La Avion

solo exhibition by Sophie T. Lvoff
curated by François Piron

14 June – 6 July 2018
ENSBA Lyon – Réfectoire des nonnes

“When we are so sad, we like sunsets.” Antoine de St Exupery

[« Quand on est tellement triste, on aime les couchers de soleil. »]


An iridescent mirage of gasoline on the runway, Shirley Bassey’s silk dress lightly brushes the seats of the Concorde, she shimmies with a steward carrying a platter of money. The music covers the noise of the supersonic engine. On route for Bahrain or Rio de Janeiro. 2000 kilometres per hour. New York only three hours away from Paris. Concorde’s television advert of 1975 with Shirley Bassey announces the values of this modern romance: a world unified in luxury and delight, insouciance and ergonomics. The Concorde is perhaps in this way the ultimate realisation of architectural modernism, if we take Oscar Niemeyer at his word, for whom the form preceded, rather than followed, the function, and who, rather than a right angle, preferred the curved line evoking the ridge of mountains, the pattern of rivers seen from a plane, the contours of a desired body. La Avion, because the latter could – should, should have? – be conjugated as feminine. *


I’ve seen the Golden Gate in San Francisco Bay
I’ve seen the Empire State and walked down ol’ Broadway
I’ve seen the northern lights in some Alaskan town
Since I saw you with him I move I move around

Lee Hazlewood**


Sophie T. Lvoff, an American artist in residency at the Post-Diploma program of ENSBA Lyon, roamed Europe visiting the various air and space museums which show the last examples of the Concorde, the most expensive airliner in the world, the technological jewel made in France, which abolished distances – although above all between Western metropoles – and was finally abandoned for its exorbitant fuel consummation: the last relic of a world only concerned by performance, competition and luxury, which did not care about it impact on the environment, before it became uniquely governed by the economic crisis. Throughout the 1990s, the artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss travelled around the world in order to photograph what would become their archive of Visible World (Sichtbare Welt), thousands of images attempting to represent common places, images of nature or architecture that had already been seen, in other words attempting to portray a world “after photography”. It meant notably, through this Bougainville-style expedition in the post-modern world, experiencing the real difficulty of taking an image of a sunset, even if we are already saturated with images of sunsets.


Lvoff in turn questions the practice of photography in its social and emotional dimensions, using all the statuses of the image and its reproduction to imply their historical contingency. La Avion is a sentimental drift as much as a deconstruction of the elements of the Concorde, its iconography, its mythology. Behind each image – projected, pinned, hung – a story and a trajectory conceal themselves. Singular and collective stories; stories of misunderstandings, “lost in translation”: in this way, the image of a building of Niemeyer, comparable to the fuselage of a cockpit, found in a book in Brazil reveals itself to be in Algeria. Stories of dreams and disillusion: that of being here and elsewhere, always elsewhere, which became today an order to always be present, free, connected. In-flight free wifi. The plane being no longer an excuse to cut yourself off from the world for a few hours (“sorry I missed your mail”), does it still enable us to leave one place for another, a person for another, a mood for another?


Any day now I will hear you say «Goodbye, my love»
And you’ll be on your way
Then my wild beautiful bird, you will have flown, oh
Any day now I’ll be all alone

Bob Hilliard / Burt Bacharach, sung by Chuck Jackson**


– Text written by François Piron
– Translation by Bea Bottomley

* Translator’s note – In French, the plane, “L’avion”, is masculine. The title of the exhibition, “La Avion”, plays on both the gender of the noun and the rule of liaison between a definite article and a noun that begins with a vowel.

** Instrumental versions of these songs were performed in concert the evening of the opening, by the one-night-only band called The Piles PoilsSophie T. Lvoff formed and directed the band to provide the soundtrack to the exhibition.

  • La Avion
    Installation view
    Wood, aluminum, paint, archival inkjet adhesive paper, ceramics

  • Installation view
    Wood, aluminum, paint, archival inkjet adhesive paper, rocks, ceramics, original typography, sawdust

  • Detail
    Wood, original photographs, postcards, and archival materials

  • Detail
    Wood, aluminum, paint, archival inkjet adhesive photographic paper

  • Installation view
    Right side: The Piles Poils (single-channel video with sound documentation of performance)

  • Detail
    3-channel slideshow
    6 mins; 38 seconds, looped

  • Installation view
    Wood, paint, ceramics, original typography, sawdust

  • Detail
    Wood, paint, original typography, sawdust

  • Detail
    Wood, paint, glazed faience

  • The Piles Poils (the one-night-only band)
    bass: Romain Hervault, musical saw: Elia David, drums: François Virot
    Songs: Crazy (P. Cline), Any Day Now (B. Hilliard / B. Bacharach), I Move Around (L. Hazelwood)

  • La Avion
    Graphic design and visual identity:
    Alaric Garnier