For her latest solo exhibition, Mimosa Echard has created an immersive, psychedelic experience at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. In a recent conversation with CoBo Social, she shared how the show is centred around a video game she created, and an ambiguous unicellular organism called myxomycetes.
TEXT: Herbert Wright
IMAGES: Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris
The Palais de Tokyo, a monumental art deco building in Paris which has been stripped back inside to become a vast contemporary art gallery complex, hosts several exhibitions simultaneously. This summer a highlight is “Sporal” by multi-disciplinary French artist Mimosa Echard, whose work connects alternative culture, natural phenomena and technology.
Sporal is both the name of the extraordinary, enigmatic and personal exhibition and its central work, a 42-minute film. With music and English dialogue, it is projected on to a 10-metre-wide screen she created as a patchwork of different materials, some translucent and casting their patterns on the floor behind. The film’s soundtrack contains music and ambient sounds by Aodhan Madden and Yvan Etienne.
The word sporal is related to spores, such as those produced by myxomycetes, a slime mould which spreads across decaying plant material. The exhibition stems from a video game (on sporal.net) created by Echard set in a dream-like world imagined inside a myxomycetes organism.
Behind the Sporal film, on a smaller LED screen, the meditative, virtually motionless film I’m Only Sleeping depicts someone sleeping. Appearing throughout the exhibition are strings of glass beads hanging up to four metres long over plastic container trays in which objects, including defunct technology such as a CCTV camera, are sometimes overwhelmed by a pink, blobby material. In a smaller gallery, as well as more hanging glass bead works, there are wall-mounted works. They include Batchat, a large, striking three-dimensional pink organic relief work like an alien landscape seen from above, with a photograph mounted in its centre.
How did your interest in myxomycetes begin?
Through my research into the Japanese folklorist and proto-ecologist Minakata Kumagusu, who used to study these organisms. I undertook a residency at the Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto in order to meet with various scientists that work with these organisms, as well as explore their presence in Japanese counterculture. This led me to speculate about their desire, their memory, their sexuality, the fact that they have one cell with multiplying nuclei…[I also asked] a shamisen player to write a song about them. The tale that she sings about then came to inspire the loose narrative within the video game.
How does the “Sporal” exhibition relate to the Sporal video game you have created?
The video game form seemed to lend itself to experimenting with the immersive limits of art or of painting…perception, psychedelia, and the particular emotion that I had watching my friends play video games as a child. I wanted something between active and passive, hence why I didn’t want the viewer to be able to play the game in the exhibition, and that the game is kind of the ‘’seed’’ for the exhibition, a seed in reverse. The first version will be ready [late July], and I hope to continue to work on other iterations in the near future.
The video game all takes place within a ‘’sculpture’’ that I made and then scanned, a kind of cellular interior. Within this cell, there are other ‘worlds’, like the garden with the dome, the empty room with the seahorse, a beach at night time…
In the main gallery in which the Sporal film is shown, it felt like being in a club chill-out room, a place of tranquility but where the energy of music was near. Did experiences of underground club culture and its sense of freedom shape the atmosphere?
Yes exactly, along with other things. The sensation of intense but distant music playing elsewhere has always had an emotional effect on me.
Can you tell us about the huge patchwork for the Sporal film screen?
The patchwork is made from many different elements: printed images [from] the ‘’making of” the video game; psychedelic wall hangings; lace; recycled, naturally dyed or bleached fabric…among other things. It roughly resembles diagrams of hard-drive storage…as well as a kind of “memory‘’ of the game itself.
In the film, there is dialogue. Does it anthropomorphise myxomycetes?
No, not really… the myxomycetes have a more spectral presence in Sporal. The dialogues present in the film are with the characters in the video game: three flowers, a seahorse and a snake loosely based on Kiyohime, a character from a Japanese folk tale. The anthropomorphic quality comes from the logic of fairy tales, or folk tales…or trippings…less about the idea of turning something into a human, but rather when things “just are”—without intention or reason.
The exhibition has a very personal, intimate dimension. Is it in some way autobiographical?
I wouldn’t say it is especially autobiographical, but there are always traces of “me” in my work, more or less explicit, for example the photo glued to the surface of Batchat, or various objects attached to the beaded sculptures…from my time in Japan, or just everyday objects found in my studio.
What is that photograph in the centre of Batchal?
This is a photo I took of my friends in the village where I grew up. They are playing a snowboarding video game. I would have been 10 years old. Batchat is the name of the cat sleeping on the cushion, on the windowsill above the screen. This photo is important to me the way it brings the window in reality to the game, the real and simulated landscape, and also how it confuses any simple definition of active and passive.
Are the hanging glass beads a metaphor for something?
There is no explicit metaphor, though the sculptures are named ‘sap’ both in the sense of a tree’s vital fluid, and the verb to tire or drain (energy).
Containers beneath the hanging beads carry artefacts and pink organic material. Do they perhaps suggest that all we create will be subsumed by decay?
Perhaps, perhaps death is a dry drip.
Is the title of the work I’m Only Sleeping from the Beatles song? Could you say that Sporal is a dream?
#imonlysleeping is hashtag that is used on the video streaming platform Twitch, where people film themselves sleeping. I like the idea that the video is a dream of a video game, without this being the only interpretation. The presence of the webcam on the edge of the frame cuts the kind the dreamy quality…it’s just really people watching people watching people.
The colour pink runs through your Sporal show. Does it relate to your childhood?
I don’t know how I could describe my relation to pink…full girl, full freak, full flesh… also the fact that yes, growing up in the Cévennes (a remote, mountainous French region), pink was almost alien to my everyday landscape…
15 April – 4 September 2022
Palais de Tokyo, Paris
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