Evans’s Artpace project hinges on the battle between individual freedom and collective responsibility. The artist frames this debate around Peter Weiss’s play Marat/Sade (1963). Set in an asylum in the early 1800s, the play follows the story of the incarcerated libertine Marquis de Sade as he directs his fellow inmates in a highly polemical restaging of the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, a radical journalist and politician of the French Revolution. This play-within-a-play contrasts the values of de Sade (after whom sadism is named), who advocates hedonism, and Marat, who believes in progress through absolutism for the common good. The debate becomes the centerpiece for Evans’s Artpace exhibition: What’s the point of revolution without copulation, copulation, copulation?.
His two-part work You are the Sovereign begins with a proposal for a new champagne vintage. The work draws on the artist’s ongoing dialogue with Laurent Perrier, a champagne vinter founded in the aftermath of the French Revolution (a period when many businesses passed from the state to the individual). In the displayed letter, Evans suggests that Laurent Perrier produce a vintage honoring Jean-Paul Marat in response to the release of rival vintage Champagne Marquis de Sade. To accompany this proposal, Evans has created a maquette of a proposed decanter, which depicts a falling quill in memory of Marat (tradition has it that he was stabbed to death while writing a list of enemies of the state to be arrested and guillotined).
The second element of You are the Sovereign, a photograph displayed with the letter to Laurent Perrier, stems from Evans’s exploration of Marat’s professional background as a physician, in particular the revolutionary’s personal struggle with a chronic, and perhaps psychosomatic, skin affliction. Evans approached the Texas-based pharmaceutical company DPS, a pioneer in the development of remedies for dermatologic ailments similar to that suffered by Marat. In response to this lateral connection to the revolutionary, the artist gave a DPS representative a copy of the champagne decanter, inviting him to talk with the artist about the debate between personal freedom and collective responsibility. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this meeting swiftly came to a close.
I Am In Your Foyer, an airbrush painting proposed for installation at the Federal
Courthouse in San Antonio, is presented here on a replica of an aluminum-framed window in the building. In one sense, a courthouse is where the state determines when the exercise of personal freedom has passed into delinquency, effectively colliding with responsibility to collective society. Placed in a courthouse, the painting would suggest the momentary containment of self-indulgence.
The third part of Evans’s exhibition is a pitch written for a science fiction, psychological horror film titled The Fantasist. The production treatment is accompanied by a screening of the film’s opening sequence. A co-creation of Evans and writer Will Bradley, the movie is set in the near future as the United States is on the edge of chaos, its citizens suffering from widespread psychosis. The film’s protagonists are future versions of Marat and Sade (Marianne and Slade), two doctors who have very different cures for society’s ills. Both work in a private pharmaceutical clinic. Marianne specializes in treating diseases of the eye and is trying to find a cure for an epidemic of blindness that she thinks may be psychosomatic. Meanwhile, Slade is busy synthesizing experimental narcotics, which are greatly enjoyed by his rich patients. In the opening scene, Slade is missing and Marianne is being interrogated about his disappearance. In the interrogation room, we hear a recording of the final entry in Slade’s audio diary.
What’s the point of revolution without copulation, copulation, copulation? counterpoints extreme and opposing points of view–hedonistic individualism versus social responsibility–leaving the viewer to determine her or his personal allegiance.