– Autumn/Winter 2004

Stories of O

Catherine Wood

Joëlle Tuerlinckx, 
Bild, oder…, (installation view),  Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, 2004. Courtesy of the artist.

Joëlle Tuerlinckx, 
Bild, oder…, (installation view), Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, 2004. Courtesy of the artist.

Life is but the belled cap worn by Nothingness.
- S. Bonaventura 1

Pas d'histoire / Pas d'histoire was the title of a project by Joëlle Tuerlinckx at Witte de With in Rotterdam (1994). The title was translated into English for the catalogue as 'No story / No history', although it might equally have been interpreted as a repetition of either half of that phrase. There is also a third, more colloquial translation of 'pas d'histoire' meaning 'it doesn't matter'. It is characteristic of Tuerlinckx's work that she chose a title that functions as a riddle whose sum of meanings adds up to an emphasis on nothingness: no story, no history, no matter. Like the tautological textual play itself this particular sum of nothingness empties out the possibilities of content and consequence in present, past and future, creating a locked pocket of conceptual space.

Joëlle Tuerlinckx's installations comprise choreographies of found and hand-made objects, manipulations of gallery lighting or framed shafts of sunlight, film and slide projections, pencilled graffiti text and marks, paper 'screens' and scattered card or paper shapes that the artist describes as 'confetti'. The artist's considered placement of these objects in the exhibition space lifts them from the ordinary, often throwaway status they occupy in real time. Instead, her environments become a theatre of things that compress and expand the viewer's experiences of time, scale and light to heighten and disorientate perception. Tuerlinckx has said: 'When I am offered an exhibition space it is as though I receive a kind of parcel, a packet of air'.2 There is an equivalence between her use of riddle and

  1. S. Bonaventura in Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995

  2. Cahier #2, text accompanying exhibition at Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, 1994

  3. From press release for 'BILD, oder ... mit dem Fuss in der Realität' at the Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, 2004

  4. Chambers Dictionary, 8th Edition

  5. 'Pieces, pieces and things, things and pieces' was the title of Tuerlinckx's exhibition at Witte de With in Rotterdam, 1994 (in Dutch: 'Stukjes, stukjes et dingen, dingen, dingen et stukjes').

  6. David Deitcher, 'Lost & Found', in Wolfgang Tillmans, Burg, Cologne: Taschen, 1998

  7. Tuerlinckx discovered this definition of zero in the Mathematics Section of the Museum of Science in Boston.

  8. The Story of O, London: Corgi Books, 1995, first published in 1954

  9. Frank Vande Veire, 'Something about how a Tuerlinckx Machine traverses the Exhibition Machine', in M. Catherine de Segher (ed.), Inside the Visible: An Elliptical Traverse of 20th-Century Art in, of and from the Feminine, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996, p.453

  10. M. Blanchot, op. cit.

  11. The Bataille quote is found in Briony Fer, On Abstract Art, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997, p.79

  12. M. Blanchot, op. cit., p.1

  13. Ibid., p.29

  14. Joëlle Tuerlinckx, Chicago Studies: Les Etants Donnés / Space Thesis (exh. cat.), Chicago: The Renaissance Society, 2004