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Loris Gréaud: Cellar Door (Once is Always Twice)

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE ICA is presenting the first UK solo exhibition by French artist Loris Gréaud, one of the most innovative and distinctive artists to emerge on the international art scene in recent years. Entitled Loris Gréaud: Cellar Door (Once is Always Twice), it runs from April 25 to June 22, 2008.

The new installation for the ICA consists of three almost identical rooms and draws on Gréaud’s interweaving interests in art, architecture and music.

The installation is, in fact, a continuation of a large-scale ongoing project by Gréaud, Cellar Door, which also forms the basis of his major solo show at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, which runs until May 4, 2008. Controversially, this is the first time that the entire exhibition space of Palais de Tokyo has been devoted to an artist under the age of 30.

Gréaud’s practice is characterised by the desire to fuse different fields of knowledge and activity, in a manner which can be both futuristic and utopian. His modus operandi is comparable to that of cinematic production, involving collaboration, co-authorship and cross-filtration, and he has worked with experts from diverse disciplines – including architects, scientists and sound designers.

Gréaud’s work is orientated to ideas and processes rather than finite form, and his projects are liable to manifest themselves in different ways over time, and to move between rumour and fact. His works open up multiple pathways of thought, and it is no surprise that one of the artist’s favourite books is Alice in Wonderland – many aspects of the Cellar Door project construct an extraordinary childlike universe where nothing is quite as it seems, and yet everything makes sense according to its own rules.

Cellar Door is an artistic experiment that has a range of manifestations. One is Gréaud’s installation at the ICA; another is his exhibition at Palais de Tokyo; a third is an opera – scored by Thomas Roussel and with a libretto by Raimundas Malašauskas and Aaron Schuster – which will be staged at the Paris Opera at the end of the year; and a fourth is an actual studio space which Gréaud is building for himself on the outskirts of Paris – at the heart of the Cellar Door project is the notion of an artist’s studio as a symbol of imagination and potential.

One of Gréaud’s preoccupations is the idea of doubling and repetition, and his exhibition at the ICA, with its three almost identical rooms, is a manifestation of this idea. Part of the opera’s libretto deals with the notion of the multiplication of rooms, and this section of the opera will be played at the ICA on special light-emitting speakers designed by the artist. Other elements include high-speed automatic doors, which open like shutters and which act to separate the three rooms.

Each room also features a wall-mounted text piece rendered from mirrored lettering (When people tell me that I know how this story is going to end I usually tell them: wait till the end and you will see yourself…), and a carpet with a pattern derived in part from architectural geometry (and, in particular, Buckminster Fuller’s experiments with the geodesic dome) and in part from the coordinates of stars.

The title of Cellar Door is inspired by JRR Tolkien’s essay English and Welsh (1955), in which the author and linguist remarked on the pure beauty of the words ‘cellar door’ when placed together – it has since become a famous example of ‘phono-aesthetic’ or ‘euphonious’ phrasing.

This expression, and Gréaud’s Cellar Door project as a whole, are subjected to a further twist in Celador – an attractively packaged bag of sweets, complete with advertising campaign, conceived by the artist and available from a vending machine in the ICA’s bar. The twist is that the sweet has absolutely no taste, but rather the illusion of taste (or the taste of illusion). The artist’s intention is that whoever eats it has the potential to project whatever flavour they like onto it – thus reflecting the open-ended and collaborative nature of the Cellar Door project as a whole.

Gréaud has described his works as “machines where things are transformed, distorted and displaced… In my work, the origin and production of a piece are not meant to coincide.”

Loris Gréaud was born 1979 in Eaubonne and lives in Paris. He studied at the Conservatoire de Musique in Paris and at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts de Cergy. In the past, Gréaud has set up his own record label and, in 2004, he created DGZ Research – with architects Marc Dölger and Damien Ziakovic – a multidisciplinary production studio that has been involved in the realisation of several of his subsequent projects, including Cellar Door.

His solo exhibitions include Silence Goes More Quickly When Played Backwards, Le Plateau, Frac Île de France, Paris (2005), Devil’s Tower, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2006) and Cellar Door, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2008). His group exhibitions include BMW, IX Baltic Triennale, CAC, Vilnius (2005), Notre Histoire, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2006) and the 2nd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2007). The artist is represented by Yvon Lambert (Paris and New York).

Loris Gréaud: Cellar Door (Once is Always Twice) is accompanied by an artist’s book published by JRP/Ringier, featuring the libretto of Cellar Door (price to be confirmed).

The exhibition is in the ICA’s lower gallery, and runs concurrently with Nought to Sixty, a season of solo projects by emerging artists from the UK and Ireland, taking place in the ICA’s upper galleries (May 5 to November 2, 2008).