PENSER, MANGER, PARTAGER
an ode to life
Text by Eléonore Grignon
« [...] remains around the edge of any definition : is it a sculpture ? an installation ?
a performance ? an example of social activism ? »
Relational Aesthetics - Nicolas Bourriaud
The historian refers to a piece by Rirkrit Tiravanija presented at the Venice Biennale. Nicolas Bourriaud’s questioning makes me think of Penser, Manger, Partager the second textile installation work of artist Johanna Tagada.
Johanna Tagada, born in Strasbourg in 1990 is a French painter and artist working in the fields of drawing, sculpture, installation, photography and video. Her work as a whole is often composed of cycles resulting from daily life, travel, research and exchanges with her audience. The most striking example of the latest to this day is undoubtedly her project Épistolaire Imaginaire (2014 - 2017). Johanna Tagada's artistic practice recursively conceals ecological messages that the artist expresses through gentle and delicate methods, wishing to share positive feelings as well as encouraging more compassionate behaviours.
The first work of the artist's cycle of textile sculptures is titled Le Refuge (2016, organic cotton and waxed ropes) and is defined as a place of sharing, dreaming, relaxation, love, rest, prayer and memory. This new piece named Penser, Manger, Partager (French for to think, to eat, to share) whose final form is that of a habitat, is similar to Le Refuge in its structure and function however differs in its pedagogy and commitment. Penser, Manger, Partager is rooted in the artist's on going questioning and reflection on the environmental issue, highlighting matters related to our daily diet and consumption patterns.
By launching a call for participation on her website and on various platforms, the artist collected donations of plant based textiles of which their owners had no use; white cottons and linens. At the core of this initiative also resides a social aspect. The different fabrics can be compared to a vessel for our collective memory, this is truly reflected in the clothes and textile recovered over the months through this project.
Since the winter of 2015, Johanna Tagada has dyed the samples in a natural way using the peelings and pit of fruits and vegetables that she and her family consumed daily. This slow and patient approach to ecological dyeing combines durability and serendipity. Johanna Tagada has from the beginning adopted a humble attitude towards the practice of plant dye and this process allowed her to create the patchworks necessary for the finalization of the tent.
Penser, Manger, Partager calls for awareness of the depletion of resources, in the heart of the tent is embroidered a French quote from the United Nations which translates to "90% of fish stocks have disappeared compared to 1950. At this pace, if nothing is done, all stocks will be collapsed by 2048, called the year of the last fish”. This embroidery is of a double symbolism; the urgency of our actions to preserve a future on Earth and the decrease of the rhythm of our lives. Embroidery is recurrent in the work of Johanna Tagada. This precise and delicate action allows the artist to embroider her truth. As François Mathey, former curator at the Museum of Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris wrote in 1977 "Unlike the lace that borders, pare, highlights, the embroidery falls this innate need to fill the page, to invade the original space, to adorn it with signs. Like the painter. But the method is similar to the work of the insect, the spider and the bee, all stubborn patience, demanding to perfection, meticulous to the point of absurdity".
Beyond the ecological and sustainable essence, this textile sculpture, both a haven of peace and learning, is participatory and educational. Through Penser, Manger Partager a delicate metaphor emerges between the technical action of assembling textiles and the action of bringing people together, the significance of the encounter, the discovery of the other. The public thus enters a poetic and intimate architecture, takes a place and is encouraged to participate. Associating, assembling - untying and reconnecting. With the emerging sensitivity of her oeuvre, which words cannot describe or define but which only the soul can feel. Johanna Tagada invites to be fully present to oneself and to others at every moment.
Penser, Manger, Partager is a way to engage or to continue together a conversation on a concern all our societies are facing, one of the most pressing issues of our century, the ecological crisis. It is important to note that France, the country of origin of the artist, recognizes global warming and the urgency of actions. The artist gives us to see and appreciate the diversity of wealth that nature offers and its resources through a palette of pastel pink and the play of light, transparency of textiles that is reminiscent of human skin and its folds or commissures, traces of time passing.
Having assisted the artist in her studio in London in July 2017, a phase devoted to assembling the tent, I was close to its construction. During this period, many breakfasts and meals were shared, all part of a plant based diet, as this lifestyle adopted by the artist is known for limiting the environmental impact. In parallel with the days spent at the atelier, I was reading Graham Burnett's Permaculture. This term of permaculture, also called permanent culture, originates from two Latin words permanent or to persist indefinitely and the term cultura, the last being the set of practices that support human life. Permaculture is based on three principles: respect for the Earth, people and the sharing of resources. This philosophy addresses all areas of life in an evolutionary way. Therefor this practice wishes to path a way to self-sufficiency, and envisions a global approach to the land and humans, also highlighting interrelation and mutual interconnection. Hereby it echoes Johanna Tagada's holistic approach, one that links multiple aspects of our lives; food, health, nature, human relationships.
I discovered later that the textile work of Johanna is autobiographical, highlighting the work previously done by her grandfather, in love with his Alsatian permaculture garden. Permaculture thus resonates within the installation piece by its philosophy both in substance and in form. The tent is thought of as an expansion of the nurturing nucleus and it’s blossoming happens by ways of the diversity of human interactions: to receive, to share, the messages can resonate in and around us. The experience is to be lived: sitting in the tent, textile wall protecting us from the outside, while our personal experience within Penser, Manger, Partager is projected outward as a poetic stroll of life.
In a quest for sincerity, benevolence and altruism – both toward individuals and nature, Johanna's approach is respectful and happy, as tranquillity is so dear to the artist. Referring to Matisse, Johanna once told me that she wants this sculpture to provide relief to the mind. She also says that she photographs as a painter, sculpts like a painter and arranges like a painter. I observed that this sculpture is the continuity of paintings created previously: Pensées (vegetable juice and paints, 2014 to 2015) and Two for one (oil painting on C-type print photographs, 2014 to 2016). These paintings relate two of the three verbs of the tent, to think (Penser) and to eat (Manger). This installation finds underlying its origin in painting, to evolve towards the palpable textile, its physicality, its volume within a room, a poetics of space. A dialectic from within and from outside is present. Through the tent, the barrier between volume and modular architecture becomes porous.
A two-way conversation takes place. The installation can be thought of as an investigation of soft and mobile architecture, the former in relation with our contemporary ease to travel and to be in transition between places. As Johanna likes to say, she plants a seed. A sweet future is engaged for this work and I wish it beautiful destinations. I cannot help but wonder; in 2050, how will Penser, Manger, Partager be perceived?
Johanna Tagada (b 1990, Strasbourg, France) is a painter and interdisciplinary artist working across London and Essex (UK), rural Alsace (France) and rural Tamil Nadu (India). Her practice composed of painting, drawing, installation, sculpture, film, photography and writing often conceals ecological messages, rendered in soft and delicate methods. In several of the artist’s projects interaction with the environment and others plays a central role. Solo exhibitions include Épistolaire Imaginaire – Merci at Galerie Jean-Francois Kaiser, and Take Care – き をつけて at Nidi Gallery. In 2014, Johanna founded the positive and collaborative cultural project Poetic Pastel, one inspired by the Deep Ecology movement and which includes amongst its collaborators Takashi Homma, Tate Modern Bookshop, Totodo, Tamsin Clark and Takeshi Hayatsu. In 2018, Johanna cofounded the publication series Journal du Thé – Contemporary Tea Culture with T. S. Wendelstein, it has been nominated at the 2018 Stack Awards.