- THE WORKS -
TITLE: Facéties urbaines [URBAN PRANKS]
Technique: STENCILS AND SPRAY PAINT
YEAR CREATED: 2021
LOCATION: SEE MAP BELOW
SURFACE AREAS: N/A
A small chain attached to a grey wall spent most of its time gently swaying in the wind, expecting to end up on a rubbish dump one day, worn out and rusty like millions of other similar chains. With no idea of the wonderful fate awaiting it, it was content with its day-to-day life, interspersed with the touch of familiar hands belonging to workers who used it to keep their workshop door open.
One fine autumn day, when the workshop was closed and the small chain was lulled by the sound of its creaking links, it was suddenly shaken out of its torpor, picked up by an unknown hand that smelled strongly of spray paint. This was an encounter that would change its destiny. Because while there was nothing about this small, flimsy, ordinary chain to suggest it would become integral to a work of art, what it wasn’t counting on was OakOak’s mischievous spirit! In a matter of minutes, it no longer recognised itself because it had been transformed into the chain of a pocket watch, or more precisely a fob watch, fob being the name of the little waistcoat packet designed to carry this kind of timepiece.
And not just any old fob watch, but the one belonging to the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, the famous psychedelic story written in 1865 by Lewis Carroll (the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). Dressed as a dandy, the stressed rabbit appears in the story’s first chapter. Following the animal, which bolts off repeating “Oh dear, oh dear, I shall be late”, the young Alice falls down a rabbit hole that takes her to Wonderland. The drawing of the rabbit is directly inspired by an illustration by Sir John Tenniel (1820-1914), one of the most remarkable illustrators of the Victorian era.
Jealousy and possessiveness are not just the privilege of the living. While ghosts are not good at being alone, ghosts that are in love take their death particularly badly. They act the martyr watching their loved ones rebuild their lives with a new conquest. Spooky Louis, the little ghost haunting Rue de la Gare, could talk about it for hours. “For ages I cried out Aline, Aline, for her to come back. But, it’s ok now because I’ve turned a page!” he confided to local residents who are relieved to no longer have to hear him howl with sorrow. Since October 2021 he’s considered himself something of a Don Juan, squandering his meagre savings at the local florist. Day and night, he stands there motionless holding a bouquet, hoping to win the favour of a passing fan of spiritualism. Ghosts have no notion of time passing. Their only experience is of time not passing. So our good-natured ghost simply can’t understand why his flowers wilt so quickly.
OakOak revisits the myth of Sisyphus in his own way, adapting it to the context of the working people of Le Locle. By substituting the rock with a giant cog wheel, the artist evokes the mechanisation and industrialisation that radically changed how we live, our knowledge and our everyday actions at the expense of craftsmanship, though this is the cardinal value of watchmaking companies from a marketing perspective.
The expression “Métro, boulot, dodo” (commute, work, sleep), coined in 1968 by Pierre Béarn, is taken from a poem he wrote in 1951. Intended to reflect the daily rhythm of the life of Parisians, or more generally of city dwellers, it conveys the notion of a repetitive, exhausting and mindless cycle.
This work can be interpreted positively if you set aside the myth of Sisyphus. Positioned on a ramp at the entrance to an underground car park, which looks like a contemporary cave, this black silhouette pushing against the huge cog wheel could suggest man in his quest for progress and all his efforts to emerge from what those in favour of progress might describe as darkness, by inventing the wheel, the cog and all the creations that have enabled him to reduce the grind of work.
Switzerland enjoys a great reputation for cheese. Producing beautiful rounds of cheese with lovely well-brushed rinds is an art form in itself! When OakOak discovered a funny hole sealed up with planks of wood along a dead end next to Le Locle’s Museum of Fine Arts (MBAL), he had no idea that he had come across a jealously guarded secret: the venerable museum’s cellars conceal a mountain of Emmentaler AOP!
- THE ARTIST -
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