On view for the first time in France, Magi© Bullet (1992), is emblematic of the playful-pop-political work of Canadian trio General Idea. Flooding the gallery ceiling with dozens of helium-inflated silver pills, the work mirrors the physical reaction to drugs with the hearty balloons shrinking over time to progressively lose their weightlessness and fall, one by one, to the floor. Visitors are invited to take these inert, fallen envelopes with them when they go, turning another page in the life of the Magi© Bullet. The “getting high then down” metaphor is also a reflection of the dissemination of HIV that so profoundly marked the gay community in the late XXth century, claiming the lives of two members of General Idea.
With Magi© Bullet, General Idea proclaim the necessity of nourishing forms that draw on the societal problems of their time, disregarding issues of copyright and questions of formal distinction. “We entered history, seized hold of images, emptied them of meaning, and reduced them to shells. Then we filled the shells with glamour, the creamy puff-pastry innocence of vacuity, the awful silence of shark fins cutting through oily water” they said. There is a clear reference to Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds (1966), whose playful character is undermined by the fateful decline.
The entire exhibtion that takes shape around Magi© Bullet partakes in a game of manipulation and referential back and forth.
Perched in the corner, echoing the Petrograd exhibition-manifesto “0.10” of 1915, Canadian Jeremy Shaw’s Green square on white (2012), reprises Malevitch’s Black Square in the green paint used for video compositing. It’s the green that is evacuated to artificially recontextualize a filmed subject, the green of potential apparition and projection. Jeremy Shaw perfectly counterbalances the representational tabula rasa of the Suprematist master. On the contrary, here the monochrome is conceived as the preamble to a motif: waiting, inviting, ready to recede.
Rob Pruitt also manipulates the grand history of the monochrome with characteristic malice. His Mother Earth (2012) plays with American modernist pictorial codes in its titling, format, and chromatic voluptuousness: a scarifying line drawing. We could easily see the zest of a Lucio Fontana-like lacerating vandal, but the simplicity evident in the motif instead makes a sensual case for a benevolent nature.
Lastly, the duo Berger & Berger, recently exhibited at the gallery, put on their architect’s hat to respond to a simple commission: as the Magi© Bullet, balloons cover the gallery lighting, how can the exhibition be lit. What better homage to General Idea’s work than to rethink one of their light pieces, 1993’s Magic Carpet. They contribute a cube of neon that, come nightfall, inundates the space with its cold light. Slightly elevated by two lateral slides, it seems, like the entire exhibition, to exist in a state of levitation.