Su-Mei Tse’s main preoccupation is the search for universal languages, languages that unite rather than separate, between two, even three cultures, thus being an expression of Luxemburg itself.
The universe of Su-Mei Tse revolves around sound, the image and the body. It is a work about rhythm, organic rhythm, which she does not create but uses as a choreographer.
In fact she uses music, photography, cinema and dance. Like a director, she is preoccupied by all the functions that define performing art. She does not film the real, she puts it on scene.
At the cutting edge of technology, however, her work keeps a traditional aspect. Her subjects are human and poetic, accessible and comprehensible to everyone. That she has exploited her double training – musical and artistic – to produce a «total» work makes her an artist out of the ordinary.
Her physical fragility is readily apparent. Reflective and extremely reasoned, quite quickly finding the means to express herself, Su-Mei Tse does not create on impulse, but with a precise mind.
Marie-Claude Beaud, Director of Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxemburg.
BETWEEN THE HOURGLASS AND THE METRONOME
Evolving from the works she has realized over the last five years, Su-Mei Tse’s project for the Luxemburg pavilion at the Venice Biennial takes the form of a passage. A word whose resonance is as much spatial as it is temporal, passage aptly designates the progression (in the usual, but also less mundane, musical sense of movement from one note or chord to the next) which the artist intends the viewers of her work to undertake. The musical analogy is very much to the point here in that Su-Mei Tse trained as a professional cellist prior to enrolling in art school, and many of her earlier pieces as a visual artist draw upon this formative experience. Thus, the punishing standards of excellence enjoined upon students at music conservatories — the inevitable counterpoint to the pleasure of learning and mastering an instrument, the arduousness but also the ardour of an apprenticeship, are the subject of two videos. In La Marionnette, 1999, the play of the artist as cellist is continually interrupted by the gesticulations of the cellist as puppet manipulated by the strings attached to her limbs, with the result that the sound accompanying the appropriately spasmodic images is a new «composition» resulting from the errors induced by such inordinate string-pulling; in Das wohltemperierte Klavier, 2001, in contrast, the audition of a fragment of that sublime composition is rendered visually discordant by the splints bandaged to the fingers playing on the keyboard...
The mismatch between sound and image, the discrepancy between a temporal (often rhythmic or repetitive activity) and the scale of the spatial setting, are motives that will recur in the suite of works planned for Venice. In a large scale video projection entitled Les balayeurs du désert («The Desert Sweepers»), a panoramic expanse of desert — an Africa of picture-postcard hue — will be punctuated by figures dressed in the distinctive green uniforms of the municipal street sweepers of Paris, each intent upon swishing sand into little heaps with his plastic broom, even as the low-key acoustic accompaniment to this video loop will be a recording of the sounds on tar and asphalt made by the real sweepers — a largely immigrant workforce — doing their early morning rounds of the Parisian streets.
In the other, comparably large scale video projection entitled The Echo, the scene shifts to an idyllic if no less kitsch-sublime view of mountains in Switzerland, a lofty Alpine backdrop (shades of Heidi and The Sound of Music!) for a diminutive figure playing the cello. The music that issues is a soliloquy of a very simple and slow melody and its answering Alpine echo, a musical phrase that will resonate in the pavilion as a whole, accompanied, as it were, by the «bass» provided by the rhythmic sounds of the sweepers brooms ... Will this undertone, this subaltern susurration issuing from those on the margins of the pastoral (and mercantile) haven, grow in volume, amplify, become turbulent, is a question that the more allegorically minded viewer will eventually want to ask. At any rate the artist would like to think that the mixed resonance of the echo imaginatively extends beyond the pavilion, beyond the national enclave which it signifies, beyond Venice even, beyond frontiers...
If the sound of the sweeper’s toil is also likened by Su-Mei Tse both to a metronome and to respiration, in contrast, in another part of the pavilion, in an empty space, a set of hourglasses, of varying duration linked to varying pulse or breathing rhythms, will propose another kind of temporal index. This archaic but always beguiling emblem of time’s passing will finds its complement in the silent antechamber to the installation as whole which the artist hopes to be able to realize, a muffled space equipped with headphones into which the viewer/auditor might plug-in to hear the sound ... of the absence of sound.
But pausing at the threshold, before negotiating the passage, one will be confronted with the lettering in neon that says «[E:r] conditionné» which Su-Mei Tse understands not as a title but as a connection, alluding phonetically (in French) to air, of course, but also to «ère» (era), and to «aire» (area), surface, floor, landing area, launching site, the points of the compass...
Deepak Ananth, Paris
Former student of the Courtauld Institute in London, Deepak Ananth is a lecturer in Art History at the École des Beaux-Arts in Caen, France. He is author of numerous essays on modern and contemporary art. As an independent curator, he is currently preparing, among others, an exhibition of drawings by Roland Barthes in Japan (December 2003), a painting exhibition by Rabindranath Tagore in Paris (2004-2005), and an exhibition dedicated to the young generation of Indian artists in Paris (2005).
The artist was born in Luxemburg in 1973. She lives and works between Luxemburg and Paris.
Education 2000 Diplôme National Supérieur d’Arts Plastiques avec les félicitations du Jury, École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris 1996 BTS Diploma, Textile & Printing, École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués, Paris 1993-1999 Conservatoire de Musique, Paris VI 1991 Cello 1st Prize, Music Chamber 1st Prize, Conservatoire de Musique de la Ville de Luxembourg
Prize 2001 Kunstpreis Robert Schuman, Interregional Prize SaarLorLux
Group exhibitions 2003 - Mursollaici, Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris 2002 - La Nuit Art Vidéo, Maillon-Wacken, Strasbourg - Animaux, soirée vidéo-art, Hampont 2001 - to be in tune…, Rob Kremer, Su-Mei Tse, Galerie Dominique Lang, Dudelange - Le bonheur 2001, programme vidéo, Belleville, Paris 2000 Diplomas, Sincères Félicitations, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Paris 1999 - Re, Boris Achour, Olivier Blanckart, Uri Tzaig, Su-Mei Tse, Public, Paris - Re, the sound of growing, Jean-Lou Majerus, Su-Mei Tse, Mompach, Luxembourg 1998 - Printemps, octobre 98, Centre Commercial Italie 2, Paris - Prix BIL Jeune Artiste, Galerie BIL – l’Indépendance, Luxembourg - Dégustation Macro-Visuelle, Mompach, Luxembourg
Solo exhibitions 2002 Rien à voir, projection vidéo, Instants Chavirés, Montreuil 2001 [E:r] conditionné, Galerie Premier Regard, Paris
CA’ DEL DUCA - PAVILLON DU LUXEMBOURG
Under the patronage of the Ministère de la Culture, de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche, Luxembourg
Commissioners Marie-Claude Beaud, Director of Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean Björn Dahlström, Curateur at Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean
Organized by Fondation Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (MUDAM), Luxembourg
Opening June 13 from 7pm
Press days June 12, 13, 14 from 10am to 6pm
Exhibition June 15 to November 2 from 10am to 6pm closed on Mondays (except June 16)
Ca’ del Duca Corte del Duca Sforza San Marco 3052 Venezia T. + F. +39 41 520 75 34 Vaporetto San Samuele (line 82) or Accademia (lines 1 & 82)