A small late Dada assemblage in ink and watercolour by Man Ray (1890-1976), “Les Papillons qui tombent du ciel ont soif “, serves as the central reference in a group exhibition entitled “Strange Attractor“ featuring female artists whose practice engages with principles of modernism. The Assemblage “Les Papillons qui tombent du ciel ont soif “ (1958) is part of a series of works made intermittently since 1930, which feature the motif of the butterfly. It is a very personal, playful piece by Man Ray, an engagement with something beautiful and everyday, which fascinated him again and again throughout his career as an artist and thinker. Man Ray has always been governed by conceptual rather than formal continuity which allows us to consider historical and contemporary concepts concurrently.
Two strands of thought influence the interplay of works in the exhibition: Papillon (Butterfly) reminds of light, lightness, fast and colourful movement, the ephemeral and shadows. The butterfly as a signifier can also refer to the mathematical term “Strange Attractor“ or “Butterfly Effect“, which was discovered by Edward Lorenz in 1963. It describes the phenomenon of fractal maths, where minor differentiations in the initial set of calculations can lead to various radically different outcomes over the longer term.
Mimicking this approach enables the reflection of Man Ray’s loosely associative assemblage. This occurs through the systematic use of symmetries in Sperini’s work, frames within frames and the stage as conceptual medium in Heller and Leutenegger, the private object and gesture in Barker’s performance work or radial and associative processes in the selected pieces by von Brandenburg, Koch and Berriman. The works are juxtaposed based on linear as well as conceptual connections, without pre-supposing a direct connection, allowing for new patterns or dialectics to occur. The connecting thread in the scattering of works is a common interest in the modern project, directly and from more remote positions.
The multiple dialogues with “Les Papillons…”, which every work and every artist will invariably conduct from changing individual positions create a fascinating and purposefully unstable platform for communication, where the temporal aspect does not matter and fresh spatial and conceptual discourses become possible.