Sylvie Fleury: Turn me on #MonthlyExhibit

Today we are going to do an immersive journey through the core themes of Sylvie practice, which, since the late 1980s, is articulated through video, sculpture, neon, painting, sound and performance. It deals topics that are still hotly debated today as the objectification of the female body, patriarchy, and the desire for vindication. Sylvie Fleury shows us her artistic evolution and thinking through everyday concepts that we usually consider private such as pleasure.

From the title we begin to glimpse the message it wants to convey. Indeed, it embraces two universes of meaning related to the production of desire: the invitation to turn on the machine on one hand and the sphere of eroticism on the other. The phrase Turn me on exposes the tension between the fetishization of the vehicle and the objectification of women’s bodies by commercial jargon.

Punk feminist in disguise

Sylvie Fleury

The artist’s eclectic production results in seductive and radical images challenging sexist stereotypes promoted by mass culture such as art history, turning them into a weapon in the hands of those who are usually its victims.

Fleury confronts contemporary value construction mechanisms, emphasizing their interaction with gender politics and forms of patriarchal power. In parallel, she appropriates and distorts traditional languages of the history of Western art such as Pop Art and Minimalism.

Please, no more of that kind of stuff

Sylvie Fleury

The artist took this phrase giving a new meaning. Indeed, it was wrote such as a negative comment left by a visitor in a guestbook at the entrance to a series of her early exhibitions. She often uses pre-existing sources to construct new meanings: objects, symbols and images from the fields of fashion, cinema, pop cultures and contemporary art are absorbed into the Fleury’s visual vocabulary and used to create unexpected narrative. Indeed, here we have a revolver that turns out to be a hair dryer.

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What interest me the most is usually not immediately visible – something beyond appearances. Sometimes all you need to do is scratch the surface, other times you have to blow it to pieces

Sylvie Fleury

Fashion is a tool to satirize the fetishization of female glamour, and the artist plays with the ways in which consumerism reproduces gender stereotypes. Indeed, Fleury transforms the heeled shoe, stereotypically associated with femininity, into a weapon that dominates the scene. Other installations meant to emphasize her desire for escapism and breaking the patterns for sure are represented by works such as the golden cage that turns into an object of desire, chains, and the use of vertical lines on the wall that take on soft shapes breaking the artist’s strict verticality. The ironic and sexy aspect of Fleury’s works conceals a provocation: minimalist art once handled by men only comes into contact with the female sphere through transgression, sabotage and disfigurement that provokes aesthetic enjoyment.

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Be good, be bad, just be! is a depiction of a cave which the artist imagines as a space of self-transformation. The cave is both a spiritual space of purification and an advertising slogan of self-awareness. The entrance recalls an organic and natural form, set in contrast to the first room. This setting aims to emphasize how our subjectivity has become a merchandise of exchange.

The male-female contrast is found in the sci-fi room that on the surface appears to be dedicated to male power. The rockets take phallic shapes to emphasize the power of man. However, after the first three large rockets covered in white fur, we find others in foam rubber lying defeated and helpless under the neon light that reads High heels on the moon. Fleury wants to emphasize the female vindication that is liberating for all those who have been excluded by the patriarchal narrative of her conquest.

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There are also many allusive videos that immediately disprove the erotic dimension, however. For example, in the commercial Between my legs, the erotic illusion of the title is belied by a performance in which the artist is filmed driving while clutching between her legs various objects such as a Coke bottle, a pack of cigarettes, and a sandwich. Here it is highlighted how appearances can be deceptive. Sylvie Fleury transports us to her transgressive and combative vision of the world through breaking the schemes and the use of neon lights.

What do you think of this new vision of the world?
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