One can almost always find a form of resistance in Marie Briffa’s work ; resistance to semantic imagination,organized by the intimate or the social. Her work regularly relates to objects that are linked to a structure and to a symbolic use (fairy-tales, nursery rhymes, family pictures, dreams), from which she extracts motifs or formal singularities to rearrange in new configurations and plastic artistic associations. In this way, these works propose a curious resistance to meaning and interpretation ; between the symbolic irreducible residue of the pattern, and significant silence ripped from the context that produced it, the viewer is left alone, facing a wide gap.
What Marie Briffa constructs is a formal, untranslatable language. A language, which, by using our own words, re-organized in a formal syntax impossible to interpret, traps us in a nonsensical gap between significant and signification.
Another strategy of this practice is to use a syntax and structure of known rapport, but to scramble the vocabulary. In Spoon to Drink, Marie melts fragments of phrases, and oneiric or surrealist images, in a regime of association that seems illustrative (following the model of illustrated books). Here, however, there is no new meaning able to be constructed from either the image or the text; on the contrary, this arbitrary confrontation accents their respective opacity, leaving us alone facing an interpretative perplexity. It is important that one must truly understand this destabilizing experience of facing a familiar object, of which logic escapes us. Marie Briffa liberalizes associative and symbolic relationships that we have integrated, and proposes a virtual world of imagination, extra-social, in which new rules of thought are possible.
We can also (indeed, we must), for example, consider the case of Olivier Sacks’s book The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat; or we can also simply consider all these conditions, which produce, in the man new aesthetic rules and associations of understanding the world. The social constructions in which these ideas appear impose their own frames and vocabulary, thus producing awkward expressionism through this fundamental misunderstanding, understood to be pathological, of an inexpressible perception. Undoubtedly, Marie Briffa ventures into the field of these experiences, putting evidence of our symbolic and associative structures back into play. She makes us autistic, and puts our arrogant, all-cognitive power in perspective, as well as our mastery of language and our processes of comprehension. We play a social game where we control the rules; but other rules are possible, and they perhaps already superimpose ours.
Julien Lanchet / 2012
Translated by Chloé Jane Briffa
Digital Paintings – A Pictorial Autopsy
We have seen how Marie Briffa’s work often aims to unravel the relationships which unify a motif and its social or private signification; Digital Paintings bring these processes to the heart of another practice – that of observational drawing.
Observation here passes through the technological filter of the computer, and dismisses our rapport to the support drawing and to observation itself. At first, because this virtualization of drawing dismisses itself from its material reality; however, paradoxically it is by its virtualization – leaving its frame, its scale and its unique blueprint to submit itself to infographic manipulation – that it acquires a new materiality. To amplify this we must consider scientific and medical imagery which allows us, through technology, to represent that which constitutes the visible world; X-rays, CAT scanners, and microscopes bring out the otherwise invisible and biological manner of the matter which comprises objects and bodies – in turn constructing a typology of the world according to a model which transcends ocular observation and the human scale.
Numerical drawing can possibly penetrate that also, virtually disemboweled by technology. By extracting and isolating plastic morphemes, organs, and representative symptoms from body to picture, Marie Briffa presents a new scale and a new formal function to these elements, which become the new subjects of the work of representation and association. However, the question of representation plays a central role, seen in medical imagery: how to represent to the human eye, that which is not observable on the human scale? There is another consequence of the aforementioned virtuality, made visible through Marie’s work by what comes and goes between virtuality and reality: Digital Paintings submit a series of scaled variations. The final shapes are in actuality not virtual, but a print of large proportions. The artist’s choice to give a physical reality to her images, a solid body; formed, skinned; denotes this effort to make the invisible visible by providing a framework, instead of visibility on a human scale where the virtual image does not scale, is not subject to any size, and therefore not in a physical relationship with the observer. But this rapport of scale with the viewer of Digital Paintings reveals an important material preoccupation.
Virtualization of an image and the manipulative possibilities, which ensues the overthrow of the classical hierarchy compared to the observation, is in a sense where the manipulation becomes the foremost of this observation (this is referred to elsewhere, in the medical domain, as electro-radiological manipulation). We observe only what we manipulate, and to observe, we must manipulate. The subjectivity of one’s observation, rendered obsolete by these manipulative possibilities, give way to a haptic practice of painting.
In her work with Scotch tape Background, and in Void if Discovered, this confrontation of gesture and observational drawing was already present. One needed to physically engage in the construction of the painting, before thinking it to emerge as a whole visible image. If physical engagement returns here to virtual manipulation, this occurs due to the same logic as a gestural construction of an image (Marie works with a mouse) that we usually find in painting practice.What is important is that these images result in a human construction, because this is where the work detaches from objective construction of the image and scientific methodology.The Digital Paintings bring the subjective and invisible experience of a virtual and haptic observation of an image, back to a public scale. It still concerns the revelation of virtual imagination – coming from behind the visibility of the horizon.
Julien Lanchet / 2012
Translated by Chloé Jane Briffa