Nuclear power plants, paper mills, coal mines – for twenty years Tania Mouraud’s video and sound installations have shown the immensity of environmental industrial sites around the world to audiences removed from a direct experience of such sites’ power and effect.

In the exhibition Everyday Ogres, Mouraud presents a new work that expands her efforts to the Gulf Coast. Commissioned by the Visual Arts Center with the support of the Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Houston, Mouraud traveled to Texas in June 2016 to film oil refineries along the Houston Ship Channel: sites that represent the dangerous monumentality and surreal everydayness surrounding energy use and production in the United States. Filmed at night, the installation captures a haunting vision of metal cities filled with toxic smoke and threatening power.

The exhibition includes two earlier works filmed in Germany, Canada and France, which situate her Texas-based installation within larger global dialogues. In the gallery’s bay window, Mouraud has also installed a new site-specific typographic wall painting featuring a quotation from Modest Mussorgsky's opera Khovanshchina. Stretching from floor to ceiling, the abstracted text has an imposing presence that mirrors the nearby videos while forming a bridge between the outside world and the gallery’s interior space.

By immersing viewers in the powerful visual and sonic landscapes of industrial sites, Mouraud’s works push us to recognize our implicit presence in the powerful forces that shape the current social, ecological, and political realities of energy production in Texas and the world. 

Interview with the artist

Allison Myers (AM), curator: Filming Fata Morgana was your first time in Texas; we drove around a good part of the Austin, Houston and Gulf Coast areas. What was your impression of the region? Did anything strike you in particular? 

Tania Mouraud (TM), artist: I’ve been to the US several times, but this was the first time I’ve come to Texas. It was also the first time I traveled around with an American citizen, since I usually film by myself. I was feeling very much like those mythical songs from the past, with an immense feeling of freedom. It was being “on the road.” It was an idyllic trip.

AM: You've been all around the world filming similar sites for decades. Was the experience filming in Texas similar or different in any ways to your other filming trips, for instance when you filmed coalmines in Germany or book recycling plants near Chartres?

TM: Usually when I’m filming I just go to the site and let my feelings guide me. I don’t need to bother too much about technical issues thanks to the quality of cameras and recording equipment today. You had just suggested taking a telephoto lens, which I did.

I was particularly interested in filming a refinery because it’s one of the most important and well-known industries in Texas. Even though we didn’t have permissions beforehand, which made it hard at first, it was great that you happened to rent a hotel room near a refinery. I just insisted to have a room with a view of it!

The first night when I looked out of my window I was absolutely enthralled with what I saw and decided to film. I knew what I was searching for: a video about respiration, the invisible and fascinating murder. The next morning I asked the manager for permission to film from the roof of the hotel. They actually allowed us and I filmed at night from the 8th floor, when the refineries were covered in a golden glow from the thousands of safety lights. That was a really unique experience.  

AM: Many of your works focus on the relationship between humanity and the landscape, often as a way to present difficult realities of violence in the world. Do you see your works as politically active?

TM: This video is a meditation on the silent deadliness of the industrial complexes built for feeding today’s consumerism. I am trying to address the viewer on a personal level rather than an activist one—trying to murmur into his or her heart, to share what I see, what I hear, what fascinates me, and what is hidden behind the seeming beauty and spectacle of these places.

AM: For each of your videos you craft special sound compositions using field recordings, found sounds, music samples, etc. How did you compose the sound for Fata Morgana? What effect were you trying to get? 

TM: When I am editing I am in the atmosphere and the mood of the video. In this case it was a slow process; the video is 52 minutes long.

I used field recordings of traffic I took while filming, which stop sometimes and begin again. I filtered the sound so that it became a kind of breathing process, which was accentuated by the image of the golden smoke that rose up around the refinery and filled the sky. I added some samples from my sound library and was very careful not to use the sound as an illustration of the image or vice versa. It is this equilibrium I aim at so that the piece feels complete.

AM: The exhibition includes three video and sound installations, but it also includes a fourth work: a text-based wallpaper you designed for the bay window of the gallery space, which looks out onto the university. How does this text piece relate to the themes in your video work?

TM: The window in the gallery space is great because it allowed me to do a work for viewers outside the gallery. I am currently doing a lot with intertextual interventions in urban space, so it connects very clearly to the rest of my work.

In this case, I used very elongated letters that look like stripes to make the reading difficult, to slow viewers down. The sentence I chose is from an opera by Modest Mussorgsky: “In all that suffering you will recognize the truth of the world.”

It refers to the personal experience of the viewer and the social issues at stake in the exhibition.

AM: What are your next projects? 

TM: I have several shows scheduled in France, which will allow me to make entirely new works. For those I will concentrate on the intertextual works including a very large wall painting and other new ideas in that series.


