Théâtre des Opérations is composed of distinct moments linked together like a rhizome, its dispersed elements creating no singular core. The installation slips easily between multiple references to theater: arena of war, space for performance, noun to describe artmaking.
François obscures the initial view of the gallery with a screen that flutters with a whirring fan. Beyond the screen is a table set for a reception. A pyramid of glasses lies in wait, but instead of wine ink spills from the top, staining a tablecloth fashioned from the daily stock exchange listings. The decanter, since removed, was a plastic eagle, which also served used as an ice mold to form a frozen black eagle that melted away.
Behind the reception table a metal armature anchors theater lights that cast a circus of shadows, including some on a “stage” at the back of the room. The wall here has been explosively perforated, and beyond it a fire appears to smolder. The area is spot lit and decorated with a giant agave plant. In front of a miniature door sits a microphone, poised as if awaiting public address; yet an oversized speaker emits the sounds of frogs rather than the head of state one expects. Again confounding expectations, the doorway reveals nothing but a projection of a backstage—its bare wood contrasting with white walls to compound the sense that all is artifice.
The theater of politics is expressed by other elements in the space. There is an enormous photograph of an empty stadium and one of a tattered flag. A metal sheet lined with magnetic strips becomes an abstracted flag, and François sculpts another out of a long tube of popcorn and a rectangle of light cast on the wall. Nearby a plastic bag, stuffed with white styrofoam and bound with black tape, sits on a blue cloth inside a vitrine covered with red text reading THE FLAG SHOW. With its empirical red, white, and blue, the object suggests yet another reference to patriotism.
With Théâtre des Opérations Michel François has sculpted a multifaceted project that suggests that theater is a thread binding together politics, performance, artmaking, and ultimately the act of viewing art.