If the title of the exhibition, « Fluffy Flavours », sounds like the promise of something sweet for the visitor, Delphine Pouillé’s sprawling work seems more like it actually swallows him/her up in its many more or less tantalizing bellies.

Hanging from clips attached to a rail placed as close as possible to the ceiling and dangling dangerously close to the floor, the thrums invade the space, emphasizing dimensions at the same time as they disturb perception. This display results directly from the way in which these pieces of polyurethane foam are dried. Like a strange curtain of stuffed strings, they obstruct the space from top to bottom. Thus a form of architecture is born within the architecture. If Delphine Pouillé has already taken over interiors and urban sites in the past, never has her work been so fully based on construction. For the public, this obstruction of a part of its environment first has a powerful visual impact. But above all it disrupts the public’s physical relationship with the works, so pivotal for the artist. By blocking space, the thrums thwart the visitor’s body. Forced to go around their stalks and masses, he/she must constantly reconsider his/her own possibilities of movement in order to comprehend these fragile yet imposing works. This restriction is intensified by the somewhat perverse banning of any touching of the pieces, in spite of the fact that they elicit the desire to do just that – to lean on them, to gauge their flexibility or their resistance to impacts. But the proscription itself is not hard and fast, and the constraint is ambiguous.

The bugs, digital drawings with circumvolutions that are very similar to those of the thrums, are hung according to a similar process. The result of the simplification and then the enlargement of an initial sketch by hand, these pieces are printed out in large format in order to promote a certain distancing and to lead to a more direct relationship with the sculptures than with the visitor. This method of presentation conjures up a classification of species and emphasizes the anthropological aspect of the works. If the forms are clearly organic, they remain mysterious, the artist avoiding anything literal in order to preserve a “space of others’ own projection”. Stump or ham hock – as Antonin Artaud describes, from whom the generic title of this often ham-pink array is borrowed – stomach, intestine, lung, raw muscle or genital organ: they are all of these at once and it’s for this reason that they touch us in our animality, in our consciousness of being living and yet subject to decay.

From her first jacos – pieces that function as camisoles – Delphine Pouillé’s productions have observed strict rules that are imposed upon them even before their realization. The first of these constraints is that of the materials. This is where the principle of projecting the foam into a fabric mold (with a spandex lining sometimes covered with fleece) originated, the only way of obtaining a perfect form while also being subjected to gravity and the effects of light as well as those of temperature. The thrums have a life of their own, and this biological transformation is crucial for an artist whose production evolves through mutation. She accepts certain failures, like the drips sweating through the fluffy skin, with the blissful unawareness of someone who doesn’t know where this renunciation will lead her. Thanks to processes developed in an empirical way, she also provokes accidents as much as by torturing her pieces (she overstuffs them, robs them, hobbles them, strangles them and finally hangs them up) as by tending to them (she operates on them, washes them, massages them, and dresses them). Delphine Pouillé also chooses to accept the constraints of her techniques, drawing and sewing. If the thrums are very graphic, it’s not only because each one originates in a unique sketch and in the drawing of the patterns, but also because the seams (as reduced as possible) lend a fine and flat aspect to the edges and because their imprints also resemble drawings.

Delphine Pouillé revisits Post-Minimalism here, as measured against the visceral softness, following the mode of the precision and the constraint of the living, with its marvelous surprises and its ultimate degeneration.

Aurélie Barnier, An Art of Constraint, press release of Fluffy Flavours, solo exhibition, NextLevel gallery, Paris, France, 2011

English translation by Alice C. Cook-Perron