Virginie Jourdain | esse arts + opinions

Virginie Jourdain

Anne-Marie Dubois
  • Virginie Jourdain, Force majeure; Deux au moins, 2016. Photos: courtesy of the artist
  • Virginie Jourdain, Pastèque; Bombe, 2017. Photos: courtesy of the artist
  • Virginie Jourdain, Effrontée no 2; Deux poids deux mesures, 2017. Photos: courtesy of the artist
  • Virginie Jourdain, Carnivore; Cheffe, 2017. Photos: courtesy of the artist

Improbable Morphologies

Virginie Jourdain’s artistic approach is rooted in the sociopolitical context of its production. Actively engaged in critiquing normative standards — cultural, institutional, or identity-related — Jourdain accompanies her practice with caustic political commentary on the power of dominant discourse, questioning the impact of forms of representation and knowledge on identities and sexualities. Her reflections, comprising drawings, performances, installations, and sculptures, aim at deconstructing any pretensions of “naturality” in the dominant conception of heterosexuality and its correlates. Deciphering the misogynistic and homophobic underpinnings of legal, medical, and political disciplines, she proposes an intimate and personal visual vocabulary that tends to diffuse the violence inherent to such normative prescriptions.

Created in Brussels immediately after the 2017 attacks, Jourdain’s latest series of watercolours reiterates a practice brimming with narrative and subversive potential. The fluid unpredictability of the medium becomes a metaphor for the infinitely fluctuating states and sensualities of the body, far beyond any normative confines. In this sense, the drawings constitute a map of other corporealities, “improbable morphologies” that defy Cartesian logic and the prescribed orthopedic script. With bodies in all their multiplicity as reference point, the colourful compositions of interpenetrating beings and prosthetic figures provoke a deterritorialization of identities. Embedded in the visual rhetoric of the work is the collaborative dimension favoured by the artist, in which the interrelation of hybrid bodies compensates for the climate of individualism and its alienating effect on humanity. In this sense, the series introduces a community of rhizomic, phantasmagorical bodies that redefine our understanding of the possible.

Although Jourdain is fiercely critical of the reactionary social and political climate, the paintings suggest a certain battle-weariness — a fatigue echoing the never-ending nature of feminist and queer struggle. Far from being pessimistic, however, she calls on new empowerment strategies centred around compassion, self-awareness, and the valorization of marginalized knowledge and art practices.

[Translated from the French by Louise Ashcroft]

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