The Monkey King
Alexis Gautier's video work documents his encounter with a family of textile dyers transmitting a unique technique through generations. During a five-day long process, the fabric is transformed from a golden green to a deep purple by a chemical reaction between the pigment and the smoke of burnt Juniper.
Visiting the family, Gautier asked if his body could be treated as a raw textile on which to perform every step of the dyeing process. The video documents a fragment of the fumigation process of his garments and skin, and is narrated by Chong An’ the master dyer. Recalling the event from her own perspective, Chong An' compares Gautier to the Monkey King, a Chinese historical trickster who after surviving a fumigation death sentence realised that the smoke had made his eyes sharper, enabling him to see the difference between reality and fiction.
Using the social space created by textile-making, Gautier explores the embodiment of cultural transactions, the pantomime of cultural tropes and the abstraction of socially ritualised happenings. Questioning the position of the artist in the context of a culture unfamiliar to him, the work considers the creation, transmission and displacement of narratives to another context.
Composed with the contributions from individuals of various parts of the world, Alexis Gautier’s work explores the cultural transactions and transformations inherent to the movements of images and language. The work aims to create a microcosm for interactions between various protagonists, exploring shifts in movements and meanings in consideration of the archipelagic thinking developed by Edouard Glissant. Investigating the differences between exploration, post-colonialism and shared cultural heritage, the work questions the Western attitude of identifying patterns of ‘otherness’, and to essentialize identities and artefacts. Being invariably made with other people influencing the work's shapes and mediums, Gautier's project reflects upon the nature of cultural exchanges, value, as well as the ethics of authorship and exhibition making.
Alexis Gautier (b.1990, FR) is an artist based in Brussels and Brittany. Alexis is currently attending the Städelschule in Frankfurt Am Main (DE) and previously graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Antwerp (BE). He has had solo exhibitions at BOZAR (Brussels, 2017), Blue Mountain School (London, 2018), Basis (Frankfurt Am Main, 2019) and ISLAND (Brussels, 2020). He is currently designing a boat sail for an exhibition at sea during the Manifesta Biennial in Marseille (FR), and is working on stained-glass windows for a public commission in collaboration with Richard Tuttle. In 2021 he will present two new solo exhibitions at Museum M in Leuven (curator Eva Wittocx) and at CIAP Kunstverein in Genk (curator Louise Osieka).