For his project at Arsenic, Jessy Razafimandimby took inspiration from La Semaine de la Femme, a weekly lifestyle magazine distributed in Lausanne from 1936 to 1962. Droit de Visite de Digestion was an article detailing a customary of French etiquette traditionally expressed by the guest of a dinner paying a courtesy visit to their host no later than eight days after the dinner had taken place.
This article, like most articles dedicated to good manners from the period, was tainted with prewar conservatism, and arguably part of a larger authoritarian scheme, through which the capitalist class structure could be reinforced. Aimed at modest households, and primarily at women, the magazine was promoting a certain set of behaviours to people who clearly could not afford it, hence re-affirming the financial inferiority of their readers and encouraging aspirational consumption. Though a visit de digestion was an inoffensive act of politeness per se, it was also an elitist marker of social hierarchy.
Razafimandimby developed an installation consisting of a new series of artworks combining antique material he found or purchased during the weeks leading up to the project. With items ranging from late 19th to early 20th century, including a bed headboard, magazine racks, tassels, fabrics, and furniture, the sculptures constitute the conceptual domestic space in which Razafimandimby’s fictional hosts once lived. At the same time, they also form the background to his performance, while being used as props, and serve as displays for a series of A4 black crayon drawings.
Like the pages of a complex script or score, such drawings were all produced during the month he spent living inside the exhibition space, and further develop the narrative potential of the installation. Both active as a painter and performer, Razafimandimby works lies at the intersection of the two mediums, whereby his body enacts movements based on his visual and formal work, and his paintings/drawings trap and fix motions on paper and canvas.
Completing the tableau both literally and physically, Razafimandimby activates this environment four times over the course of the exhibition, with a 40-minute performance during which he incarnates all the narrative characters and elements at once. In a demonstration of sorts, he challenges a normalized vision of what a “home” might be, and how “a guest” should behave, using the home as a metaphorical framework to question notions of taste, belonging and power.
Courtesy of Alpina Huus | Arsenic, Contemporary Performing Arts Centre, Lausanne | Cyril Porchet 2019 and Elise Lammer 2019