About the Artist 

Tania Mouraud is a celebrated conceptual artist working across media since the 1960s. Since the late-1990s she has focused primarily on video and sound-based installations that intertwine the conceptual and sensual while exploring relationships between art and society. Mouraud has exhibited widely, with solo exhibitions at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, among others. Her videos and typographic wall paintings were the focus of a recent multi-city retrospective based at the Centre Pompidou-Metz.

Visit Tania Mouraud's website for more information.

About the Curator

Allison Myers is a PhD Candidate in Art History at The University of Texas at Austin, specializing in post-war art and critical theory. Her dissertation investigates cross-cultural relationships among French and U.S. artists during the 1970s, especially the impact of cultural stereotypes on critical and institutional reception. Myers is also co-director and editor of the publishing collective Pastelegram and is the founder and editor of Breach Press, a small press publishing translation work in the form of bilingual artists’ books.


September 23 | 6-8pm | The University of Texas at Austin - Visual Arts Center
Art Building - 23rd and Trinity Streets - Austin, Texas 78712

Opening reception 

September 23 - December 10 | The University of Texas at Austin - Visual Arts Center
Exhibition on view
- Learn more

September 25 | 5-7pm | Rice University Cinema - Media Center
6100 Main St  Houston, TX 77251
Screening and roundtable with artist Tania Mouraud, Rice University professors Dominic Boyer and Joseph Campana and curator Allison Myers following a wine and cheese reception. Learn more

Visual Arts Center - The University of Texas at Austin - Art Building 23rd and Trinity Streets Austin, Texas 78712

Tania Mouraud: Everyday Ogres

When
Sep. 23 - Dec. 10, 2016
Where
Visual Arts Center - The University of Texas at Austin - Art Building
23rd and Trinity Streets
Austin, Texas 78712
Tania Mouraud, video still from Fata Morgana, 2016, one-channel 4K video with sound, 55m18s loop

Nuclear power plants, paper mills, coal mines – for twenty years Tania Mouraud’s video and sound installations have shown the immensity of environmental industrial sites around the world to audiences removed from a direct experience of such sites’ power and effect.

In the exhibition Everyday Ogres, Mouraud presents a new work that expands her efforts to the Gulf Coast. Commissioned by the Visual Arts Center with the support of the Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Houston, Mouraud traveled to Texas in June 2016 to film oil refineries along the Houston Ship Channel: sites that represent the dangerous monumentality and surreal everydayness surrounding energy use and production in the United States. Filmed at night, the installation captures a haunting vision of metal cities filled with toxic smoke and threatening power.

The exhibition includes two earlier works filmed in Germany, Canada and France, which situate her Texas-based installation within larger global dialogues. In the gallery’s bay window, Mouraud has also installed a new site-specific typographic wall painting featuring a quotation from Modest Mussorgsky's opera Khovanshchina. Stretching from floor to ceiling, the abstracted text has an imposing presence that mirrors the nearby videos while forming a bridge between the outside world and the gallery’s interior space.

By immersing viewers in the powerful visual and sonic landscapes of industrial sites, Mouraud’s works push us to recognize our implicit presence in the powerful forces that shape the current social, ecological, and political realities of energy production in Texas and the world. 

Interview with the artist

Allison Myers (AM), curator: Filming Fata Morgana was your first time in Texas; we drove around a good part of the Austin, Houston and Gulf Coast areas. What was your impression of the region? Did anything strike you in particular? 

Tania Mouraud (TM), artist: I’ve been to the US several times, but this was the first time I’ve come to Texas. It was also the first time I traveled around with an American citizen, since I usually film by myself. I was feeling very much like those mythical songs from the past, with an immense feeling of freedom. It was being “on the road.” It was an idyllic trip.

AM: You've been all around the world filming similar sites for decades. Was the experience filming in Texas similar or different in any ways to your other filming trips, for instance when you filmed coalmines in Germany or book recycling plants near Chartres?

TM: Usually when I’m filming I just go to the site and let my feelings guide me. I don’t need to bother too much about technical issues thanks to the quality of cameras and recording equipment today. You had just suggested taking a telephoto lens, which I did.

I was particularly interested in filming a refinery because it’s one of the most important and well-known industries in Texas. Even though we didn’t have permissions beforehand, which made it hard at first, it was great that you happened to rent a hotel room near a refinery. I just insisted to have a room with a view of it!

The first night when I looked out of my window I was absolutely enthralled with what I saw and decided to film. I knew what I was searching for: a video about respiration, the invisible and fascinating murder. The next morning I asked the manager for permission to film from the roof of the hotel. They actually allowed us and I filmed at night from the 8th floor, when the refineries were covered in a golden glow from the thousands of safety lights. That was a really unique experience.  

