Notes Towards a Theory of Distraction
Julien Bismuth

Oct 6 - Nov 6, 2011

It is with great pleasure that Simone Subal Gallery announces the opening of Julien Bismuth’s Notes Towards a Theory of Distraction on October 6, 2011. This is the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, and Bismuth’s first one-person show in New York. The show runs through November 6, 2011. Please join us for the opening reception on October 6, from 6 – 9 pm.

Notes Towards a Theory of Distraction continues Bismuth’s examination into the interaction between language and non-language, whether images, objects, or mere things. Bismuth does not think of these oppositions as incommensurable. Instead, he recognizes a mutual exchange between different systems of representation, in which language helps shape the way one looks at a thing, and conversely, how the image or object effects the words employed to account for what one sees. Bismuth thinks of the works in the show as modified allegories, or a kind of “extended metaphors” — an attempt to explain something (a form, an entity, an action, a sensation) by its translation or transposition. He addresses this situation from the point of view of his own thought process, and is concerned, in particular, with the differences in experience between making an object or image and writing an expository or fictional text.

The core of the show is formed by a set of pieces (a cardboard box puppet, a suspended ball, a video, and more) titled “Notes Towards a Theory of Distraction.” This grouping is at once an entire ensemble as well as a collection of individual works. In both instances they function as scripted objects, and to that end a text written in a series of notes is a central part of the project. For Bismuth, ideas unfold through a string of associations enabled by being distracted, a state he sees as the opposite of contemplation. It is in this interstitial space of the life of the mind that his thoughts make links to seemingly disparate elements. All the works on view have a specific origin: a text by Heinrich von Kleist, a dream Bismuth had, a found image, a quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s notebooks, etc. However, the relationship between the work and its referent is tenuous. Bismuth leaves out any direct connection to the source, and instead only obliquely indicates its presence in the title or the “Notes.” The viewer is free to trace the back-story, or, if one wishes, make a variety of different connections. It is in the viewer’s engagement with the pieces, their own distracted thoughts taking shape over time, that poetic associations emerge.

Julien Bismuth (born 1973 in Paris) works and lives in New York. Solo exhibitions include shows at the Gesellschaft für aktuelle Kunst Bremen, Germany; Emanuel Layr Galerie, Vienna, Austria; The Box, Los Angeles, CA; Crac Alsace, Altkirch, France; Bloomberg Space, London, England; Parisa Kind Galerie, Frankfurt, Germany and Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois, Paris, France. Bismuth took part in numerous group shows, for example at the ICA Philadelphia; 12e Prix Fondation d’entreprise Ricard, Paris, France; Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany; Villa Arson, Nice, France; Musée du Jeu de Paume, Paris, France; Orange County Museum, Newport Beach, CA. His performances (often collaborations) could be seen at MUSAC, Leon, Spain; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria; Tate Modern London, England; and Parasol Unit, London, England. In addition, Bismuth founded the publishing house Devonian Press with Jean-Pascal Flavien in 2005.