Parisian artist Claire Fontaine is a fraud, a forgery, her name casually lifted from a generic brand of school notebooks, her existence only present in the art that bears her signature. She was first brought to life in 2004 by Fulvia Carnevale and James Thornhill, art-world refugees of a stripe that has become increasingly common these days. She resides now in the neon gas, the video pixels, the found objects, the paper, the ink and the many languages that constitute her work. Where an ordinary object, say a urinal or a bottle rack, can become a readymade piece of art simply on account of the artist’s saying it’s so, Claire functions as a “readymade artist” to render this very artistic subjectivity in a more critical light. Along the way, she subverts the totality of contemporary art by plagiarizing its most sacred styles and forms.
Claire is attuned chiefly to what appears possible, and to what impossibly appears, as cast against the heavily policed image of the present. When given the opportunity to work, Claire would “prefer not to,” which speaks less to her keeping her hands clean than to her potent desire to restore conditions for a general strike.
She has a long list of influences. Most directly, her inspiration springs from the radical feminization of the Italian Autonomist movement in the late 1970s. Her philosophical roots are planted firmly in the revolutionary political theories of Jacques Rancière, Giorgio Agamben, Walter Benjamin, and Michel Foucault. Her artistic allies include the ironically subversive Bernadette Corporation and the anti-political writing collective Tiqqun.
This interview began concurrently with Claire Fontaine’s visit to Columbus, Ohio in the Fall of 2009 for “Descent To Revolution,” a group exhibit combining urban installation with public demonstration, curated by James Voorhies for the Bureau for Open Culture. Claire had two major contributions. The first was a solar-powered neon sign installed in downtown Columbus that cycled between the words “WARM” and “WAR.” The second was a multimedia lecture-performance on libidinal economy and human strike that focused on the bodies of women as site of political, social, and aesthetic contestation in Berlusconi’s Italy. Continue reading ““Giving Shape to Painful Things”: An Interview with Claire Fontaine”