eric pougeau, fils de pute (son of a bitch) (2010)
Eric Pougeau's work, shown in the patio, takes a shockingly irreverent approach to death. The tombstone is out of place in an arts centre, transporting us instead to the cemetery and personal memories of sadness and mourning. Which is why the insult chiselled in the marble carries such force. Not just for the crudeness of the language, but because it is incongruous with a funeral environment and the respect death commands.
This sculpture, from Antoine de Galbert's collection, is the last in a series, begun in 2001, of wreaths, floral tributes and memorial plaques on which the artist has inscribed a variety of insults that explore diverse aspects of everyday violence (social, domestic, homophobic, misogynous, etc.). It is a one-off which the collector has promised to return in the event of the artist's death, so as to respect his last wish that it be used as his tombstone. Pougeau pushes the artist's identification with his work to the extreme; the two are indissociable, in life as in death.
Death is meant to be a time for forgiveness and reconciliation with those we may have insulted during their lifetime. In Pougeau's work, death does nothing to dull anger or resentment; insults can still reach us six feet under. There are no maudlin sentiments, no best behaviour, no good taste.
This invective set in stone raises all kinds of hypotheses and sparks all manner of fictions. It suggests at the very least a slanging match that death has not ended. The artist continues to voice his rage from the grave. His life, work and fury are concentrated in this tombstone, ad vitam aeternam.
This simple black rectangle, engraved with ten gold letters, has a curious capacity to disturb. Without any hard-hitting images, gore or pornography, through simple displacement, the unexpected overlapping of an insult and a sacred object, Pougeau's work provokes and compels us to reflect, however unwillingly, on our relationship with death.
emilie bouvard : l’artiste orchestrant sa mort dans l’art contemporain