesque, simply because the scenario does not finish with any liberating ending. The action closes up on itself, echoing Beckett’s Theatre of the Absurd where boredom never gets to be caressed by the slightest glimmer of hope. However, the beginning of a protest against the obvious oppression and desolation of the area has been dragged into this loop – as a “passive” resistance coming directly from the incongruity of such an action.
To mow a virtual “lawn” in the middle of a desolated industrial zone is to try and appropriate this area through an action charged with domestic signification in order to have it regain its loss of “urbanity”.
The video RN 201 (terrain vagues) (2005), shot in the same kind of desolated and undefined city outskirts, contains the same propensity to give those sites a poetic dimension. There, Boris Chouvellon succeeded in capturing the astonishing presence of a truck farmer’s plastic canvas – put over a field of salad – that undulates under gusts of wind, creating a genuine metaphor for waves, in the middle of a wasteland.
The same worry about lost delight and decay can be found in another project that consists of a compilation of the most famous French Riviera seaside resorts which images – shot each time with the same viewing angle – have been juxtaposed to create weariness and banality where picturesque should be on display. But, maybe “picturesque” is just another word for “kitsch” that would apply to the French Riviera landscapes from Port-Grimaud to Villeneuve-Loubet.
Boris Chouvellon goes against our certainties and reverses collectively admitted values by questioning the “non-human-friendly” quality of areas that have been dragged out of the great seaside or urban aestheticization plans.
In The Small illusions (2008) Boris Chouvellon reverses our view on the symbol of Sunday competition successes which trophies – proudly shown off by families and their teenagers – are piled in order to form pillar-like structures, thus, escaping their ritualistic destiny to reach a more glorious status: columns; referring to a large spectrum of pure verticality in sculpture, from Brancusi to Gitte Shäfer or Gérard Collin-Thiébaut.
Patrice Joly. « Sisyphe en herbe » in Salon de Montrouge Catalog 2009, February 2009