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I radiate, invisible, from the summit of the tower

Fluid carrying the hope of ships in distress

enveloping the earth with my waves

Proclaiming the word, the time of the world.

(H.M. Barzun, Poèmes et Drames 3, March 1913).



Rita Urso is glad to present Fluid Carrying the Hopes of Ships in Distress, solo show of the French artist Jean-Baptiste Maitre.


Jean-Baptiste Maitre creates films, paintings and three-dimensional objects that give space to the poetic qualities of an earlier cinema driven more by the idea of motion and perception than by narration. Weaving relationships among painting, cinema and sculpture, the artist aims at questioning the mechanical as well as the phantasmagoric depiction of the world and to find correlations between the two. His recent production constitutes the attempt of the artist to create a “new” cinema as a tool to meditate on XXIst century historical events, such as the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad on April 9th, 2003. Maitre’s meditative cinema technique is inspired by filmmaker Paul Sharit’s logic of frozen film frames and the aesthetic of Len Lye’s films.


The show, which title comes from a poem that Henry-Martin Barzun wrote in 1913, rotates around the feeling of unification of time and space triggered by the invention of the wireless radio signals: seen as a wonder, this technology allowed events, as catastrophic as they could be, to be perceived at the same time in any location, as the Titanic incident in 1912.

Cinema as well developed in the same time a video editing technique based on fastened sequences, called “contrast editing”, to recreate a sense of simultaneity of the scenes, to give to the public the feeling of having the power of ubiquity.


Through a varied constellation of paintings (displayed on the central wall of the gallery taking inspiration from Aby Warburg's Atlas Mnemosyne), sculptures and video, Jean-Baptiste Maitre, arising from Didi-Huberman's notion of 'table de travail', analyses the topic of measuring space and time through cinema and video editing, and the effects these themes have on images and narration. The artist finds this dimension in an instrument called toise, a ruler used by archaelogists to calculate proportions and scales of objects, by a particular black and white sections drawing. As Maitre himself states: “By chance I noticed that these rules are the same used to describe some video editing systems, developed to create a feeling of ubiquity, that is to say the disappearance of the distances between the location of the viewer and the place of the events he is becoming a witness”.


Jean-Baptiste Maitre (1978, France), lives and works betwen Paris and Amsterdam. Maitre received his degrees in Art History at Paris Sorbonne University and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris as well as Studio Photography at the Gobelins Ecole de l’Image in Paris. He is represented in The Netherlands by gallery Martin van Zomeren, Amsterdam. Solo shows include: “IDFA”, Eye Amsterdam Film Museum, Amsterdam;  “It aint whatcha write, its the way atcha write it”, Manifesta Foundation, Amsterdam;  “CODEX”, Wattis Institute for contemporary Arts, San Francisco; “Stripe Paintings”, La Salle De Bain art center, Lyon; “Mandala République”, Martin van Zomeren, Amsterdam; “Post-Sculpture” with Bruce McClean, Galerie 1m3, Lausanne.


RITA URSO artopiagallery

Fluid Carrying the hopes of Ships in Distress
Jean-Baptiste Maitre

Publication details: 

Photos by Maxime Galati-Fourcade

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