Exhibition

FLOP TURN RIVER - Célia Nkala

Opening: 7 Sep 2024, 18:00 - 21:00

7 Sep 2024 – 5 Oct 2024

Regular hours

Saturday
14:00 – 19:00
Tuesday
14:00 – 19:00
Wednesday
14:00 – 19:00
Thursday
14:00 – 19:00
Friday
14:00 – 19:00

Free admission

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Flop, turn, river. These three terms, taken one after the other, have something of the sound and brevity of a nursery rhyme.

About

The three phases of a poker game are summed up in this way: the three-card turn that precedes the opening of the game, the turn of the 4th card that influences the players' choices, and then the revelation of the 5th and final card that either sanctions or rewards them. Very much in the popular imagination, poker combines notions of chance and strategy, and is often used as a pretext for a broader reflection on fortune. Célia Nkala's works in this exhibition are not just about poker, but more broadly about the notion of destiny and the metaphysics of betting.
The exhibition plays with reversal, and Célia Nkala's gestures of transposition, displacement and assemblage maintain the same shift, which may seem playful, but is not without consequences. In this space, the relationship to rules is subverted; the back-to-back chess pieces in Untitled (Armurerie) create suspense as well as threat. The game is not a space devoid of violence, even symbolic violence. In his book Des jeux et
des hommes, Roger Caillois distinguishes between the notions of ludus and paidia: the space for play opened up by a rule with an objective, and the ability to play freely, to invent one's own way of participating. There are many possible analogies between the player and the spectator of a work of art, who can appreciate it according to defined standards and his or her own criteria. The exhibition space invites a form of engagement without the artist herself being authoritative. The forms of the Escape Plan pieces are open: the labyrinths Celia Nkala invites us to enter, taken from the pavements of the cathedrals of Chartres and Amiens, are not intended to lose us, but to find us. The meaning of the Christian labyrinth is not to find the way out of a trap, but to reach the center and get to know oneself. In this way, the artist assumes the initiatory potential of the work of art and the recognition of the space in which we are free to play and lose, to hurt and discover ourselves.
In his text Cosmic trip (or the vestiges of a world to come) on the subject of Célia Nkala's practice, Florian Gaité pointed out the way in which the artist conjures up a personal cosmology in her works. Mentioning the inverted spinning tops in Eternel Retour or the antinomic elements of the installation Révolutions and its severed head, he emphasized the pre-eminence of the loop motif, and the melancholy of this circular relationship with time, which points to the vanity of all things. The game plays a full part in this, and the
detour through the genre of vanity allows for continuity, as in Adriaen Coorte's painting where a pair of dice appears next to a watch. The Da-end gallery, which has often claimed to be a contemporary curiosity cabinet, reinforces this connection. Célia Nkala's taste for polished, shimmering materials is reminiscent of the codes
of the sacred. Pascal's wager, and the vertigo that the philosopher proposes by equating belief in God with a statistical relationship where gain and loss are infinite, could be one of the subtexts of the mischievous Fortune II. The buyer can thus decide whether to scratch off the gold foil and undo the work for the sake of a hypothetical gain, or whether to lose the opportunity to find out whether the ticket is a winner and make the artist's bet, that of a value that goes beyond materials. The game, as Caillois also says, is not a producer of value, but an arena for exchange.
The tarot, whose ambivalence lies in the fact that it is both a game and a divinatory medium, was of particular interest to Célia Nkala, who decided to invite a fortune-teller into the exhibition's antechamber. This discussion with the cards is no longer just a distraction, an entertainment, but a real questioning with existential dimensions. Which hand do you have, and how best to play your hand? Careful not to say whether
she believes it or not, the artist concentrates in Les coupes on the unconscious importance we attach to signs, leading us to make certain decisions. Some games have the value of oracles, but here, like the suspended dice in Abolition of Chance, none of them suggests a particular outcome. The artist's work is like the edge of a coin toss: in its very suspense, its delay, the possibility of a world is at stake.


Henri Guette

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