December 1, 2006
Su-Mei Tse's new project was an enormous floor installation measuring almost 30 feet in diameter. The artist, who divides her time between Paris and Luxembourg, replicated the intricate stylizations of a 16th- century Persian Paradise Garden carpet, with its bestiary of fabulous creatures and intertwined traceries, on a wool rug in rich but muted primary colors, and even included worn patches of the original. Tse then cut the new rug into the circular convolutions of the Chartres labyrinth, laid into the floor of the renowned cathedral in the early 13th century.
The maze is a metaphoric overlay of worldviews, intermingling two cultures, as the title, Proposition de detour, suggests. Tse, who trained as a classical cellist and often incorporates sound in her videos - as in Echo (2003), which first brought her into the international spotlight - chose the eloquence of silence for this work, which was spread out beneath the skylight of the main gallery. Viewers were invited to take off their shoes (as if in a mosque) and walk over the soft, springy surface, following the path. It was a meditative action and a symbolic journey - achieved at the participant's own pace - toward the center, which was occupied by the abstract image of a rose, a Marian emblem in Christianity of encompassing love.
In subject, the piece recalls a video by Dutch artists Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij that closely examines an Azerbaijani carpet, as well as some of Rudolf Stingel's carpet projects, although the artists' intentions were all very different. Tse's productions, which cover a number of conceptual and visual bases, are at once striking and slightly offbeat, touched by the absurd, which is part of their considerable, whimsical charm.
- Lilly Wei