'Dolls - Pupa' Review by Marion Austin Cooke

I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit Atelier Melusine fairly often, living in the area of SW France where it is located in the small own of La Trimouille. Atelier Melusine is remarkable not only for its unique location built into the old rampart walls of the original 11th century castle, but also for the multi-media contemporary works on display.

The current exhibition is ‘Dolls - Pupa’, going through to 4 May 2019

Sally Annett, has curated exhibits submitted from 25 artists globally. This is primarily a text focused exhibition, but also includes non literary exhibits.

There are several different rooms and spaces to move through, the curation to be grouped in such a way that you can take the time to read the text in a quiet focused state, or watch video submissions in the cinema space with good volume, or take part in the Doll’s tea party, for example, and have comfortable conversation. Functionally and aesthetically, this works very well.

The interactive elements to this exhibition, keep the subject matter fresh, and gives the visitor the chance to move in and out of the text based focus. This is helpful in allowing absorption and consideration of the ideas each artist is sharing.

‘Dolls’ is/are a fascinating subject, and the exhibition evokes different responses, ideas and associations for everyone. We are reminded of not only the extreme antiquity of the role of dolls in our world, but the enduring functions they play, and the evolution of those roles into something that we struggle to define as we hesitantly embrace the advance of Artificial Intelligence and humanoid robotics.

Dolls have representation across every imaginable facet of our lives. From the innocence of child’s play and the Doll’s Tea Party, brilliantly set up in this exhibition as an interactive component, (with tea and cakes and photo opportunities), to war, religion, slavery, violence and beyond.

The exhibits are at once provocative, disconcerting, resonant and fascinating. Science blends with the metaphysical. 
Projected onto ancient rampart walls, I watch a beautiful video from Polish artist Katarzyna Borelowska questioning the destiny of knowledge that is believed would be imparted to he who harvests rice, now that task is done by remotely controlled machines. That traditionally when you eat rice you remember the incarnations of your ancestors and is this transmission lost or just differently evolved through machine living? To what extent might organic beings blend with inorganic, individual mind with hive mind?

Science comes to the fore again with the premise that all matter has electrical property, and therefore, the interaction of organic and non organic matter can be demonstrated through chemical reactions that are transducers of energy into light or sound. 
A very interesting and thought provoking concept.

Could AI ultimately have the ability to have emotions or responses that are not programmed but an extension of the organic component? Is this a comfortable thought, or a disturbing thought? Would this make us feel reduced in some way, or wanting to mask our feelings to avoid intrusion? Would we seek to become empty inside to protect ourselves.....would we become more like dolls?

This is an exhibition to take some time to see. It demands reflection and elicits questions that you might not know you have inside you. It is an important body of work and highly relevant to the changing world we are in. Don’t miss it.

Marion Austin Cooke

Below a detail from ‘Melanippe’s Teaparty’