When Magasin, the Centre National d'Art Contemporain in Grenoble, invited Didier Faustino to fill its 1,700 sq m venue with his work, the Franco-Portuguese artist accepted, even while wondering how he'd utilise such a vast space. Enter Vortex Populi, one of two new spatial inventions, in which a chain of ubiquitous security barriers twist around each other and upward toward the ceiling. Here, they cordon off the gallery, seemingly lifted by some supernatural force. Manipulating barricades is a familiar theme for Faustino; in this case, however, the scale is more impressive and the message particularly resonates in light of the current refugee crisis. 'We are in a society where there is no strong position; we're always compromising,' he says. 'I'm talking about control of populations and manipulation; the individual thinks he has a right to speak – but in the end, nothing is achieved.'
And while the work's title – a play on 'Vox Populi', 'voice of the people' in Latin – betrays this intention, the double entendre of the show's title, 'Des Corps & Des Astres', reveals his overall modus operandi. Spoken aloud, it can also be 'Décors et Disastres'. As a brief French language lesson, the former means 'of bodies and stars', the latter, 'décor and disasters'; both apply equally to Faustino's ongoing artistic pursuit of how the individual fits into a contemporary collective reality.
Along with guest curator Reiko Setsuda, he avoided the temptation to take the retrospective route – despite the fact that this year marks the 20th anniversary of his architecture studio – ultimately settling on establishing a sense of transiting through moments like a film montage. It's a particularly apt analogy given that the other new installation, 'Ashes to Ashes', consists of black concrete stars that evoke the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 'It's a minimal statement of repetition and difference,' explains Faustino of the 39 identical forms, which bear the Latin words 'Habeas Corpus' in place of celebrity names. As a legal recourse, it refers to the right to report unlawful detention; but the literal translation, 'You should have the body,' also interested Faustino. Which is not to suggest that he expects all visitors to draw weighty conclusions from the works. 'I believe in art and architecture, a piece doesn't need to be too obvious. If people are touched by the aesthetic, they can look for meaning and form their own interpretation. I'm not here to write the guidelines; I'm here to show the possibilities.'