Site-Specific Installation, 2014
Swedish Christian Study Centre
Blocus is both an art installation, and a process:
one that started with collecting 50 objects, listed in 2010 by Gisha, an Israeli human rights association, because they were prohibited from entering the Gaza Strip by Israeli authorities;
then, in presenting them in Rouen, in September 2013 - the place was designed as a corner shop ; the objects were on sale at cost price;
then, in sending them in a custom-made case to Gaza, using ordinary air-freight services - with 5 stops in 5 locations of Palestine;
then, un-packing them from the case that brought them over and presenting them to the public, on 5 occasions, as if a stall on a flee-market or an customs examination table.
In Blocus, the status of objects keeps switching from elements of an art-piece to ordinary items, thus pushing further the notion of ready-made, developed by Marcel Duchamp.
How to present Blocus
The idea for presenting Blocus is simple, yet challenging.
1. Present the objects along with a performance by Jonathan Loppin at the Swedish Cultural Centre during the opening tour of the Jerusalem Show on 24th of October 2014.
2. Record the performance.
3. Install the video at the Swedish Cultural Centre.
4. Repeat the same act in five different cities of Palestine: Hebron Gaza, Nablus, Betlehem, and Ramallah.
5. Add another video installation to the Swedish Cultural Centre after each performance.
The Swedish Cultural Centre will be the hub of the entire project during The Jerusalem Show.
Julie Faitot, September 2014
In September 2013, with Blocus ('blockade' in English) Jonathan Loppin transformed the 180 Rouen contemporary art centre into a small corner shop. On 50 metal shelves, lining the walls of the gallery and running in its centre, 50 items were exhibited: four samples of each lay separately on each shelf. The alphabetical order they were set in brought together unrelated objects: a 25-kilogram tar pot, next to a piece of timber, next to a pack of candy, next to buoys, and so on.
The artist collected the items according to a list that was set in 2010 by Gisha, an Israeli human rights association. With the help of several Gaza shopkeepers, Gisha identified items that were prohibited from importation in the Gaza strip, by the Israeli authorities.
In the 180, those objects were on sale at cost price: as people bought crisps or sweets, pens or toys, more and more shelves stood empty. The money thus collected was used to fabricate a box, designed to send back one of each item to Gaza and to present them to the public.
Jonathan Loppin has been invited by the French Institute of Gaza and the Jerusalem Show VII in the framework of Qalandiya International to perform, in five locations, the unpacking of the box: he will open it, unfold it to use it as a board and trestles, then set on it all the objects contained in the case, one after the other. In a different context, the art piece and the elements it is made of could have been a customs examination table or a stall in a flea market.
Jonathan Loppin's installation in Rouen dealt with the notion of the readymade: the status of the items presented in Blocus switched from ordinary articles, collected by the artist in shops, to elements of an art work as they were displayed in an art gallery, back to objects, once they were bought and used by their purchasers. It also questioned the way sculptures are traditionally shown in art exhibitions: 50 unremarkable shelves were used as plinths for objects presented like sculptures.
The new shape given to Blocus for its presentation in Palestine and the whole process it implies, emphasize both issues: a simple plywood sheet on common trestles will be used both as shipment case and plinth. More remarkably, elements that have been prohibited from entering the Gaza strip as ordinary objects will (hopefully) cross the border as an undividable set of items constituting an art installation.
Blocus thus upsets our views on what is art, what is a sculpture and how it should or could be presented in an exhibition. As a process, it fuels a long debate that started in 1926, with the judicial controversy over Bird in Space. This sculpture by Constantin Brancusi was shipped from France to the United States for an exhibition in a New York gallery: the American customs first refused to consider the sculpture as an art work, imposing the tariff for manufactured metal objects; then, after the press and several artists protested - among others, Marcel Duchamp and the American photographer Edward Steichen - they released the sculpture on bond (under 'kitchen utensils and hospital supplies') until a decision was made.
The lawsuit that followed ended in November 1928, with the following conclusion: 'The object now under consideration (…) is beautiful and symmetrical in outline, and while some difficulty might be encountered in associating it with a bird, it is nevertheless pleasing to look at and highly ornamental, and as we hold under the evidence that it is the original production of a professional sculptor and is in fact a piece of sculpture and a work of art according to the authorities above referred to, we sustain the protest and find that it is entitled to free entry.'
Jonathan Loppin graduated from Reims School of Art and Design in 1998, spent a year at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver (Canada) and received an MFA with honours from the Paris Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in 2003.
Loppin deals with political and contemporary history issues. He produces installations transforming the exhibition spaces into strange environments that unsettle the viewer's position.
Loppin's work was seen in solo shows in various art institutions, such as Blocus, Rouen (2013); Anthology, Reims (2010); Je vous déteste tous, in Lab-Labanque, Béthune (2008); Le Souffle, Paris (2006) , Proving Ground, Saarbrücken (2011). Loppin also participated in group exhibitions in Europe or public art festivals including Le musée éclaté, Caen (2013) ; Rouen Impressionnée, Rouen (2011); and Sentiers rouges, Luxemburg (2009).
Loppin lives and works in Paris and Rouen (France).