Flying Black Cow Utopia Club # 01

Galerie du Dourven, Trédrez-Locquémeau, France.
21st June until 5th November 2014.
David Michael Clarke with Hervé Beurel, Marie-Claire Blanschong, Robert Fleck, Michel François, Guillaume Janot, Alastair MacLennan, Enzo Mari.
Michel François, Kennel (La Ricarda), 2007, poster adapted by David Michael Clarke by the addition of two ramps and a tunnel to allow for the circulation of dogs. 2014. Exhibition view: Flying Black Cow Utopia Club. Galerie du Dourven. Trédez-Locquémeau. 2014. Photo: Hervé Beurel.

British artist based in France, David Michael Clarke plays around combining art works with everyday situations. Through both human and artistic encounters and through a thought process on overdrive, he twists and turns, arranges, appropriates, multiplies and mixes different cultural registers, be they «high», or be they «pop». He is particularly, and not without malice, fond of manipulating meaning, playing between the culture of his native country and that of his adopted home. Investigating language and playing with words is often the starting point of artistic projects that can take the form of objects or events that he takes care to integrate into many different contexts. This attention to a context beyond the art world leads Clarke to «live-in-residence» and create moments of conviviality.

In 2011, David Michael Clarke discovered the project for a «village radieux» imagined in the 1930’s by the architect Le Corbusier for the village Piacé (Sarthe). Le Corbusier’s project for a «radieux» farm and village were much of the same order as the «cité radieuse» constructed in Marseille and Rezé. This urban programme based on the concept of the «unit» (living unit, collective unit, industrial unit, agricultural unit, rural unit) is born of a global vision for urban and territorial planning. In Piacé, the architect chose to break with the isolation of farmers through the creation of a space dedicated to social discussion. This building, placed at the heart of the village is known as the «Club». Le Corbusier considered it to be the «brain» of the village.

In 2012, crossing the Mayenne region, David Michael Clarke came across an agricultural protest. The farmers expressed their anger by erecting six gallows from which images of cows’ heads, cut out from carton, were hanging. Like kites, the cows’ heads flew in the wind. David Michael Clarke announced out loud, «Wow! Flying Black Cows!» Later that year, in the context of a rural contemporary art festival, in the village of Fiac (Tarn), the artist made his first «Flying Black Cows». Also cut our from carton, these archetypal black cows took off, carried into the air by giant coloured ballons filled with helium.

In 2013, David Michael Clarke obtained an artist’s residency at Lycée Félix Le Dantec (Lannion). The coastal context is for him the occasion to envisage a new version of the «Flying Black Cows». Thus he borrows the form of the cow’s head from the french farmers and learns how to make kites. The cows fly and pass furtively before the spires of the «Beaumanoir» churches that dress the Trégor skyline and are sculpted by the wind. Their apparitions are filmed by the artist. In October of the same year, he participates in the festival «Vent de Grève», organized by the local office of tourism, and for which he conceives the «Flying Black Cow Cinema». On the long beach of Saint-Efflam, he sets up an ex-army tent surmounted by a sign, to house his cinema and to present the video that he had made that summer in the Trégor region.

In 2014, invited to exhibit in the Galerie du Dourven, he decides to transform the art centre into the «Flying Black Cow Utopia Club». During his many visits to the Dourven in 2013, he remarks upon the park’s regular frequentation by individuals that, through their activities, seemed to him, to form communities. Apart from week-end visitors and holiday-makers, four groups stood out, that of wedding couples and their photographers; that of the fishermen who traverse the park, rod in hand, according to the tides; that of the dogs and dog-walkers; and that of the rabbits, who in the evening rediscover their tranquillity. «Flying Black Cow Utopia Club» renders visible these different users and brings to light these fictional communities in an installation that mixes art and design, popular references and artistic gestures.

Building on these observations David Michael Clarke amplifies that which has come to characterize his art practice following four modalities.

The first is the creation or inclusion of works in relation to the site, like the Wooden tree, Rabbits & Dogs, Fish Hotel, Flying Black Cow (video), The wedding photographs of Marie-Claire Blanschong.

