Textuality and emotion in art. from artwork to sensation to the market: Laure Prouvost

Textuality and emotion in art. from artwork to sensation to themarket: Laure Prouvost

João Laia composes a text around the work of Laure Prouvost, observing the emotional factor of some linguistic content and also the specificity of mood for art presentation spaces. 



You might be thinking that the quote with which I have decided to open this text would perhaps be more apt to a newspaper or magazine article. The virtuality of online media such as this blog based platform, could possibly reduce or at least interfere with the physical immediacy those lines aim at. The constant references to the material attributes of the object are provoking frustration by the fact it is nowhere to be found. Being very blunt: there are no paper pages for you to turn, feel or touch. There is simply a mouse/touch pad or something, where you scroll up and down and click. There is something for you to touch but it’s not which the phrases refer to. You cannot follow their meaning through. The image has no matter being rather built out of dots. You could and still can touch the screen or the keyboard though, but it wouldn’t be the same thing, would it?

Well try it then.

I have decided to use this quote anyway. I like it and I think it helps me get to my point. So let’s just play along with it and see where it goes, shall we?



As I was saying: there is no material support for those lines and therefore the quote might loose some of its agency (or should I say exchange value regarding that we are in the background of an art fair?). In any case, this possible loss is due to the fact that there is little correspondence between what it expresses and the context where it is being displayed. But in fact I think this comes in handy for me, as I wish to share some ideas about Laure Prouvost’s work in relation to the place of emotions and sensations in an art fair rather than exhibit her work in perfect conditions.The frustration of being unable to fully engage with the work might actually come in handy, giving me/us a certain distance; preventing the simultaneously mesmerizing, surprising and immersive effects of the works to arrive to its full potentiality. But maybe this is not true at all; here we are placed in an in-between position that allows for feelings and thoughts to flow hand-in-hand, as a personal blog text usually does. In this sense this piece could actually be sharing some of the effects produced by Prouvost’s works, which would mean I am contradicting myself.

Oh well…. It could be worse.



Prouvost’s practice playfully uses moving and still images, objects, sculptures, installation and books but especially, I would like to argue, emotion and feelings as her privileged tool. More than using a specific technology or media, her keen interest in the audience’s subjectivities is the most defining feature of her body of work. Prouvost’s pieces constantly place the visitor-viewer-spectator in a place permanently in motion, stimulating personal frames of reference to be employed while interacting with the works. Furthermore, and particularly in terms of her videos, Prouvost demonstrates a special interest in materializing its images, calling out for our senses and creating an aesthetic and sensuous experience out of the interaction between textual and the visual that underlines and disrupts the primacy usually given to eyesight. The importance of a sensual engagement with the work is also enhanced by her installation work in which Prouvost creates stage-like sets with objects, and images, propelling the audience into having a physical, reflective and emotional relationship with the fictional moving images, becoming part of the scripted narrative that unfolds. Either by addressing us directly or through characters, or by inserting text onto the images, the artist constantly teases our senses, underlining their importance in our daily interaction with the world. Language is also plaid around with and used to explore narrative as well as the fruitful possibilities of translation and cultural slippages. These interventions are performed with a particular lightness and humor, which may be seen as part of Prouvost’s signature trademark. In this context, playfulness also functions as a means to illustrate how language results from a series of conventions that we decide to accept in order to communicate and that therefore may be easily subverted, problematized and re-created, becoming an affective and structural mechanism in the artist’s work.


It, Hit, Heat (2010) is a video piece of six minutes. In line with the rest of Prouvost’s body of work, it is probably much better experienced than described. Which means I shouldn’t even try do illustrate it, but as you probably guessed, I am just about to. I hope it’s ok.

The image of ember seen above is part of a sequence where the words “It, Hit, Heat” appear juxtaposed with these moving images to be swiftly replaced by the artists’ voice whispering: “It smells red.” This kind of confusingly synesthetic strategy is taken further at her performative screenings or installations. In this year’s Oberhausen Film Festival audience members were offered raspberries during the screening, touching and hearing the plastic bags in the dark, communicating with the person in the next seat and eating raspberries (a fruit that appears recurrently in her work) while seeing video works. In installations such Swallow (2013) at the Whitechapel Gallery or The Wanderer (2012) at MOT, Prouvost created immersive spaces that signaled the importance of subjective, material and affective engagement with the spaces on and off screen, a distinction which the videos’ narratives made even more blurry.

Laure Provost shooting "Swallow" in Italy

Laure Provost shooting «Swallow» in Italy

In Wantee (2013), her Turner Prize winning installation, Prouvost continued to playfully mould language, the potentiality of cultural translation, art history and affectionate memories in a humorous way. The title of the piece comes from the nickname given by Kurt Schwitters to her partner who would constantly offer tea to him and their guests.

Wantee, installation view 2013

Wantee, installation view 2013

Feeling cosy? Want tea?



I’m sorry about the paint but it looked like you were just about to open a new tab…



….and close this one.



In a way, the Art Fair may also be seen as a blurred space where contradictory dynamics merge. An arena where desire is both expressed and repressed, where the theoretical rationality of an investment is met with emotional and affective layerings of human attraction. Where cautiousness and planning meet speculation and whim. The art fair is a stage to recreate, display and transmit images, firstly artworks but also other kinds of representations that range from financial and social status to personal self-esteem and art history. In what is seemingly a rational and organized space, the Art Fair is also a stage for emotion and affect.

Prouvost’s participation at the Frieze Art Fair Projects in 2011 demonstrated the artist’s understanding of these conditions as well as her willingness to propose alternative forms of interaction with the space-situation. The artist created a series of signs that responded to different aspects of the fair such as the architecture of the space and its surroundings or the movement of the audience, inspiring and injecting different possibilities of engagement that ranged from the didactic, to the authoritarian, the dreamy and funny. Employing a situationist, surreal and dada-like strategy these works proposed a playful understanding of the Art Fair while laying bare it’s discursive power of dominance as well as its entertaining fairytale park features.

laure8      laure9laure91





1 Laure Prouvost Artist Book, published by Book Works in 2013 as part of Again, a Time Machine.

2 Text included in the cover of Farfromwords, the catalogue for Laure Prouvost’s Max Mara Art Prize for Women exhibition held at the Whitechapel Gallery, London in 2013.

3 Text extract from Laure Provost’s It, Hit, Heat (2010).

///////////// All images found online. No copy-write infringement intended. /////////////

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