Sylvie Fleury «First Spaceship on Venus» 1999.

Sylvie Fleury, First Spaceship on Venus

Sylvie Fleury works with symbols of masculinity such as cars (in a smashed state) and applies lipstick colors to them, or she destabilizes rockets by changing their original surfaces, i.e. their nature, color, 'order', and 'representation'. Her 'Soft Rockets' play with the idea of 'masculinity gone soft'; their golden or silver color, for all its connotation of luxury, cannot conceal their dysfunction or inefficacy.

Sylvie Fleury, Fur Rockets
Fur Spaceship on Venus #18ABC, 1999.

«Some kind of heaven» at the South London Gallery (July 1997) included an installation by Sylvie Fleury from Switzerland called «First spaceship on Venus», consisting of three large rockets (about 15 feet tall) covered in brown fake fur and emitting electronic noises. Disconaut AAA have previously advocated the use of fun fur and sequin space suits to counter the masculinist bias of space exploration, so we were very interested in the suggestion of applying this technique to the spaceship itself. Certainly this would make them more tactile and less starkly functional, as well as undermining the rocket=phallus fantasy.

Sylvie Fleury, Rockets

PETER: And then you began to make rocket ships that look almost like cartoons of rockets, very simple. Of course, they're very phallic, but they're also painted in all kinds of feminine colors. When I see one of those pieces, it puts me in a good mood, because nothing is being taken too seriously.
SYLVIE: They're like huge vibrators. They have a sound element, which I worked on with Sidney Stucki from Geneva ­ he's called DJ Sid. We made a very beautiful soundtrack where you hear weird sounds, and from time to time someone yelling, "Egoiste," which is a very well-known perfume for men by Chanel.
PETER: Did you have a lot of ideas about the sound, or was Sidney in charge of that?
SYLVIE: Most of the time I would come up with the idea for a sound and he'd record it. Then we started playing around. The name of that piece is First Spaceship on Venus, so I guess the soundtrack is almost like when a ship is landing on the moon in a B-movie.
PETER: People often discuss your work in terms of fashion, but I'm thinking that the language of your work is very much the language of film ­ your installations are like a film experience.
SYLVIE: You know, I tried to make a little movie about vampires once. But I realized it was way too much effort for me, because I'm a lazy person. But yeah, I love how old B-movies would reuse sets in order to save money. I love it when I recognize a set from one film in a totally different scene in another movie.
PETER: One thing I love about the rockets is how alien they look in the formal setting of an art museum.
SYLVIE: I like that. I also like the idea of life on other planets, in the sense that it recalibrates our own perception of ourselves. Last year I made a couple of UFO landing sites in front of museums and galleries. I was really hoping that aliens would recognize the sign, and that they would land during my openings. Unfortunately, they didn't. I guess they were shy.
PETER: Do you think there are UFOs?
SYLVIE: Of course, I've seen some.
PETER: Why would people who were so sophisticated that they could travel from solar system to solar system bother to hide?
SYLVIE: Because they want to take over, maybe. Or perhaps they're not hiding ­ maybe we know a few.


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Fleury is a drag-racing kind of chick, a speed demoness obsessed with the race-car esthetic, transforming macho into femme fatale. Her ideology is phrased in the vanity enticements of fashion magazines. Emblazoned on a lime green wall are hyper-scaled cover lines like LUSH LIPS, the LATEST ON INJECTIONS, and GETTING THE RIGHT HAIRCUT (Lush Lips, Hot Lips, Chew On This, 1999).

Sylvie Fleury, Rockets

But can she drive? The answer is yes, redesigning a drag-racer's shooting flames into a big wall painting (Flames #8), in a room that also contains rocket ships covered with white fake fur and piped with a mod soundtrack (First Spaceship on Venus #18, 1999). Fleury sets the control with an insatiable cosmeticizing of speed, and the eroticizing of destruction (think J.G. Ballard's Crash).