Six dormitory beds in the Chapter Room of the 13th century Maubuisson Abbey have branches growing from chaste berry seeds, which were planted inside the mattresses, sprouting through the white sheets. This recalls how, historically, the Cistercian nuns used to sleep on single beds on the first floor of the abbey. The use of the chaste berry seeds, meanwhile, refers to how monks cultivated this plant, known for its soothing, anaphrodisiac qualities, because it helped to calm their libido. Indeed, French artist Stéphane Thidet has titled this installation 'Insomnies', conjuring an image of restless insomniacs trying to purge themselves of sexual desire.

In an adjacent room, two golden gongs in a darkened space trigger a sense of turbulence as the metal discs vibrate with external sounds; the sounds relate to the real-time frequency of the magnetic field of the sun captured by an antennae in the garden outside. The mystery and impenetrability of this sound-sculpture installation is suggestive of the nuns being awakened early in winter time and being called to prayer.

Stéphane Thidet, Insomnies. Photo Catherine Brossais - Courtesy de l'artiste et des galeries Aline Vidal et Laurence Bernard
A third installation, resulting from performative actions, lies in a third room. 'Un peu plus loin' was realised by covering the floor with clay and dragging seven ropes across it using ropes. It is after this piece that the exhibition is titled. The desert-like, lunar landscape was inspired by the sliding rocks at the dry lakebed Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park in the US. As the rocks slide across the playa, they cut a furrow into the sediment. In Thidet's in situ installation, the sliding of the rocks appear to evoke a divine path or destiny.

Also on show is a black-and-white film, 'Half Moon' (2012), which Thidet made at the Villa Montalvo in San Francisco during his Lucas Artists Residency Program. Deer, foxes and coyotes furtively come out to play and hunt on the pristine estate, their nocturnal activities contrasting with the lights-out slumber of the villa, striking a parallel between the animal and the human world. The exhibition, which is on view until 27 August, certainly merits a detour!

Stéphane Thidet, Un peu plus loin. Photo Catherine Brossais - Courtesy de l'artiste et des galeries Aline Vidal et Laurence Bernard


All images courtesy of the artist and the galleries Aline Vidal, Paris, and Laurence Bernard, Geneva.


Stéphane Thidet, D'un soleil à l'autre. Photo Catherine Brossais - Courtesy de l'artiste et des galeries Aline Vidal et Laurence Bernard
Stéphane Thidet, Half Moon, vidéo, extrait. Courtesy de l'artiste et des galeries Aline Vidal et Laurence Bernard