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7 MEASUREMENT UNITS
written for the exhibition catalogue: if then else
LAb[au]'s artistic approach is based on the binomial of art and language, researching what constitutes the language of art. This comparison pursues the intention to form a view of our contemporary world, to capture the spirit and aesthetics of our time.
These two sentences in themselves define the elements qualifying LAb[au]'s artistic approach. On the one hand, the question of language reveals a methodological approach at the core of their artistic practice; a reflection that focuses on what constitutes and makes a language. LAb[au] addresses these issues by introducing semiotics and semantics into their artistic reflection, dealing with terminology, definitions, grammar and syntax, the building blocks of language, and with the notion of signs, the elements of representation and meaning.
On the other hand, the question of art leads to studying its constituent elements such as form, colour, materiality... by also addressing the practices directly related to them such as drawing, painting, measuring... This self-reflexive approach to art compared to language leads to a discussion/analysis of formal language, programming, and code. This linguistic and methodological approach may seem like the wish to objectify and measure art. What may initially appear to be a rationalisation of art is in fact only the starting point for a speculative artistic vision, firmly rooted in its time.
LAb[au]’s linguistic approach goes hand in hand with the exploration of subjects such as time and space and their measures. These topics are addressed through their basic units, standards and parameters. The meter and the second are among the seven basic units of the International System, from which all other physical units can be derived. The candela - light, the kelvin - heat, and the ampere - electricity are all an integral part of LAb|au]'s vocabulary and artistic research. Our interest in these units is motivated by their ability to show our relationship to the world by structuring our perception and, in general, our thinking.
These units are intrinsic to all works of art, but it is only in conceptual art that they have become a content and artistic expression in themselves. Presented as works in themselves, these self-referential statements declare an evident, measurable quality of the work. This tautological approach highlights the principles that condition the conception and structure of the artwork. The question of time and space, in general, is addressed by examining time and space specifically in the work itself and thus goes beyond the notion of art, highlighting rather its relationship to the spectator and society. When one thinks of time, one can imagine any reference system to capture its essence. Indeed, unlike many other notions, our understanding of time strongly depends on a subjective perception based on a personal reference system, which differs from an exact and objective notion of time. This phenomenology of time is addressed in the project "one of a billion years". The project employs the whole sum of combinations of an invented but logical system which is set to the parameter of time and its relation to time. Faced with the almost infinite combinations without any obvious meaning, the viewer is confronted with the vastness of possibilities and the infinity of time.
This question of scale, and the measure of the immeasurable, is the basis of the "Interstice" project. The work follows a simple protocol: a surveyor measures the space with the greatest precision and marks his triangulation points on the ground. His drawing is superimposed on the architect's original plan. The difference between the two - the added or missing millimeters - attract the viewer's attention to this tiny space, the gap between what has been planned and what has been realised - as if we could measure what separates concept from reality, our ideas from our achievements.
Reflecting on our relationship to the world, to what surrounds us and that which we call reality, through expressing what seems to be obvious and objective evokes tautology, the conceptual equivalent of which, in the context of painting, is monochrome. The series of chroma paintings play on this assumption of what appears to be necessarily true. The viewer is confronted with a monochrome alternating between black and white - a painting that is one and its opposite at the same time. The work has its origin in art terminology and history and applies tautology to deconstruct the idea of truth, objectivity and the absolute of the monochrome. These few examples illustrate the manner in which LAb[au] engages in a reflection on the question of art, the ultimate goal of which is to form a vision of our time.
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