Small Comfort, 1995

Plexiglass globe, 1 video projector,
2 loudspeakers, 1 video, PAL, colour,
sound, 32’13”.
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris (France)

Mat Collishaw's work, often associated with the Young British Artists' scene of the 1990s, belongs to a genre that is at once baroque and realistic, critical and poetic, where the image is invariably a paradoxical place of tension, violence and “forced entry”. His work spans the whole gamut of reproducible media (photography, video, soundtrack) and reveals the deeply artificial and illusory nature of contemporary forms of representation, along with their systems which pervert and contaminate reality through the prevailing language of advertising and the media. In his different installations, Mat Collishaw pushes the law of desire and seduction to the limit. He topples viewers over into a space which ensnares their expectations, somewhere between the marvellous and childlike appearance of a manneristic aesthetics and the brutality and detachment of the subjects depicted. The installation Small Comfort is presented as an enlarged model of a snowball/globe, one metre in diameter, set on the ground, in which the snowflakes are replaced by constantly moving metal glitter dust. Inside the globe, in place of the traditional small figures, there is a small screen on which a video is projected, showing the surveillance image of a woman with her child begging at an underground exit, against the background strains of an accordion-player. This pitiful figure thus replaces the figure normally found in these popular objects, the idealized figure of a country, place or tourist monument. This gesture of permutation, which manipulates fairytale worlds and attributes, turns to a sinister and disenchanted vision, to create a kind of sentimental, Dickens-like vignette, shifted into present-day London. This is the artist's way of plunging us back into the cruel and amoral obscurantism of a Victorian era that is still not over.


Stéphanie Moisdon


Translated by Simon Pleasance