Michel Houellebecq as visual artist

ArticleMathieu Malouf at Artforum:

In accordance with his deep and well-documented admiration for Arthur Schopenhauer and Auguste Comte, Houellebecq says that his visual art, like his novels, is an attempt to “tell the truth about the world.” Once past the almost complete absence of ambiguity in his work, the viewer may find something very refreshing in his overbearingly earnest, intently reactionary craft as an artist, which serves as a severely executed extension of his poetry in the visual realm. The photographs of crumbling highway exchanges, rotted-out monuments, and monumental office towers in Houellebecq’s visual art become fully sincere Baudelairean signifiers of a European civilization in decline, expressions of a soul in deep pain and in search of meaning; he has referred to their effect as “visual electricity.”

The first gallery of “French Bashing” was lit only by framing projectors illuminating individual aluminum-mounted digital prints. A lot of what was on display here looked like badly plotted airport ads, but the presence of these works in a gallery setting evoked that strain of contemporary art in which Photoshop looms large, Simon Denny’s mass-produced canvases being among the most obvious examples. Mission #001, 2016, reassembles an oversize printout of a Tumblr meme dripping with teenage angst. VOUS N’AVEZ AUCUNE CHANCE (You don’t stand a chance), reads a sentence superimposed on a grim, grayscale view of a small town from a plane window. CONTINUER? Underneath, a solitary OS X–style “OK” button seals the deal. Life must go on despite the fact that it is painful, albeit less painful than finding the strength to kill yourself.

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