Laure Prouvost meets the real with the ludicrous

With her hallmark absurdism, Laure Prouvost is a leading figure in contemporary art. She centres the female, drawing on her own experiences to meet the real with the ludicrous. In the French-born/Belgium-based artist’s practice, language, humour and theatricality meet to create deliberate comments on contemporary life. Now, her tropes of grandmother and grandfather, mother and child, environmental parentage and artistic lineage, are animating her first major Australian survey at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA).

As curator Annika Kristensen explains, “We wanted to think of the exhibition as a total experience. To survey 10 years, we’ve begun with Prouvost’s Wantee, 2013—a work that has become synonymous with Prouvost and secured her the 29th Turner Prize.” Wantee presents a fictional tale of Prouvost’s grandfather, forever digging to Africa— and indeed, the exhibition is being foreshadowed as a kind of journey.

Laure Prouvost, Every Sunday, Grand Ma, 2022 (detail). Photograph: Andrew Curtis.

The show “ends”, explains Kristensen, with a new installation “celebrating the artist’s grandmother, depicting her levitating, and acting as a type of crescendo”. These two artworks are “bookends”, moving audiences from “the paternal to the maternal, transforming history into herstory. One moves from the subterranean spaces of Wantee to pure light and air, travelling through several works in the process, including a suspended forest and films that consider our relationship with natural environments.” A sense of release through this journey ultimately ends up positioning Prouvost’s grandmother as radically free.

A limited-edition artist book features alongside the show, presenting 100 intergenerational correspondences from individuals reflecting on their grandmothers. It’s centred on carving space for female artists and artist-mothers in the future. The book echoes the exhibition’s move “from grandfather and history, to a more equitable situation, where women artists are free and able to claim their ground as an artist, in their own right”.

Qui Move In You
Laure Prouvost
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
On now—10 June

This article was originally published in the May/June 2024 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Josephine Mead