April 03 - May 27, 2009
galerie jerome de noirmont

Pots 1, 2007 - 8 metal pots and oil-based paint - 188 x 55 x 49 cm

exhibition release

Benjamin Sabatier’s work results entirely from a constant reflective research on both, the economic foundations that govern our contemporary society and the way art fits into this socioeconomic reality. After addressing the issues of production and consumption in his exhibitions Peinture en Kit (Painting in Kit Form) in 2003 and S.A.V. (After-Sales Service) in 2005, and the questions of marketing and conditioning in 2 Pack Age in 2007, the young French artist is returning today to the fundamental notion of work/labour.

Putting the artwork to work and at the same time showing the artwork at work, has always been a leitmotiv for Benjamin Sabatier. His first much acclaimed performance-installation in 2002, at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, entitled 35 heures de travail (35 hours of labour, a reference to the then-recent French legislation of fewer working hours), consisted of sharpening pencils 7 hours a day during a 5 day-period. Every day, the artist changed his workspace, leaving behind the previous day’s work; hence, on the final 5th day, 5 chairs and their pile of pencil shavings were laid out in the Palais de Tokyo, making thus possible for the visitors to “quantify” the artist’s work. Today, the artist materializes this dimension of work by embodying it in his artworks.

In his fourth solo exhibition at the gallery, Benjamin Sabatier projects us simultaneously in the universe of work/labour and in the manufacturing of the artwork itself, the latter being the site where one feels the weight of work/labour and time. His “Chantier” (worksite) is an image of his studio/factory, the place where the artist’s work is in process, the place in-between the project and the object, the place in-between the intention and the outcome…

As the philosopher Jacques Rancière writes in his essay The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible, “artistic practice is not the outside of work but its displaced form of visibility. It removes the artisan from “his” place, the domestic space of work and gives him “time” to occupy the space of public discussions and take on the identity of a deliberative citizen. (…) Art is production, the identification identity of a process of material execution with a community’s self-presentation of its meaning. Production asserts itself as the principle behind a new distribution of the sensible, insofar as it unites, in one and the same concept, terms that are traditionally opposed: the activity of manufacturing and visibility”.

Sabatier’s creative process thus allows the spectator to identify himself with the artworks, even though the amount of work required and the time of labour involved are inaccessible to the spectator (as they are known only to the conceiver of the work). Based on the repetition of simple, manual and repetitive movements – nailing, pinning, drilling… - the production process of the artworks underlines the importance of the body at work, in its alienating aspect.

Questioning the notion and the process of labour, Benjamin Sabatier satires the corporate world as well as that of the arts. Whether it is by performance, painting, sculpture, installation or video, he selects the medium which illustrates at best the sense that he wants to transmit. We can also find this irony in his new works as Brouette/Wheelbarrow (2009), the contents replacing the container, the Colonnes Pots/Pot Columns (2008) created by superimposing dripping paint pots or also the Crucifictions (2008) where the packagings are nailed on wood panels and take on another fictional value, as suggested by their titles…

Here, the very action of creating, of “working”, becomes just as important as the final artwork, the “product” of that work. Is it a creative act conceived as work or, is it work transformed into a creative act? The question is asked in terms of duration, of the time to realise it, of the repetition of the movement, and above all of the purpose. Sabatier’s discourse lies precisely in this gap that separates labour/work from its product, updating the Constructivists’ central question around the abolition of the separation between art and labour.

CONTACT: Emmanuelle de Noirmont
Tel : +33 (0)1 42 89 89 00 / Fax : +33 (0)1 42 89 89 03 / E-mail : info@denoirmont.com
IMAGES available on request at the gallery.