Simone Subal Gallery

Julien Bismuth


April 29 – June 11, 2017
Opening: Saturday, April 29, 2017

It’s with great pleasure that Simone Subal Gallery announces the opening of Julien Bismuth’s streams on Saturday, April 29, 2017. This is Bismuth’s third solo show at the gallery. The exhibition runs until June 11, 2017. Please join us for an opening reception on April 29 from 6 – 8 pm.

Julien Bismuth’s latest exhibition revolves around the unsolvable problem of how to fully represent an experience. For the past several years, Bismuth has explored the limits of both linguistic and visual systems of communications, and has become increasingly interested in the space between a referent and its depiction. In streams, this has meant a self-conscious reflection on hesitation—the moment of pause before one expresses oneself—considering how to give experience a form, especially a form recognizable as art.

Last year, Bismuth, along with the anthropologist Marco Antonio Gonçalves, spent twelve days with the Pirahã, an indigenous people from the Brazilian Amazon. Bismuth first read about the Pirahã and met with Gonçalves in 2012. This initial visit marks the concrete start of an ongoing project on the Pirahã that he is developing in close dialogue with the anthropologist. Both intend to return to the Pirahã this summer for a longer stay. Pirahã has no system of writing; their culture has no tradition of image making. Pirahã is also a tonal language, and it can be hummed and whistled. This project reflects Bismuth’s interest in how language shapes and reflects one’s understanding of the world, as well as in the subtle and complex nature of the dialogue between anthropologists and indigenous groups.

The works on view are Bismuth’s attempt to articulate the gap between different representational systems, as well as between different cultural contexts. They are also meditations on all that is lost or misunderstood when communicating. bank shot is a clip of unedited video footage that presents two views of Bismuth’s camera floating down the Maici River, first filming with sound the opposite bank from where the Pirahã live, then cutting the sound when the camera flips around to record the Pirahã living on the opposite bank. The video’s dissociation of image and sound creates a distanciation between Bismuth and what is around him, akin to the disconnect between observer and observer, as well as between an experience and its translation into a written or visual form.

The series of digital photographs are another attempt to express the fundamental struggle to communicate. Each image contains a steganographic message—a hidden, coded writing—encrypted in the data of the image. The encryption alters the file’s data and changes the colors of the individual pixels of the image. In each picture, the same file transmits two things simultaneously: the hidden text, which is revealed in the title of the work, and the altered colors of the image. At every instant, the works in the show manifest doubt in the efficacy of representational systems; they hesitate and stutter visually. One could even say that they communicate by means of such stuttering. But they also acknowledge representation’s ubiquity, its centrality for expressing thought and experiences. It is a conundrum of incommensurabilities and inefficiencies, but one of great potential and beauty: different structures offer different modes of being.

The artist would like to thank Vincent Bismuth for the creation of the software used to produce the encrypted photographs, as well as Marco Antonio Gonçalves, Helmut Batista, the FNAGP, and the Peter S. Reed foundation for making his project with the Pirahã possible.

Bismuth is currently the subject of a solo project at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and has an upcoming solo exhibition at Centre d’art La Criée in Rennes, France.  He has participated in solo and group exhibitions at institutions in the US and Europe such as Palais de Tokyo, Jeu de Paume,  Le Plateau and Fondation Ricard in Paris, Kunstalle Wien and The Belvedere in Vienna, ICA in Philadelphia, the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt and Musac in Leon.   His performances have been presented at the Tate Modern in London, Palais de Tokyo and the Fondation Ricard in Paris.