Vertige profonde. Vava Dudu. Editions Salon du Salon

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13th, 2022
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This fanzine is entitled “Vertige Profonde”, Vava Dudu, an exhibition that took place at the Salon du Salon in Marseille in 2017.

Vava Dudu’s solo exhibition “Vertige Profonde,” at Philippe Munda’s Marseille gallery, Salon du Salon, is visually balanced to the point of stillness. Carefully laid out grids of pen and ink drawings on notebook paper and scrawled across the thin cotton sheets that line the walls can do nothing to disturb this equilibrium. Small mounds stand out invitingly, sketched with slim lines inside abstract folds. Holes weep as the silhouettes of fingers slide into them. Disembodied breasts drip, cupped lightly in large hands. What kind of soft volume is that finger spreading beneath and around it with its insistence on the vertical axis? ‘Does it matter?’ Dudu’s drawings seem to say. There is nothing balanced about desire, and yet here it is, stilled, caught on rectangles of paper and cloth, so that one can focus on the implications just of that one mouth and the hand that is tangled around whatever it is sucking on.

“Vertige Profonde” is French for intense vertigo, but in the word profonde there is also the suggestion of a phenomenon that is underlying, as though vertigo were at the foundation of sexual play. The spinning, de-centering center of human experience. As Dudu’s iconographic drawings spill down a rosé sheet meticulously pinned to the wall, its surface tension breaking only to accommodate a wrought-iron radiator, it is easy to see her graphic accumulation as the dizziness of the body caught in time with another body. The fact that the exhibition as a whole is still, nevertheless, results from the fact that there is nothing abject about desire as Dudu envisions it. There is violence, a lack of orientation and of any ultimate climax in her work, but it does not speak to what happens to the body before or after vertigo; there is no motive and no collapse.

Dudu has a reputation for being uncategorizable, an intense iconoclast with a vision governed by irreverence and intuitive play. As a fashion stylist, she made corsets for Jean-Paul Gautier, and then started her own line of accessories using ancient beads. With Fabrice Lorrain, she won the prestigious ANDAM prize for fashion in 2001 on the basis of a series of fashion performances in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Dudu and Lorrain’s innovation was to repurpose used clothing and other material, amalgamating existing garments rather than producing clean or freshly coherent clothing. Together they made pieces for Lady Gaga, Björk, and Cat Power. In 2003, Dudu founded La Chatte, French for pussy, an electro-rock-punk-queer-pop band, for which she creates elaborate costumes like the one she wore for an interview at La Gaîté Lyrique in Paris when their album “Crash Ocean” was released in 2014. Her psychedelic stockings are reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’s early color palette. These are topped by a giant, bright yellow puffer jacket out of which two plastic, wilted, white women’s heads are spilling out of the jacket’s collar on either side of Dudu’s own.

Salon du Salon occupies two adjoining rooms on the third floor of a spacious old bourgeois apartment on l’Avenue du Prado, a wide boulevard radiating out of the center of Marseille towards the South and into the city’s richer neighborhoods. Philippe Munda has run the gallery for four years at its current location, which is also his residence. He is interested in what it means to live with others adjacent to this kind of space.

French bourgeois apartments have an internalized separation of public and private. With its cavernous ceilings, its French windows giving onto a shallow city balcony that lines the entire building, Salon du Salon is intimate without succumbing to informality. This space was designed to encompass social masquerade at the scale of the body, and so it breathes, unlike its massive post-industrial cousin.

The two rooms also separate two very distinct moods in Dudu’s work: one rosé and the other red and black. On either side of the arched doorway that opens between these spaces, Dudu and Munda installed a pair of jackets that are among the few works Dudu did not create in situ as part of her short residency leading up to the exhibition. A red jacket and a black jacket were halved and then sown together with the opposite half of its twin, so that each is red and black. The word “security” is thus split, as is a black star against a red ground. Across both is stitched the phrase, “vous n’avez pas répondu à mon regard,” which translates to “you did not respond to my gaze,” but the address is formal. I read the security jacket as the uniform of mercenary authority and the starred jacket as the representative of some mixture of punk and old-school communism, another kind of order, and only slightly less authoritarian than its twin.

If there is no collapse in “Vertige Profonde,” there is nevertheless an admission of the failure of systems to suture all subjects equally within the fabric of society, into order or counter-order. This failure on the part of the uniformed to respond to the gaze of an Other is the violent pair to desire, it is the other center-less center of society. The refusal to be ethical, the refusal to look, is ultimately the refusal to be undone by the possibility of another’s desire.

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