Exo is Korean K-pop: the ex post manifesto of the most talented art project in Paris

Elisa Rigoulet

EXO, Exo Exo, XOXO. In over two years EXO’s name shifted. People made it their own.


August 2013 : “- Exo? Not bad right? What d’you say?”
“- Exo… yeah, sounds good”.


First, it was the idea of the suffix, exo = “outside”. Nevermind. Then, a friend of mine told me about a poster in his room. Exo was the name of a Psychic TV show at Rouen in 1984. Recently in February, an artist from San Diego we met in Mexico where we were with Antoine for Material Art Fair made a reference in one of his emails to the series Gossip Girl which signs each of its episode “And who am I? (…) You know you love me. XOXO Gossip Girl”. Since 2013, our Facebook page also gained some “likes” because of a Korean Pop teenage band. I guess some people liked us thinking we were related to this band somehow. Exo is a bit everything and anything. It’s what we like. The identity of Exo is precisely not to have one or have as many as we please. Exo evolves, adapts, as its name, as its image, as the banner picture of its Facebook page, as the background, the font, the graphics of its website.


Making it happen. Moving forward. When Antoine and I met each other in June 2013 we had both the desire to work with artists, to show their work, to do shows. We needed a place to start. We used Antoine’s studio. One summer, lots of coffees – some beers as well, one website and one newsletter later, we opened our first exhibition, Exo 1 – we always numbered our Exos – with friends and friends of friends : Matthieu Palud, Clara Stengel, Cyril Aboucaya, Antoine was part of it too.


Quickly we realized the location didn’t matter, still that studio in Belleville was what made it happen. I mean we can do it somewhere else, we can also do without it, we can do it at other people’s space too, we’re going to actually. It is the content that matters. However it was this place that allowed us to work, to begin to exist, and it’s inside its walls, in front of its door, on its parking lot that people would come hang out. It’s where they’d sit down and have a beer, smoke a cigarette on the shambly bench or the garden furniture we necessarily have to bring out and then back in for every opening, for every single show. This 10 ‘ter’ that nobody finds of the first try – “Hey? Yeah, I’m in front of 10 rue Bisson, I see no doorway” – became a spot of our small community in Paris. Kind of a wet and grey winter garden sometimes, bbq space out during the summer, it’s been only moments of pleasure exchanges, moments of expectation, of meeting, of wandering, zoning. There is a lot of room on the parking lot.


We progressively started to export that spirit outside our walls. In March 2015, we invited some artists and did a group show at New Gallery in Paris. It was when we worked with Beatrice Marchi for the first time. Later we worked with the collective After Howl in their completely deserted and abandoned building in Brussels for a show during the fair ArtBrussels – the project was called Check XXème – yet another story of language, of neighborhood – recently we went to Mexico for our first fair. We believe these walls need to move too like the rest.


The first year, we made editions and then we stopped doing editions (for now). We wanted to accompany every exhibition with a paper publication, limited and numbered. “You don’t have to think of it as an extension or an illustration of the show. We don’t want to show pics of the works or exhibitions that we can see for real. You have to see it as another medium, another way of making and showing the work, only flat this time,” we told the artists. Everyone was free with the proposal. For the show What’s on ur mind, Benoit Ménard realized a group show all alone, from instructions and notes given by the artists. We had fun publishing their exchanges, sometimes precise, sometimes illogical, incomprehensible, their jokes or insults, exercises of language. All this always in black and white, printed on site to 50 copies with the laser printer of the studio, stappled, folded, cut. The opening often begins with the last blow of cuter knife.


We’ve never really known early on what we’ll be doing next. Writing a program over several months felt irrelevant to us, at least at first. What matters is what we like, what gets us excited, the artists we follow, the works that strike us etc.. all this needs to have room to shift too. After a while we focused on solo shows. It allows the artists to completely invest the space and make it their own, and approach the project in a much deeper and intense way. The first one by Adam Cruces was also the most powerful to me – hum that annoys me to say that, I think of Aline’s right away, but I’ll come back to that. Adam’s show was like a big sunset on a big impressionist colored painting in 3D. It was on September 12th 2014, we were celebrating our first birthday. Last June, along with a massive sausage barbecue brilliantly orchestrated by JR with his Gagosian cap on, we opened Aline Bouvy’s project, I slept with your dog, a whole wall of love story, pleasure and clandestine desire. Wild. It fell once during the installation, all the bales of hay crashing on the ground in a loud noise, raising all the dust of the studio. This is how the story writes itself and above all how we write it with the others. Then in September Yves Scherer brought us some memories and anecdotes from his journey with friends in Asia, a fake Prada bag, a movie, some drawings and sketches drafted on the pages of a hotel pad he hung from a clothesline held between the wall and Antoine’s Vespa that we requisitioned for the occasion. A porous, almost liquid moment.

Now we need more perspective on our future projects, sometimes to plan ahead +3 months, see further. We’re going to Vienna in September. We’ve been invited to organize a show in a project space there. We have the space, the images of the space, the floorplan, the date of the opening. Our two next shows before the summer are also (almost;)) planned already.


Beatrice Marchi arrived in Paris from Milan on March 1st. With her drawings in a plastic blue folder. At the studio we had some frames for her. We settled down, had a beer, some tea. We showed her the equipment we had : surround speakers, mixing table, vintage amp, microphone, two video projectors. She repeated her set, we framed the drawings. On the wall she made some chalk drawings : two opened and colored curtains, blown by the wind. A pants fitting, the purple or the gilt? Outside it is pouring. She made her performance 3 times, we filmed with our Iphones despite a few blips and twitches. The movement, the people, the laughter. Last January, Antoine left for the Rupert Residency in Lithuania. He called his project there “A Thousand Friends”. I think of them now.

April 22, 2016