The Little Binche Peacock and other Utopian dreams
4 September - 19 October 2019
WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present Pierre Fouché’s The Little Binche Peacock and other Utopian dreams. Comprising of a large-scale installation, this ambitious exhibition reveals the high craftsmanship of Fouché’s practice as a lacemaker. Through referencing historical notions of utopia, Fouché looks towards ingenuity, imagination, and invoking the fantastical as tools for seeking out an alternative existence.
The denunciations of utopia’s fantasies overlook the fact that it is precisely the element of imagination that makes utopias essential to any process of political change. If we want to escape from the present, we must first dismiss the settled parameters of the future and wrench open a new horizon of possibility. Without the belief in a different future, radical political thinking will be excluded from the beginning.
Nick Srcicek & Alex Williams (2015) Inventing the future – Postcapitalism and a World without Work.
September 16, 1903
You are bewildered by what we have told you, but the phenomenon we are trying to explain is truly bewildering. […] You see everything as formless and you forget that this is a sign of life. Gradually the formlessness takes on more precise contours and the steadily growing roots feed an ever stronger plant, which will one day explode with an abundance of leaves and flowers. You know this is so, but you must perceive this knowledge with such vividness that you dare to build on it. […]. Accept our account as a greeting from us so that you shall never tire when all seems lost.
A letter to an unknown person found in the notebooks of Swedish painter, Hilma Af Klint (1862-1944)
The Little Binche Peacock of the title references an 18th century piece of fine linen lace in the notoriously difficult Binche technique which I saw during a research residency in Switzerland in 2014. This was my first encounter with real historical lace, and the experience was profound. The detail and near inhuman craftsmanship that went into the complex, nearly chaotic weaving technique in a 4.5cm width of lace was spellbinding. I have subsequently dedicated my research to learning and mastering the technique. The large scale rope-work installation of an abstracted landscape, three years in the making, is the result of this dedication.
The second component of the installation, a polychrome silk bobbin lace work in progress, depicting a classical nude with a peacock companion, is a personal, fantastical, and mythological homage to that humble piece of lace that somehow captured the complexity and breadth of the human experience.
An olfactory component of the installation modulates the fantastical by bringing it closer to home. The rope-work is infused with a perfume of which the key note is invasive Khakibush (Tagetes Minuta). A woody, herbaceous accord containing Cape Snowbush (Eriocephalus Africanus) softens the pungently sweet Khakibush, while an undertone of veld fire (Lapsang Suchong absolute) binds the disparate scents. The olfactory narrative implies a landscape in distress (fire, invasion), but also the promise of renewal. This is an idea that is continued in the silk lace panel: the peacock is, according to Jung, second cousin to the phoenix.
We have dreamt alternatives for a difficult existence since time immemorial. The Little Binche Peacock and Other Utopian Dreams aims to highlight this aspect of the imagination as universal through the use of techniques and media that represents humanity’s oldest technologies and creative impulses: textile, perfume, craft. It also aims to remind us that we can imagine a better world and that we have the ingenuity to realise it if only we focus our attention on the obvious (and thus invisible) answers.
Pierre Fouché (b. 1977, Pretoria) introduces himself as a lacemaker. This designation highlights his interest in the techniques, materials, histories, and social relevance of textiles. His respect for technique, tradition, and innovation have earned Fouché his place within the craft establishment as an internationally respected practitioner and teacher of contemporary bobbin lace. His penchant for arcane media and aesthetics, has led his practice to include macramé, drawn thread embroidery, encaustic painting, and pinhole photography, as well as traditional painting, drawing and printmaking.
Thematically, his work focusses on portraiture and the gaze, photography and representation, appropriation and web-media cultures, as well as some forays into overt queer politics. Often informed by world art history, his desire to understand the machinery of contemporary visual cultures tends toward the Romantic. His consistent marriage of iconography with craftsmanship also contributes to this reading.
The Little Binche Peacock and Other Utopian Dreams is his 5th solo exhibition with WHATIFTHEWORLD, the installation also concludes his work as recipient of a Spier Artist Patronage Program bursary received from 2017-19.
Fouché achieved his MA in Fine Arts from the University of Stellenbosch in 2006. In 2018 he was the featured artist of the Andorran city of Escaldes- Engordany’s 12th Textile and Glass Symposium. Notable group exhibitions include Lace/not lace at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey; Crafted: Objects in flux at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (2018), Women’s work at the Iziko South African National Gallery (2016), as well as the touring exhibition, Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community, first exhibited at the Leslie + Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York (2015). His work is represented in the public collections of the Iziko South African National Gallery and the Artphilein Foundation, Switzerland.