Features

Emmanuelle Lainé

Lainé’s complex installations transform the spaces they occupy into unsettling perceptual environments. The artist brings together familiar objects, organic materials and life-sized, floor-to-ceiling imagery to create disorienting scenes that explored industry, display and the contemporary workplace.

Text Interview with curators Cliff Lauson and Tarini Malik
All images Courtesy by the artist

Your installations often combine life- sized, floor-to-ceiling photographic images with a variety of objects. How did you develop this approach, and how has it evolved?

When I first started making installations in my studio, I brought together lots of different objects that belonged to me and that related to my activity in that space. In these early installations it was my own history and context that linked the disparate objects; they became a kind of cloud of thinking, connected by desire. I began to use photographs within my installations because of their ability to cut time into a single moment, to freeze it and to let somebody – an audience – come inside an activity, have a look, and even construct their own interpretation of this crazy gathering of things.
Later, when I began to make work in spaces that had nothing to do with my own history, the installations became more of a dialogue with each new place and the people who worked there. This way of working – of letting the context of the place enter the core of the practice, and letting it lead or provide the style of the installation – is very important to me, in part because it goes against the idea of the artist as an isolated genius who has no attachments and no constraints, and who works for fun rather than to make a living.

Could you speak about the idea of layering in your work – both conceptual and physical? 

My thoughts around layering, and the way that I imagine and design these spaces comes in part from the culture of the digital image. When you’re trained to use editing software you learn to think in terms of layers. In my work, I take this idea of layering and extend it to the space itself. In “Learn the Rules Like a Pro, So You Can Break Them Like an Artist!” there appears to be one large image that captures a single moment in time. In fact, this image layers together at least five or so different moments: the little girl behind the door is one moment or one photo, then there are three different views that we combined to make the panorama, and then there’s the machine. I think of the spaces that I create as being like workspaces, or shelters. I like the idea that the spaces between the layers of the picture might be a place where you want to hide, or disappear. I also like that these layers create a kind of micro-architecture. 

How do you go about selecting the objects that feature in your installations?
Rather than choosing objects that appeal to me personally, I try to steal or to borrow objects from the people that I’ve met or am working with for my installations. Here in the pictures, for example, I asked for items that were lying around the desks of the people that I was working with things like waste paper bins or notice boards, as well as coffee cups or water bottles that had all been used in the process of making this and other exhibitions. The objects that you see in this installation views mostly belong to Hayward Gallery. There are also two items of clothing that belong to me – that’s more or less it.

The construction of time or duration is such an interesting aspect of your installations – from the supposedly instantaneous nature of the photograph to the experience of this frozen tableau that you can examine indefinitely, and yet they are part of the same space…
Yes, they are totally part of the same space, which I hope is a kind of allegorical one. To me, these installations are visual and expressive at the same time as requiring a kind of detailed semantic deciphering. Together, the many different objects in the installation build an impression of an activity or event that has taken place in the space over a long period, that seems in fact to have been going on right up until the moment that the exhibition started. They create a kind of nature mort, or still life. As a spectator entering the space you have to survey the entire scene before attempting to reassemble all of the different elements into something that is in fact lost forever.

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