By Chris Sharp
For Artissima and the presentation of Nail Tang

The practice of the Paris and Prague-based artist Julie Béna defies easy description. Working in a mode that comprises sculpture, installation and performance, her work is deliberately carrying on the legacy of certain practices from 1990s France, most specifically with their prioritisation of the exhibition as a form over the finished object. The scenography of the exhibitions themselves is known to look like something between stage sets and corporate waiting rooms, with their cold, stylised architecture.
Béna has developed a kind of cast of characters, ranging from Pantopon Rose (borrowed from William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, 1959) to Miss None and Mister Peanut, which she reactivates in the spirit of cable-TV mini-series, in different contexts. In doing so, she seeks to explore the plastic limits of a language, which is liable to border on non-sense in her work, all the while engaging in a kind of character development which has become such an integral feature of our everyday lives with the dominance of cable-TV mini- series in popular culture.
For her participation in Per4m, Béna presents the performance Nail Tang (2015). Originally conceived for her solo exhibition at Galerie Joseph Tang in Paris in 2015, this 20-minute performance utilises a fictional nail-polish salon as its setting. For this performance, Béna assumes the role of a manicurist who carries out a monologue for a single audience member who is supposed to be getting a manicure. Through contact with the client’s body via a series of codified gestures supposedly intrinsic to the nail salon, the artist discloses fragments of her character’s (the manicurist’s) story, in a performance
that includes talking, reading and singing. The textual basis of the works exploits the fictionalised plight of the manicurist as protagonist to relate a larger message of social disparity through an intimate interaction. At once understated, methodical and theatrical, the virtuosic performance, which covers a wide range of attitudes, is surprising in its dynamism.