On several occasions, Marie-Ange Guilleminot's works or gestures have managed to convey in an intuitive, even epidermic way, the shape of a meeting.
It was by casting in plaster the navels of her nearest relations, but also of strangers, that the artist embarked on her career in 1992.
During a performance in Tel Aviv in 1994, locked up in a cabin, she offered her hands to the public through two apertures in the wall. More recently, in "The folding screen" (1997), a modular structure of wood panels , she offered the visitors to the "Skulptur Projekt" in Münster, to slip their feet through its openings for a massage. Her work seems to weave a zone of contact, an intermediary and porous surface just like the pantyhose - a second skin between the body and the garment - her pet material (My Dolls, 1993 and Cauris, a backpack/pantyhose, pantyhose/backpack, 1995).
A few months ago, Marie-Ange Guilleminot chose 31 models from the stocks of the Bata shoe museum in Toronto. She was trying to understand how shoes are used without having special knowledge of them, and to render the experience of various forms of know-how through a common language since, she pointed out, "it was always through a body that the form of those objects has been defined".
Setting her methodology against that of the conservatives, the artist multiplies plottings as so many variations, front and profile drawings, weighing, transfer of dimensions, description of the colours and materials, rubbings on to India paper of the surface of the object revealing its unfolded shape. Her approach reminds one of that of Hjalmar Stolpe, a young Swedish historian working at ornamenting who, from 1880 to 1881, did several thousand rubbings on to tissue paper from the collections of ethnography museums throughout the world.
The history of shapes thus leans on a double experience both aesthetic and scientific.
Then Marie-Ange Guilleminot conducted the shooting of black and white pictures, in which each shoe, in profile, was seen in its median axis. The whole volume reduced to a single shot describes a silhouette very much like a drawing. A light shading means the object is linked to the floor. Or sets it on a blade which can represent the printing "size" since those questions of representation asked through the image of the shoe often match Jacques Derrida's reflections in "La restitution de la vérité en peinture" "(Rendering truth in painting) in La vérité en peinture, Flammarion, 1978). The philosopher comments on the contradictory interpretations given by Martin Heidegger and Meyer Shapiro of Van Gogh's "Old shoes with laces", as each of them adjusts them to his own feet. Derrida wonders "what surplus value triggers off the cancellation of their usability" and, by isolating one foot, Marie-Ange Guilleminot adds "this extra detachment" in which the object, out of scale, suggests a piece of furniture or of architecture, a boat.
Here again, the beholders slip on the shoes. You are sometimes reminded of a shoetree, as if the shape folded back on itself, an object both tight-fitting and moulded . Like My Dolls which the artist handled in 1993, calling up in turn male and female attributes, fetishist interpretations are frustrated, even defused from one shoe to another. The shoe of an Australian Aborigine, crocheted with human hair and emu feathers, confuses the front and back of the shoe and invariably fits a right or left foot.
Derida reminds us that for Freud "bisexual symbolisation remains an irrepressible and archaic tendency, dating back to infancy which ignores the difference between sexes."
The first space where this research is written is a book which the artist had devised with Michael Gordon, a graphic designer and publisher in Tel Aviv. Their two previous collaborations My Dolls (1996) and the Life-Hat (1998), already offered a translation of the work on paper, where the book is a full-fledged place. Each shoe is here printed full scale in the space of the page. The book, rolled up, leaves room for hesitation between two words : a piece of work and a volume.
Finally, elements made up from fragments taken from the anatomy of the shoes will soon be integrated in the Transformation parlour (1997). It is in the centre of this space, delimited by a red disc (it has already alighted in Venice, Mexico, Paris, Japan ...) that Marie-Ange Guilleminot offers the demonstration of multi-purpose objects through lighting likely to produce new ones. The reconstructed soles then act as so many patterns, or the shapes of imprints of the memory of each object, "detachable and re-attachable" , on which their future can be written at the visitors' feet.
Pierre Leguillon, in Beaux-Arts Magazine, issue no 186