Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Studio Visit: Eloise Fornieles

Posted in Reviews by paulpys on October 23, 2009


London, 26/02, Paradise Row


Having meandered through the East End, I arrive at Paradise Row Gallery for the private view of Eloise Fornieles’ ‘A Grammar of Love & Violence’. Upon entering the space, I discover a dimly lit room featuring an installation, within which Eloise’s performance is set. The context of the installation – scaffolding, kissing chairs, carpets, hair strewn across the floor – invokes a sense of eerie domesticity and intimacy. Atop a tower of scaffolding sits Eloise, sworn to a month of silence, inviting participants to climb up and share a story. Intrigued, I join Eloise and tell her about a strange dream I had. The experience is somewhat bizarre – having told a story, one expects immediate verbal reaction. And yet all Eloise could reciprocate with was body language, a quiet hum or miming a word. Conversation dissolved, turning to a monologue.


By the exit, I find a stack of blank envelopes and letters. I write to Eloise with a question, attaching my address. I go home eagerly awaiting an answer.


London, Mid-May


No letter arrives. I contact Eloise with a set of questions regarding my IRP-A – questions relating to her practice and the curatorial agenda of the project – applying William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s Third Mind to exhibition making. I receive an enthusiastic reaction, followed by a flash of realization – Eloise writes ‘believe it or not, I have been carrying your name and address with me for some time and it now finds itself in the far reaches of the Pacific’. Again, I find myself eagerly awaiting a letter.


Copenhagen, 01/07


A chunky envelope drops through the door. Excited, I notice ‘Nippon’ on the stamps – the letter arrived from Japan. After tearing open the envelope, I find the envelope I had myself addressed, this time ‘customized’ by Eloise with a bizarre dragon-like creature. Inside that, is a large pink sheet of paper, folded like a puzzle – a puzzle which holds the answers to my questions. Smartly folded, I carefully thread question to answer, inevitably becoming slightly lost. I flip the sheet to discover Bruce Nauman’s ‘Body Pressure’ on the other side.


London, 12/10


Having missed Eloise by two days in Istanbul, we finally meet in London. I stand outside her house, an old vicarage in London Fields, carefully inspecting the pink letter. Her bedroom acts as her workplace, adding another level of intimacy to the already peculiar notion of a studio visit. We sit back in large armchairs, sniggering at how posh we look drinking Lapsang Suchong and eating figs. ‘Courtesy of my dealer’ pips Eloise and laughs her head off. Her desk is littered with small, intricate watercolours of horses, surrounded by large coffee table books of recent exhibitions at the V&A – magnificent, embroidered dresses from the Russian court, Uzbek tapestries. Whilst discussing her performances The Oyster Bar and Senescence, I catch myself screening the room for clues – things, objects, pictures that in some way refer back to Eloise’s practice. As we discuss her Beijing performance which included Eloise walking naked on a treadmill, whilst carrying a dead, shaved goat (wild!), I notice a photo of Zinedine Zidane’s face covered in blood and a series of drawings of animals, their spines painted as red threads running through their bodies. We talk about family origins and Eloise’s Anglo-Argentinian heritage. As I notice a book on Bas Jan Ader, Eloise describes a project she would like to carry out which includes her travelling to Argentina by boat and forcing herself to learn to speak Spanish. We veer towards practicalities – the IRP-A, the upcoming 176 ‘Testing Ground: Live’ weekend, yet without loosing the informal, chatty nature of our encounter. We discuss the letter as Eloise elaborates certain points. As I get ready to leave, she apologizes – ‘I’m sorry about all the animals, there are also mice, a cat and a snake, but the snake is at work now’. I hesitate and wonder whether or not question what exactly the snake’s ‘work’ entails, but instead I take it as a given, having already teased Eloise for her family stories sounding too much like a Wes Anderson script.


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