L’esprit d’escalier et autres tracas

Launch Pad is delighted to celebrate the New Year with the fourth site-specific commission, L’esprit d’escalier et autres tracas ‘the predicament of conceiving the perfect retort too late – and other worries’ at the home of its founder, Sarah Elson.

Based in the Pyrénées and San Francisco, French artist, Old Boys’ Club has been invited to create a series of six new pocket-sized watercolour animations that are to be dispersed throughout the house.

The bilingual translation of the title encourages witty rhetoric and interpretation of the benign yet piquant depictions. With each animation bearing a human characteristic such as a pair of legs on a bulbous torso or a black hole that suggests a head, the artistic psyche and personality of the residence is conjured forth.

Nestled beneath the house’s winding staircase ‘démon de l’esprit d’escalier’ nags as you walk past. Tucked in a window sash, ‘démon de spleen’ evokes an artist’s melancholy, the French expression referring to Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil, which envisioned a life in which beauty can be extracted from everything that is wrong with the world (spleen being a synonym for ill temper). Other representations depict reassessment and controversy. All such familiar ‘demons’ seem to evoke negative connotations but Old Boys’ Club suggests that they should be embraced and respected.

Surrounding each animated vignette are site-specific hand-painted murals that portray an eclectic array of historical eastern warriors, cuddly creatures, abstract signs and symbols that are seemingly unrelated to one another in meaning and relevance yet come together as a whole, united by the house. The spirited nature of L’esprit d’escalier et autres tracas is not only a manifestation of Old Boys’ Club’s quirky and non-hierarchical imagination but reminds us to engage such familiar ‘demons’ that pervade during some part of our daily existence.

An ‘In-Conversation’ between Old Boys’ Club and Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger took place on Friday 30 December.