Pierre Guyotat (born 1940 in Bourg-Argental, France) has created one of the most powerful bodies of work in contemporary writing during the 20th and early 21st century. Since his rebellion as a soldier in the Algerian War in 1961, leading to his secret imprisonment, he has consistently braved censorship. From his early books, Tomb for 500,000 Soldiers, in 1967, and Eden, Eden, Eden, in 1970, censored while being praised by such figures as Roland Barthes, Joseph Beuys, Max Ernst, Michel Leiris, Michel Foucault and Pier Paolo Pasolini, to Prostitution (1975, a partial English translation by Bruce Benderson, 1995), through to his most recent works (Joyeux animaux de la misère, Joyful Animals of Misery, 2014; and its sequel Par la main dans les Enfers, By the Hand into the Inferno, 2016, in the process of translation into English), he has expanded the uses of language and the actions of fiction, creating a powerful intensification of human lives. He has also been extremely politically involved, from his direct activism in the 1960s and 1970s to his current elaboration of an existential laboratory, while often partaking in major debates on contemporary world issues (Salman Rushdie, American intervention in Iraq). His work knows no boundaries, and creates a space where the very nature of humanity and society finds itself questioned in the most brilliant form possible – at any cost (Coma, 2006, English translation by Noura Wedell in 2010).
Pierre Guyotat's poetic heroism and subversive take on any order - whether of sexuality or grammar -, while being fully knowledgeable of both, have been, over the years, a significant inspiration for artists. The author himself, in his younger years, hesitated between being a poet and a painter - as described in In the Deep (original edition in French under the title Arrière-fond, 2010, translated by Noura Wedell, Semiotext(e), 2014).
This exhibition provides an entry into three major parts of Pierre Guyotat's creation, with insights into his powerful enigmatic world: fifty pages of the manuscript for Le Livre (The Book, 1984) have been lent by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which holds Pierre Guyotat's archive. These documents feature his unique research into language while attempting to create an overview of human Western history. Highly visual, they give a sense of how physical and material his work is. It is accompanied by an audio recording of readings he made of that text, in which visitors can hear the musical rhythms of his voice.
Pierre Guyotat eventually became a poet and not a painter, but he maintained a consistent drawing practice until the late 1980s. On the occasion of the exhibition Pierre Guyotat, la matière de nos oeuvres at the Galerie in 2016, he began to draw again, providing visual fragments from his creation. This new body of drawings has expanded to a more recent series, presented in this current exhibition, signalling a new, thought-provoking dynamic in his work.
In 2016, Vauxhall&Co published the first monograph in English devoted to his work, Stephen Barber's Pierre Guyotat: Revolutions and Aberrations. On the occasion of this exhibition at Cabinet, Vauxhall&Co will publish a revised and limited edition of Graham Fox's long out-of-print translation of Eden, Eden, Eden. Cabinet will also release a vinyl box-set of Pierre Guyotat's reading of Le Livre."