Pascale Marthine Tayou

Bend Skin Contrevents

2014

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Not on display

Artist
Pascale Marthine Tayou born 1967
Medium
Moped, palm leaves, raffia baskets, calabash gourds, seed pods, nylon bags, feathers, nylon string, hessian and horse hair
Dimensions
Object: 2400 x 3400 x 2200 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with funds provided by the Africa Acquisitions Committee and Harry and Lana David 2018
Reference
T15073

Summary

Bend Skin Contrevents 2014 is a hanging sculptural installation weighing approximately 150–200 kilograms. At the centre of the sculpture is a moped to which woven bamboo and raffia baskets, as well as calabashes or dried gourds, have been attached. Beneath these, the back wheel and handlebars of the suspended moped are barely visible. The sculpture is completed with a horsehair tail that hangs down from the rear, without no part of the work touching the ground. Bend Skin Contrevents is one of a series of four hanging sculptures made in 2014 for Word Share, Tayou’s solo exhibition at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles. Each one has a suspended moped at its centre, onto which a range of found objects – feathers, raffia, seeds, basketry and drums, for example – has been carefully attached. The titles of the other three are Bend Skin Chasse Mouche, Bend Skin Calebasse and Bend Skin Rideau Raphia.

In the artist’s native Cameroon, mopeds, which have become ubiquitous modes of transport in many African cities, are known locally as ‘bend skins’. These vehicles are not only used to transport people, but are frequently laden with baskets, gourds, plastic bottles, animals and other paraphernalia that people need to transport. By almost obscuring the ‘bend skin’ mopeds at the centre of his sculptural installations, but retaining a reference to the vehicles in their titles, Tayou seeks to draw attention to the fact that the extraordinary loads threaten almost literally to bend the mopeds that support them (the artist, in email correspondence with Tate curator Kerryn Greenberg, May 2015).

The use of everyday objects from Cameroon is paramount to Tayou’s creative process. Although many of his materials originate in Africa, he generally ships them to his studio in Ghent, Belgium where his works are created. Bend Skin Contrevents includes several baskets traditionally used to store and transport foodstuffs in Cameroon. Although these are of a similar hue to the calabashes, the contrasting textures and lattice-type effect lend the surface of the sculpture extra depth and variation. In West Africa calabashes are used to store, transport and serve food. Smaller sizes are used as drinking receptacles, while some shapes are also favoured for musical instruments and traditional rituals. The careful arrangement of the found materials in this work and the overall shape of the sculpture – with its horsehair tail – result in its resembling a large animal.

Like much of Tayou’s work, Bend Skin Contrevents combines the spiritual and prosaic. The horsehair tail references alternative modes of transport. If the moped has become synonymous with the African city, the horse remains a symbol of the rural environment. Additionally, amongst the Bamileke in the western grasslands of Cameroon, horsehair is frequently used in traditional rites and rituals, while in the cities, like Yaoundé and Douala, the moped taxi drivers often wear horsehair amulets to protect themselves and their vehicles. Bend Skin Contrevents encompasses the confluence of rural and urban, traditional and contemporary. Tayou has said of these hanging sculptures, ‘Bend Skin is the name of this series, man in relation to his time, the centaur man, God the wind in search of his daily pittance. This work is another fetish of the contemporary global man.’ (Ibid.)

Further reading
Jacob Fabricius, Thierry Raspail, Pernille Alberthsen and Bernad Blistène. Pascale Marthine Tayou, Always All Ways (Tous les chemins mènent à …), exhibition catalogue, MAC Lyon, February–May 2011.
Rebecca Lewin (ed.), Pascale Marthine Tayou: Boomerang, exhibition catalogue, Serpentine Galleries, London 2015.

Kerryn Greenberg
July 2017

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