Julie Béna, 6 Sobering questions - Horse and Bandos, print on fabric, 130x280 cm, 2015
Julie Béna, Blue illusion at 9, 2015
HOW TO ASK BETTER QUESTIONS?
curated by Silvia Franceschini
April 8, 2015 - May 8, 2015
How to ask better questions? is a question that seeks not an answer but rather the rethinking of the very act of questioning. It is a formula used in “decision-making”, a central activity of contemporary management, and which refers to the sum of the cognitive processes resulting from the choice of one act from various possible alternatives.
The years in which the discipline of decision-making has intensified and asserted itself, and various fields of knowledge have sought to rationalize the process which leads to the act of deciding, are the same years in which global strategies connected to consumer goods have been producing objects that seem to be promoting a progressive deprivation of users’ ability to think.
Of this ever more pervasive phenomenon the emblematic example is the Magic 8 Ball, a fortune-telling toy in the form of a billiards ball, which when shaken provides a series of answers or solutions that presumably correspond to the unconscious will of whoever is doing the shaking.
An object more about comforting one’s own insecurities than freeing oneself from them, the Magic 8 Ball is ably deconstructed by Julie Béna. The fifteen balls designed by the artist and placed in the exhibition space form a visual poem made up of various absurd and paradoxical commands.
This reading of the spheres is interrupted by voices coming from the upper floor of the gallery, where Miss None, character with a red wig and no identity dialogues animatedly with Mr. Peanuts, the legendary mascot of the American snack food company Planters. In a burlesque and caricatured conversation, which recalls the tone of the Theater of the Absurd for the dramatic edge that is hidden behind an apparent legerité, the two characters discuss the paradigm of ubiquity. Beneath the absence of profundity of contemporary representation and the attempts to guide destiny, success and opportunity, lies the desire to be at the same time everywhere and nowhere.
Against the backdrop of this work, Julie Béna constructs a site-specific space made up of objects existing in the threshold between art and design, which become the protagonists of a surreal narration in a liminal realm that questions the perception of space. A series of collages printed on canvas recreate a scene that, with allusions to the interiors and spaces of De Chirico, reestablish a voyeuristic gaze into contemporary domestic culture.
The universe of Julie Béna is made up of a continuous remixing of quotations from the world surrounding us, that of the spaces and interiors of the so-called generic city, characterized by an eclecticism saturated with forms, surfaces and “Banal Objects”. By means of the delocalization of images, materials and languages, the artist muddles up the registers of classical culture and kitsch culture, in a continuous back and forth of valorization and de-valorization of artistic and literary production. Her settings are simulations of freed and autonomous material realities. There is, in these sometimes alienating settings the atmosphere of which recalls a certain flavor of 1990s American cinema, the intention to cause visitors to take a leap into the unconscious of a material and post-digital culture and surrounds them with fatalistic and metaphysical forms, emptied of any sense but always accompanied by a strong human presence.