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"Claire Fontaine: The Exhibition Formerly Known as Passengers" 

Wednesday, Jun 17 2009

The French art collective Claire Fontaine refers to itself in the singular, as a "readymade artist" who "uses her freshness and youth to make herself a whatever-singularity and an existential terrorist." The affectation would be unbearably cute if not for the group's nearly relentless intelligence. Through earnest texts and purposefully imitative artworks, Claire Fontaine expresses an obsession with identity, commodity, and politics. A series of Bruce Naumann–esque circular signs spell out "truths" such as "the educated consumer is our best customer" (a slogan Public Enemy frontman Chuck D once denounced as "a goddamn lie"), while yellow neon blares out "Foreigners Everywhere" in Arabic script. Claire Fontaine also explores the idea that ownership is theft through some fairly literal devices: a video titled "Instructions for the Sharing of Private Property" that shows viewers how to pick a lock; "Passe-Partout," a collection of hacksaw blades and hex keys; and "Change," a set of quarters outfitted with boxcutter blades on rivets. This is familiar terrain trod heavily, and yet the work is provocative.

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Traci Vogel


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