Reflecting upon Honore d’O work, Air and Inner

It is difficult to figure out what was actually inside the artist Honore d’O’s mind by just reading the artist statement, which instantly gives rise to more questions than answers. Yet the work itself demands contemplation.

Artistic Director Gerald McMaster talking with a visitor at Pier2/3, 18BOS

Air and Inner, 2012 was an extensive floor to ceiling installation that occupied the back of the giant warehouse space at the Pier 2/3, Wash Bay during the 18th Sydney Biennale 2012. Structurally, there were two components of the installation, the front chairs and the rear hanging scrolls.

In the back, there were numerous blank white sheets of paper scrolls of all sizes hanging from ceiling to floor. The scrolls literally cut the giant warehouse spaces into small pieces, blocking the view so you couldn’t see anywhere further except being surrounded by endless scrolls. There were often narrow pathways in between the scrolls so you could randomly choose any one and slip through. Once you were inside the ‘jungle’, you had to wind your way through the maze, synchronizing your body movement with the placement of the scrolls, for example bending over or slanting your body to one side to get pass. There was no obvious path or direction, just endless passing-throughs. The experience was immersive.

Honore d’O, Air and Inner, Pier 2/3, Sydney Biennale 2012

What was interesting about this installation was how it defined space without blocking the continuous flow of space in the mean time. The ‘jungle’ of hanging scrolls could easily hide eight to ten people with each of them in their private space without seeing each other at all. Aesthetically, there were also symbolic meanings of the colour and texture of these papers and perhaps most importantly, how the papers were placed against and in relationship with each other. In other words, the extensive installation was undefinable, which touches upon yet not quite fit into any categories of architecture, maze and art sculpture.

unknown lipstick mark on Honore d’O’s work, Air and Inner

Before you came in contact with these scrolls, you would first walk through a bunch of “puppeted” chairs, all tied up with strings connected with ceiling structures – the hanging scrolls dangling high above. Many people suspected the connection between the chairs and the scrolls and they were probably right. I was consigned to this work one day as a voluntary exhibition invigilator and happened to come across one of the artistic directors of 18BOS together with the senior management team. They talked about how the work was designed to be interactive where people were supposed to sit in the chairs and reel down/up the scrolls from above. This design wasn’t realized at last because of technical difficulties, so instead, they put writing pen and papers for people to draw or leave a message.

Upon reflection, one might nevertheless sympathises with the artist statement in a sense that the undefinable structure was intended to undermine any conventional functions and pre-existing societal perceptions and take the visitors into a space which is purely spiritual and original.


Since ‘tomorrow’ is a real product and time is pushed to become a trading technique, the lyrics of life hardly escape the machine of functions. Our inversed freedom easily throws words in the infrastructure of humanity, though an operational soul only discusses art as a condition. A hot plot for behaviour won’t endanger oneself if air could squat down in the inner topologics of our derelict environment. Air and inner! A longing wave configures the fl ux of vice-versas between the subject of the constituent and the horizon of the clause, to synchronise a vision with an experience. In that scenery, according to a reflective tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle and to the never-written deeper down, the project mirrors its contraject: urgent inner commanding implants mental investigation in the vertical subject of ‘the open body of art’, textualises more mythological alchemy, generates wind philosophy and sacroabsurd grammar, before climate and culture will apply our senses into purely social need. During the authorisation of a linguistic constellation – if classic drama forced me to choose: I’d prefer the tongue and split the ear. For humanity: little alternative. For the eye: no relevant pseudonym. For the air: extra inner.

Honore d’O, born 1961, now lives and works in Ghent, Belgium

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