Aurélie Caperan

The glossolalia of silence

All serious avoidance of the extreme is the decline of man: this is how his slave-nature is rendered perceptible. Once again, I appeal to childishness; to glory. The extreme is the end; it is only at the end, like death.1

1Georges Bataille, The inner Experience, 57.

     The glossolalia of silence

If Aurélie Caperan’s work disturbs, it's neither because it involves the shaping of an idea (like the majority of classical works), nor the visual illustration of concepts (like most contemporary work) but, in a more primitive and radical manner, because it portrays the fruit of an internal (visceral) struggle, whose stakes are not so much aesthetic (although beauty is never absent from her work) as vital – even if the vitality shown in her art is a vitality wrought by death: that’s to say, a vitality which lives in the torments of anxiety (a torment which legitimately must remove all temptation to seek refuge in the comfort of a project, an idea, or a concept, offering a kind of calm, to sustain itself).

I am always disappointed when I try to say something. When I try to have a conscious project. Because such a project could not, by definition, be sincere. Once I have conceived a project, I betray my true, inner self. In this sense, as paradoxical as it seems, I will say that it is always though an accident that I find relief – on the condition, of course, that this accident is not produced by error, but instead by the prodigal (and free) son of a sovereign moment, a moment of such intense concentration that nothing else matters to me but the painting itself.”

Like a turbulent child who refuses to follow the rules adults try to impose, Aurélie Caperan’s work transgresses the rules of its own practice – and seems ready to pay the price for it. Like a gorgon’s head – or a Medusa’s – capable of transforming into stone the glances of those who would try to prevent her from carrying out her work (by aesthetically condemning her expressive freedom), each of her pieces is, in itself, the site of a sacrifice: a sacrifice of beautiful appearances in favor of the most absolute sincerity; a sacrifice of theme and control in favor of a desire for communication (between her and the intimate core of things) and, finally, a need to lose herself completely in her painting:

I am sometimes embarrassed to show my work. People find it too dark. Too heavy. Too suffocating. They say: I just can’t believe it’s you – who made this. And yet, for me, the opposite seems true – it’s the social Aurélie who is false, deceptive, and she’s the one who makes me feel embarrassed. That’s why I have to cut off her head.”

sans titre - Aurélie Caperan

And so to cut off this social Aurélie’s head, the other Aurélie (the Aurélie caught in the act), has chosen to cut off her right hand (“this frigid, socialized, submissive hand1” ) in favor of herotherhand – the left hand – a blind, irrational, even insane hand, accused by the evangelists at times of being the hand of the devil, but which, as the alchemists say, possesses the special capacity to guide the soul along its path to self-transcendence – self-transcendence2should not be identified here with the teachings of any established dogma (such as those of the monotheistic religions) but, instead, with an unknown element that lies silently within the farthest depths and that only fear prevents us from staring into its face. “I wish I could say that I relate silence, or the horror of being gagged… but the truth is that once I’m in my studio I don’t think – I perform. My work is always very instinctive, very spontaneous, even if what interests me is located behind what appears. I scratch the surface. I make holes. Through my work I seek the inside of the world, its hidden depths.”

sans nom - Aurélie Caperan

Sometimes tracing the face of a gagged father-figure who has lost his authority, sometimes the space of a khôra (under the shape of a house with trembling walls) about to dissolve into its surrounding chaos, Caperan’s work is like a mole’s, whose tunnels mine through the blackness of the human soul (a blackness whose depths are sometimes dazzling, blinding). Pursuing a truth that is neither the reflection of a psychotic regression from before the ‘mirror stage’ (a pure return to the chaos of sensations), nor a conscious escape from anxiety (which would be the artist’s degradation, her surrender), Aurélie Caperan’s work could be compared, in its dynamism, with what Lacan called asinthome, that is, a symptom which finds a way to make anxiety into a pathway towards pleasure (jouissance).

While Aurélie draws houses with her right hand (referencing through them the comfort of a stable ego than can be associated with the confidence and happiness of a maternal image – primary identification), she plunges her blindfolded eyes, with her left hand, into the dementia of a paternal figure (secondary identification) which seems to have lost all his authority. In a way, one could say that Aurélie soars above two failures: the failure of the mother-figure first (which makes stable forms impossible), and the failure of the father-figure (which prevents her from conceiving her art and practice symbolically). And it’s from these two failures – these two voids – that the concealed life-force of her work arises: the struggle, indefatigable, which guides this artist with and against death: with and against the death of the mother (portrayed here as houses absorbed in chaos); with and against the death of the father (as the father-figure whose language becomes lost in a production of glossolalia).

I am not civilized in my work, despite my best intentions. I always improvise on the way: I can’t help but take directions – or shortcuts – generated by an urgent need to express and an irrational energy. My work is therefore made of accidents, of destruction, of reprises and surprises. That is my poetry: it is brutal and vital.”

Demanding absolute sincerity from oneself requires the greatest strength. This is called: carrying oneself to the pinnacle. This involves responding to this series of questions: how does one search out, from within the ruins of anguish, of fear (and of hate, even, at times) the vestiges of a glorious, playful childhood, a childhood capable of playing and laughing underneath the funeral pyre? How does one reach beyond the frigid walls of rational thought to this paradoxical instant where the heart lacks courage, the hand trembles, and expression becomes excretion: the violent slap of a brush on canvas – pure phlegm? In short: how does one rip off their right hand, this hand of pure convention? These are the questions or, rather, the unconscious forces, which give Aurélie Caperan’s work its veritable (im)moderation.

Translation: Leah Light

1“Despite being right-handed, all my work is done with my left hand, because the right hand is deceptive. It is frigid, socialized, and submissive to the gazes of others. Inversely, the left hand is free – and because it is free it surprises me, and when it surprises me, it gives me pleasure.”

2. In the Tantric tradition, this is called “the left-handed path.”

Frédéric-Charles Baitinger


Aurélie Caperan is a French artist.