The Debutante: a young woman making her debut in high society
with Lauren Coullard, Raphaël Emine, Rosa Joly (Curator : Clothilde Morette)
A young woman from English high society is forced to attend a ball to mark her entry into public life. Solitary, and preferring the company of animals, she befriends a hyena, and proposes that it takes her place at the reception. The hyena acquires a human appearance using several means of disguise, including make-up and clothes, but also by murdering a maid in order to use her face as a mask. The hyena goes to the ball while the young woman reads peacefully in her room. The subterfuge is only discovered late in the evening, during dinner, when the hyena, hungry and embarrassed at dessert time, refuses to eat its cake. It ends up devouring the maid’s face, revealing its true identity, before leaping from the midst of the stunned gathering and escaping into the outside world.
This text summarizes one of the first short stories by Leonora Carrington, a surrealist painter and writer of British origin. Entitled The Debutante and written in 1937, it is imbued with mythology and esotericism, as well as being driven by notions of the transitory, and the concept of metamorphosis. As such, Leonora Carrington’s text proposes a landscape rich in symbols, freedom and flamboyant imagination. With a simple and direct writing style, echoing that of fairy tales, Carrington frees herself from normative constraints and plunges us into a whimsical universe in which the boundaries between the internal and external are porous, offering a glimpse of capacity for the interaction of the imaginary with the reality that surrounds it. It is this vanishing trajectory towards the imaginary, and an imperious need to create a space of freedom by conceiving of alternative territories, that is so precious in Carrington’s work. The imaginary, or the extraordinary, in her work, is never posited “in vain”, but, on the contrary, is a space of emancipation, a sort of laboratory of the possible, which allows us to reevaluate the ordinary.
If one way into this exhibition is through this approach to writing, it is likewise embodied in the work of Lauren Coullard, Raphaël Emine and Rosa Joly, who, each with their specific characters and sensitivities, make multiform realities perceptible. Raphaël Emine’s polychrome ceramic sculptures play with a multiplicity of scales and strata, evoking both a labyrinthine game of complex architectural forms and the structure of the human skeleton. Rosa Joly’s macabre dances, full of smiling irony, also lead us towards Carrington’s decentering logic, playing around the thresholds of different eras, influences and iconographic sources. Elsewhere, the hybrid aesthetics of collage, with its attendant cohort of incongruous creatures, unfolds in Lauren Coullard’s paintings through the reconciliation of madness and lucidity.
Without a doubt, today more than ever, it is essential to accept the possibility of a world where young debutantes, in order to escape their dull social obligations, can call upon greedy but friendly hyenas, good souls that stand ready to help them in their desire for freedom.