If ever there is a fundamental idea around which the work of Regis Perray articulates, it must be the question of space and consequently the notions of nomadism linked to it. Many art critics have given a large chronological account of scientific researches on the cause/effect connection between the process of walking and the moulding of thought, thus explaining the fundamental importance of the process of moving in artistic creation. If, unlike contemporary artists such as Francis Alÿs, Stalker, Gabriel Orozco and other "planetary pedestrians", movement is not a motif in Regis’s works, in that he does not form an artistic action in itself featured by traces of its own taking place ; it is all the same the basis on which these traces are made up.
For a few years now, the researches in floors started by regis materialize through laborious activities over a large span of time. In this respect the action entitled "Training Centre to go back to Pilat and Saqqara"9 is a perfect example of the artist’s process as it lays, through its excessiveness, the founder principles of the work present since the very early pieces10 : hard labour done with no tool or with ridiculous instruments, including the cyclic repetition of the same tasks with no purpose but its own taking place and characterized by an outstanding disproportion between the efforts produced and the very ephemeral aspect of the realizations.
A perfect example of "unproductive expense"11 as Georges Bataille calls it in his description of activities that "contain their own purpose" and substitute to an economy based on the production of added value, an economy of loss, rendering void the traditional notion of utility.
The title of this piece informs on the artist’s methodology ; He approaches the realization of actions involving sustained physical efforts, as en athlete would do. The longlasting actions undertaken on the spot of the exhibitions actually start before the opening, the period of training and the apprehension of the space being part of the work, as well as the periods of rest that stress it. Repeating, doing again and again untiringly in order to integrate progressively the rythm created by the process itself and also to prepare physically the body to the realization of later pieces of work. This is how Regis Perray has ordered , in anticipation of his "Figure skating at the Beaux Arts Museum of Nantes"12 a platform of undressed timber, one square metre large, on which he skated again and again whith woolen pads until the surface was perfectly shiny. This piece, a major one in a series of "Figure skatings" realized in various settings, looks very much like a dance ; the way the artist puts his body in the realization of this ceaseless coming and going in front of the works in the Museum has really something of choregraphy.
The obstinate will to occupy spaces, preferably those that have been completely neglected and the wild endeavour to fight against the fatality of time going on, with human means, essentially worthless against the power of nature, brings Regis nearer and nearer the mystical spirituality lying in the reflexion of Gordon Matta-Clark on the household work. The laborious nature of Regis’s works borrows from his famous elders the precedence of the moment of the realization over their restitution into the area of the gallery, or the museum, or any place where art is displayed. It can be asserted that in Regis’s labour "the work as a finite object stands behind the work in process, apprehended as a situation. The genuine work indeed is the "œuvré" and its real time, not the possible eternity of its exhibition, but the period of its elaboration"16. Reasonable indeed for a man to whom art is mostly a daily activity, "an act of involvement in the world"17 through which raises his project of life.
Passage from a text published in the catalogue of the Sur les sols de Malakoff/Pré-Gauchet exhibition. Frac des Pays de la Loire 2002.
9 - Action & video exhibited in "Le confort Moderne", Poitiers,2001, consisting in carrying for 49 days a 30 ton pile of sand from a room to another on the 1500square meters exhibition area with a spade and two buckets, as part of the collective exhibition "Le détour vers la simplicité:expériences de l'absurde". The site of The Pilat refers to an action of dredging up block-houses at the bottom of the Pilat dune (January 2001) and Saqqara refers to the dredging up of monuments on that archeological site (March 1999).
10 - As for example the video "Petit ramassage d'automne dans mon jardin à Petit Mars" on which the artist spends the time picking up the leaves fallen on the ground on an area delimited by four trees.
11 - Georges Bataille, "La notion de dépense", La part maudite, Minuit, 1967.
12 - Residence that took place at the Musée des Beaux Arts, Nantes from September 23rd to November 6th as part of the exhibition "Le travail c'est la santé" (Zoo Gallery,Nantes and various spots, Rennes. K@rl curatoring.
16 - Stephen Wright,"Le dés-oeuvrement de l'art", Mouvements,n° 7,Sept-Oct 2001, page 9.
17 - Title of the collection of François Pluchart's writings published by Les Archives de la Critique d'Art, Paris, Jacqueline Chambon,2002.