Belgian-American artist Cécile B. Evans delights and enchants with her provocative media installations.
I recently encountered the work of artist Cécile B. Evans in London at an open studio night at GasWorks—where Evans recently wrapped up a residency—which houses a gallery, studios, and an international residency program. I was drawn to her video work because it made use of a sort of Apple-computer-screen-saver infused visuality, existing somewhere in the realm between the seamless flash of an MTV music video and the fog of a digitized dream. These new media works in particular were a siren song; sampling selections of popular music that one might hear at the local laundromat, Evans is frequently weightless in the foreground, floating in the fabrics of a genre of celestial glitch that just might have made Steve Jobs proud. The work is flirtatious, nostalgic, and—odd as it may be to say—struck me as incredibly feminine, perhaps because the path through contemporary digital practice is often made craggy by the ticking testosterone of male art makers and their histories. Which is to say that Evans and the pronounced presence of a gendered aesthetic—soft, blurred, gentle—contrast sharply with, say, Fatima Al Quadiri’s hip-hop-laced and neon saturated geometries. Evans enters the digital via a different tear in the curtain, a white female body grappling with the limits of objects, language, expression, and, ultimately, intimacy. Her work is imbued with a presence of lady—is this poise? Or politic? Curious to learn more, I sat down with her to discuss, amongst other things, the weight of emotion, the role of the artist, and the impact of bodily fluids on contemporary popular culture.
Legacy Russell Tell me a bit about your recent project for Frieze, which won the Emdash Award.
Cécile Evans The piece was an audio guide to a selection of works in the fair—like what you would pick up in a museum—only the hard facts were replaced by subjective, emotionally-driven content, contributions from twelve non-art professionals and a host, the art historian Simon Schama. Simon also appeared throughout the fair as a 3D holographic projection, giving short monologues that further broke down ideas of subjectivity and authority within the fair.
In hindsight, the great joy in making this piece was the opportunity that Frieze gave me to insert an alternative value—emotion—alongside established values in the fair like material, theory, and money. It was amazing to work with [Frieze curator] Sarah McCrory, who from the beginning really understood that this wasn’t a critical piece, this wasn’t going against the other values. Ultimately, this was very productive in an environment with such a high volume of people (70,000 or so) that perhaps didn’t have access to the other factors[—material, theory, money—]or (let’s be fair) even an initial interest in them. That was the most exciting/surprising part, to see so many visitors coming with different levels of access to art all able to access an entry point through the guide.