Audiovisual Jan20 2017, Amsterdam

Vinteuil

The European Echo podcast is back up and running after the festive break. This, the fourth instalment, is the promised second part of my conversation with Xavier Robles de Medina, in anticipation of his solo exhibition “If You Dream of Your Tongue Beware” opening on 22nd January at the Catinca Tabacaru Gallery on the Lower East Side. This time, moving away from a more general conversation, and again, as promised, I manage to talk a little bit more directly about Xavier’s work.

The title for the podcast is taken from the fictional composer Vinteuil, depicted in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. More specifically, it refers to Vinteuil’s sonata, which I bring up towards the end of the conversation. In the first book The Way by Swann’s the Vinteiul sonata plays a central role in Swann’s blossoming love for Odette. A crucial aspect of the Vinteuil sonata is the “little phrase” which captures Swann’s attention later in his. One of Proust’s aims in talking about the little phrase is to stress how truly great art creates new and richer appreciation through prolonged engagement.

Speaking of the sonata, Proust’s narrator writes:

…the great works of art are also less of a disappointment than life, in that their best parts do not come first. In the Vinteuil sonata, the beauties one discovers soonest are also those which pall soonest, a double effect with a single cause: they are the parts that most resemble other works, with which one is already familiar. But when those parts have receded, we can still be captivated by another phrase, which, because its shape was too novel to let our mind see anything there but confusion, had been made undetectable and kept intact; and the phrase we passed by every day unawares, the phrase which had withheld itself, which by the sheet power of its own beauty had become invisible and remained unknown to us, is the one that comes to us last of all. But it will also be the last one we leave. We shall love it longer than the others, because we took longer to love it.

As always when I’m discussing art, I think Proust expresses my appreciation of Xavier’s work much better than I ever could.

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