A Collection of “Encombrants”
Cardboard boxes full of out-of-date intimate secrets are piling up round the village… On top of one pile lies a fat fluffy frog with one eye hanging out and skin worn to shreds by too much dragging around, kissing and hugging. Piles squashed up against fences. Old empty fridges, chipped washbasins, eviscerated sofas. Pieces of intimate plumbing - now deserted and forlorn. Machines for washing our traces and eradicating impurities turned into leftovers to be disposed of.
Clare arrived in Sacy-le-Petit on the collecting day of “les encombrants” (bulky objects). Scraps, bits and pieces, rubbish .The once clean and neat village is now invaded by a huge mess. Usually, the quiet lanes are frozen in time. The houses don’t let their inner life show. The gates are closed. Not a movement breaks the silence. Today, gates are opening. Belongings are tipped out on to the pavement. Clare is discovering a past of private domestic interiors dumped on the public domain. A couch and a coffee table lying next to each other recreate a cosy little world in the open air.
“Encombrant” means encumbering. Because of the size or maybe the weight? Not only that. The sentimental value of these objects has to be re-assessed before they are allowed to sink into oblivion. How to get rid of what encumbers you? How to dispose of things we lived with, which were the extensions of our body, when they too have a memory, a meaning and a story? Clare has infiltrated this process of parting with things. A gift from someone? Off to the fleamarket? Or into the bin? The way you get rid of something is significant: the act seals the farewell and reveals the extent of the intimacy with the object as well as with the would-be rescuer.
Clare asks herself questions about our over-consuming society, while ferreting about among its leftovers. Puzzled by this strange habit of exposing one’s privacy on the streets, the artist from Essex intervenes in the ritual. She arranges the objects in situ. She erects ephemeral sculptures which are caught by the camera’s eye. This is intuitive recycling. Clare plays with form and colour to give these leftovers a fresh artistic value. The inhabitants rush out to put the “disturbed” objects back in place. The mess is meticulous. The tidiness is thought out. Though close to the walls of houses, the arrangement of things symbolises transition. The performance reveals their value. The squeaky clean shelf is telling us about its secret wish for a new life.
These worthless scraps make space and time their own and favour exchanges from display to display, house to house. The gleaners collect affection and memories. The cart - an image from the past - becomes a font. As they are placed in it, handled and assessed, the things come back to life. The cart carries them to a new home. Clare -a foreigner- has been adopted by adopting the habits and the objects. A man remembers the cart which once belonged to Gaillard, the Château’s former gardener. He invites her to his house to look at his own handmade cart. The carts become the outside connection between two interiors. The scraps ride through the village and move into their new abode at the Château. The studio is in the barn, a waiting and cooling room for memories. Clare is working on her finds. She arranges them, piles them up and paints them in colours one step removed from reality. She is sculpting a new cart in a house to which objects from an earlier château were transferred 200 years ago.
Encumbrance, disposal, reallocation. These words are not only about objects but about those objects’ effect on us. It isn’t so much the things themselves but what they know of us that Clare explores.