La grotte magique
John M Armleder
The Salives wash-house is known as the Lavoir de la Source de la Tille. This spring emerges from a cavity at the foot of the cliff face; the wash-house was erected in front of it in 1843, so that the spring directly supplies the wash-house. The cave was a place of pilgrimage where people came to plead for rain: the name of the village comes from saliva or sacriba, meaning gushing spring or sacred spring. The monumental character of the building is very pronounced, especially as it forms a visual continuation of the church, built on the rock. The roof is supported by five transverse arches and is very high. The façade is broken by three round-arched windows and a door at each end. The large pool located at ground level meant washing had to be done in a kneeling position. As for the stone benches outside, they reinforce the public character of a building open to village life. When the wash-house was being restored, residents wished to involve an artist with a work referring to the theme of water and emphasizing the votive and curative character associated with this cave since Gallo-Roman times.
The surfaces of the rocky cavity were lined with multi-coloured stones, imitation precious stones that nonetheless gave the cave back its wondrous character. A modest installation gives the lighting a temporary boost that causes these delightfully kitsch fake stones to glisten in all their glory.
The mediator suggested bringing in John Armleder. After taking a strong interest in the work of the Fluxus movement, in 1980 Armleder started to paint abstract pictures without attempting to create new forms, but taking on the heritage of the history of Abstract art – and more particularly of geometric abstraction – which it is appropriate to identify in many instances. In parallel he developed his series of famous Furniture-Sculptures, installations of furniture and pictures, that question the notions of interior decoration and decorative art, but also of taste. Good and bad taste proceed from a principle of equivalence, through the abandonment of a search correlating to a fixed style. By intermingling painting, sculpture and objects his creative work takes its place in the history of art through playing on critical designation, so calling on the relationship between history and memory.