Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster is one of the most prominent contemporary artists on the international scene. She has had solo exhibitions at some of the world’s leading art centres and won many prestigious awards for her work. Early in her career, from the late 1980s on, she focused on the creation of chambres, environmental spaces that explore the concept of the interior. Through the reconstruction of these spaces, she critically explores the conventions that govern our relationship with built environments. The underlying aim is to question utopian promises, the ideological substratum, and even the functional failings of architecture and town planning, from modernism to some of the latest approaches. Since the mid-1990s she has explored a range of themes, focusing particularly on ways of life linked to the reality of contemporary cities. Gonzalez-Foerster uses film works and elaborate installations to construct narrative and spatial environments that radically alter the traditional parameters of perception, forcing the viewer to overcome an initial sense of strangeness and take a position. In the construction of these environments, the artist frequently uses a huge range of cultural references, which somehow transform her work into a point of convergence for different disciplines, such as literature, architecture, film and music. On various occasions, she has carried out projects in close collaboration with other artists of her generation (Pierre Huygue, Liam Gillick and Rirkrit Tiravanija, among others). In many of her works she uses the world of contemporary art itself as material to be manipulated and re-contextualized. This approach is evident in Roman de Münster (2007) and TH.2058 (2009), her project for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster has always avoided defining her work in terms of a particular style, suggesting that the crucial thing is to integrate all the elements that make up her experience (readings, films, people, places) to create a narrative that the viewer is invited to engage with and participate in. In this context, the inspiration she draws from the strategy of dérive (drift)—an unplanned exploration of the wealth of stimuli offered by a particular environment—plays a key role in her work. The abundance of chance incidents and details associated with any given setting lead participants on a wandering, unpredictable route towards new, authentic experience. Rather than simply seeking a methodology for straightforward urban exploration, Gonzalez-Foerster proposes a strategy for ensuring open perception of places, an ongoing exercise in mobility that facilitates complex interpretation. This involves paying attention to what appear to be insignificant details and to the contexts the viewer has immersed him or herself in. Petite (2001) is a video installation in which the images and their architectural container are perfectly in accord. In a simple, aseptic space enclosed between two transparent glass walls, a sequence of images evokes the anxiety and confusion that can take hold of a child’s imagination. As in the majority of Gonzalez-Foerster’s installations, the atmosphere generated by this combination of elements is almost theatrical, but rather than simply presenting a stage for us to watch, the piece works as an environment into which the viewer has been placed in order to activate an experience.
Andrea Aguado Alemany