Operation Zones and Lines
Since Giap’s Igloo¹, we have known that the rules of military strategy can be applied to the process of creating works of art. I have decided to focus on one of the elements in Myriam Mechita’s vocabulary: the warship.
There's certainly her attraction – which can always be explained – for technological items, but also, of course, that for models and toys. There are precedents among her famous elders: the British artist Malcolm Morley, for instance, who from the mid-1970s showed a genuine fascination for the world of reduced-scale models associated with the imagery of war, and in his oeuvre regularly returned to military themes. In Morley’s Navy (1989)², a sort of rectangular bronze 1.42 meter high, slightly above chest level, the boat is model size; the rest is the plinth of the work – a big wave, calling to mind the sea depths – but also the idea of an inseparable plinth. In Myriam Mechita’s oeuvre, the plinths are none other than their transport crates.
When I suggested to Myriam Mechita that I address this aspect of her work, she began by listing types and names of ships (“the battleship Voltaire, the frigates La Fayette and Germinal, the escort ship Aconit and an Abeille tug”), then quickly touched on their strategic role: the battleship has a heavy shape, “it’s the one whose cannon will attack at first light...”³. Prompted by this detail, I can but note the difference between the logbooks in which, thanks to simple silhouettes, seamen can identify ships, and the hazy appearance created by the metal-wire superstructures that Myriam Mechita coats in coloured pearls.
These warships are going to head towards the city: this time I will turn to The Art of War⁴. As I mentioned in the introduction, I would like to import into Myriam Mechita’s oeuvre a little of this art, particularly from the chapter in which Jomini explicitly states: “I believe that the term operation zones should be used to designate a large fraction of the general theatre of war; the term operation lines will designate the part of this large fraction that the army will embrace in its enterprises, whether following several routes or only one…”.
Translated by Paul Jones
Yves Brochard is a curator and associate professor in visual arts at the Lille 3 University.
¹ A sculpture by Mario Merz entitled Giap’s Igloo (Igloo di Giap), from the time of the Vietnam war, on which is written in neon “Se il nemico si concentra perde terreno se si disperde perde forza” (If the enemy masses his forces he loses ground, if he scatters he loses strength), 1968, Musée national d’art moderne collection - Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
² Reproduced on page 140 of the catalogue Malcolm Morley, Éditions du Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1993
³ Interview with Myriam Mechita, Paris, 7 November 2006
⁴ Antoine Henri Jomini, The Art of War, Arc Manor, Rockville, Maryland, USA, 2005 (originally published in French in 1838)