A Research-Creation Project

“I personally believe that ‘estrangement’ is present almost wherever there is an image,” Viktor Shklovsky wrote in his famous 1917 essay “Art, as Device”: “Art, he added, is the ‘estrangement’ of things and the complication of form.” By art, Shklovsky meant all artistic expressions, including literature.

Abstract Filters results from a series of “defamiliarizations,” another term Shklovsky liked to use. In their response to the 2023 exhibition “Les chemins de l’abstraction / Pathways to Abstraction” at the Musée du Niel in the South of France, participants in this collective project engaged in a critical discussion of three paintings – Jean Deyrolle’s Aubin (1953), Jacques Germain’s Composition (1957), and Arpad Szenes’ Paysage (1957) –, the outcome of which are six pieces of creative writing – fragmentary poems.

To further proceed with “estrangement,” artist Josh Müller provided the following instructions:

Take 30 minutes. // Read your poem out loud. Move while doing it.

Repeat individual words or sentences // From the poem, one after the other. // Take a photo of your surroundings as you repeat.

Keep moving. // Keep reading out loud. // Repeat a word. // Repeat a sentence (several times) // Take a photo // In motion

Keep moving. // Keep reading out loud. // (…)

From painting and theory to creative writing, performance, and photography: these are the abstract filters through which this exhibition was created. At first sight, the influence of Deyrolle’s subdued colours and lines, Germain’s vibrant composition, and Szenes’ minimalist landscape is not recognizable. Yet, it persists through textual and visual details – from a distance.

Participants: Emma Bergen, Ruilin Zhang, Farivash D., Jordyn Hodges, Kersh, Philip Akoje

Curator: Catherine Parayre


Musée du Niel, Giens, France, https://www.museeduniel.art/

Josh Müller, Vienna, Austria, https://www.muellerjosh.net/1-5/

M.A. Program in Studies in Comparative Literatures and Arts, Brock University