AM: Many of your works focus on the relationship between humanity and the landscape, often as a way to present difficult realities of violence in the world. Do you see your works as politically active?

TM: This video is a meditation on the silent deadliness of the industrial complexes built for feeding today’s consumerism. I am trying to address the viewer on a personal level rather than an activist one—trying to murmur into his or her heart, to share what I see, what I hear, what fascinates me, and what is hidden behind the seeming beauty and spectacle of these places.

AM: For each of your videos you craft special sound compositions using field recordings, found sounds, music samples, etc. How did you compose the sound for Fata Morgana? What effect were you trying to get? 

TM: When I am editing I am in the atmosphere and the mood of the video. In this case it was a slow process; the video is 52 minutes long.

I used field recordings of traffic I took while filming, which stop sometimes and begin again. I filtered the sound so that it became a kind of breathing process, which was accentuated by the image of the golden smoke that rose up around the refinery and filled the sky. I added some samples from my sound library and was very careful not to use the sound as an illustration of the image or vice versa. It is this equilibrium I aim at so that the piece feels complete.

AM: The exhibition includes three video and sound installations, but it also includes a fourth work: a text-based wallpaper you designed for the bay window of the gallery space, which looks out onto the university. How does this text piece relate to the themes in your video work?

TM: The window in the gallery space is great because it allowed me to do a work for viewers outside the gallery. I am currently doing a lot with intertextual interventions in urban space, so it connects very clearly to the rest of my work.

In this case, I used very elongated letters that look like stripes to make the reading difficult, to slow viewers down. The sentence I chose is from an opera by Modest Mussorgsky: “In all that suffering you will recognize the truth of the world.”

It refers to the personal experience of the viewer and the social issues at stake in the exhibition.

AM: What are your next projects? 

TM: I have several shows scheduled in France, which will allow me to make entirely new works. For those I will concentrate on the intertextual works including a very large wall painting and other new ideas in that series.


About the Artist 

Tania Mouraud is a celebrated conceptual artist working across media since the 1960s. Since the late-1990s she has focused primarily on video and sound-based installations that intertwine the conceptual and sensual while exploring relationships between art and society. Mouraud has exhibited widely, with solo exhibitions at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, among others. Her videos and typographic wall paintings were the focus of a recent multi-city retrospective based at the Centre Pompidou-Metz.

Visit Tania Mouraud's website for more information.

About the Curator

Allison Myers is a PhD Candidate in Art History at The University of Texas at Austin, specializing in post-war art and critical theory. Her dissertation investigates cross-cultural relationships among French and U.S. artists during the 1970s, especially the impact of cultural stereotypes on critical and institutional reception. Myers is also co-director and editor of the publishing collective Pastelegram and is the founder and editor of Breach Press, a small press publishing translation work in the form of bilingual artists’ books.


September 23 | 6-8pm | The University of Texas at Austin - Visual Arts Center
Art Building - 23rd and Trinity Streets - Austin, Texas 78712

Opening reception 

September 23 - December 10 | The University of Texas at Austin - Visual Arts Center
Exhibition on view
- Learn more

September 25 | 5-7pm | Rice University Cinema - Media Center
6100 Main St  Houston, TX 77251
Screening and roundtable with artist Tania Mouraud, Rice University professors Dominic Boyer and Joseph Campana and curator Allison Myers following a wine and cheese reception. Learn more

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
Sign in or register to post comments.
more events
1/3
ONGOING EVENTS
event

Kader Attia's 'Ghardaïa' featured at the Guggenheim

Apr 29 - Oct 5, 2016
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue
New York, NY
event

Collection #2 "Human | Nature" at Chamber New York

May 19 - Oct 6, 2016
Chamber
515 W. 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011
event

Hubert Robert, 1733–1808

June 26 - October 2, 2016
The National Gallery of Art
6th St. and Constitution Ave. NW
Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20565
event

Seuls en Scène 2016: Princeton University's French Theater Festival

Sept 22 - Oct 5, 2016
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ
08544
event

Anne Nguyen at Crossing the Line Festival 2016

Sept 23 - Oct 1, 2016
Multiple locations and Gibney Dance - Agnès Varis Center for the Performing Arts
280 Broadway
New York, NY 10007
event

No Limits: Zao Wou-Ki at Asia Society

Sept 9, 2016 - Jan 8, 2017
Asia Society
725 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
event

Proust's Muse, The Countess Greffulhe at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Sept 23, 2016 - Jan 7, 2017
Fashion Institute of Technology
227 W 27th St
New York, NY 10001
event

Take Me (I'm Yours) at the Jewish Museum

Sept 16, 2016 - Feb 5, 2017
The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10128
event

Deux Côtés / Two Sides at Theodore:Art

Sept 9 - Oct 16, 2016
Theodore:Art
56 Bogart St
Brooklyn, NY 11206