The second consists of reactivating works from his own repertory or that of other artists, such as Don’t Panic, DMC mariages 1969-1999, Sunset Monfarville France, and Traffic lights by Alastair MacLennan.

The third is to demand the loan of works from other artists or institutions and to explain the nature of the exhibition, such as with Anabelle Hulaut and Guillaume Janot.

Finally the fourth, David Michael Clarke allows himself to intervene in borrowed works having obtained permission where necessary from the concerned artists, such as Kennel (La ricarda) by Michel François, Carré Central by Hervé Beurel, or the chairs by Enzo Mari.

This pratice, that one could call collaborative, does not proceed without interrogating the question of the author, the statute of the artist, and the artistic nature of such a project.

The first episode of this exhibition that begins on the 5th April and runs through to the 1st June, installs the notion of the «club». If this word can be defined as a «circle where people come and regularly pass time on their hobbies, chatting, playing, reading», the second episode, through it’s duration, will render this effective. It begins on the 21st June, the day of the French festival of music. On this occasion David Michael Clarke will sing some new songs musicales accompanied by his assistants. The art centre will continue to experiment this utopic club until the 2nd November. Hervé Beurel, Norbert Bézard, François Curlet, Christelle Familiari, Francesco Finizio, Robert Fleck, Michel François, Nicolas Hérisson, Joel Hubaut, Anabelle Hulaut, Guillaume Janot, David Liaudet, Enzo Mari, Federica Peyrolo, Christophe Terlinden, will participate in Flying Black Cow Utopia Club (volet #02).

Didier Lamandé

List of Works

1 – Michel François, Kennel (La ricarda), 2007, poster 180×120 cm adapted by David Michael Clarke through the addition of two ramps and a tunnel to allow for the passage of dogs, 2014
2 – Hervé Beurel, Carré central, digital wallpaper, 2014 adapted by David Michael Clarke through partial suppression and the addition of DMC Mariages, 1969-1999, England and Wales, 53 paintings acrylic on canvas and 53 framed marriage certificates, 1999.
3 – Guillaume Janot, Anabelle Hulaut and David Michael Clarke, 19th April 2003, Réville, Normandie, c-type photograph, 60x 40 cm
4 – Marie-Claire Blanschong, Wedding photographs, Parc du Dourven, c-type photographs, dry-mounted on dibond, 60×40 cm
      Mr and Mrs Scheer, 26th July 2008
      Mr and Mrs Leroux, 6th April 2013
      Mr and Mrs Feyzeau, 8th June 2010
      Mr and Mrs Henry, 24th August 2013
      Mr and Mrs Le Henaff, 6th August 2011
      Mr and Mrs Cresseveur, 21th August 2010
      Mr and Mrs Marc, 21 mai 2011
5 – David Michael Clarke, Wooden Tree, installation, wood, newspaper, 2014
6 – David Michael Clarke, Don’t Panic, colour video, silent, 16/9, HD, 2010
7 – David Michael Clarke, Rabbits & dogs, video installation, 2 screens, colour video, 16/9, HD, 2013
8 – David Michael Clarke, Traffic Lights, Reactivation of an artistic action by Alastair MacLennan from 1977. Les quatre chemins, Plestin Les grèves, Saturday 29th March 2014. C-type photograph dry mounted on dibond, text, 60×40 cm
9 – David Michael Clarke, Fish Hotel, installation in the gallery and in the park, wood, bassin, sign, Enzo Mari chair, 2014.
10 – Hervé Beurel, Carré central, digital wallpaper, 2014 adapted by David Michael Clarke through the addition a facsimile of a notice found on the entrance hall of the Hélios building, designed by Roger Le Flanchec, 2014.
11 – Centre for documentation proposed by David Michael Clarke, artists’ catalogues and other relevant reading material, chairs by Enzo Mari.
12 – David Michael Clarke, Flying Black cow – l’origine, Video 4/3, sound, 2012.
13 – David Michael Clarke, Sunset, Monfarville, France, C-type photograph dry mounted on dibond, framed, 2009
14 – David Michael Clarke, Flying Black Cow Club, cement sculpture, 43x35x13,5 cm, 2013