A visual artist and stage director, Théo MERCIER explores the intersection of anthropology, ethnography, geopolitics and tourism. Between choreographed mises en scène and material explorations, he combines the practices of the creator and the collector, using them to establish an abundant exchange between the past, the present and the future, the animate and the inanimate, the true and the false, the artisanal and the industrial, the secular and the sacred, reality and fiction.
Most of Théo MERCIER's pieces are the result of a process of object anthropomorphisation (found objects, assemblages, superimpositions, collages or transplants), usually resulting in series that assemble veritable communities of pieces that are more or less old or young, male or female, within which he reveals and invents a mobile social hierarchy, as in his series of totems made in Mexico (a site of inspiration and creation), entitled Craft Thoughts Wood Songs and Nowhere Bodies (2015). This piece perfectly highlights the importance of movement in Théo MERCIER's work. It is deployed in their hanging and found in their production process. The artist shaped the wood and ceramic elements using a homemade pottery wheel. Also, the stools he sits on while doing this work are used as plinths for the pieces, so the whole process of creation is included in the final work.
In the series Back to Basics and Gender Studies (2015), Théo MERCIER combines African dance masks with elements (modifying the ears and eyebrows) proper to Papuan masks. He then grafts an undulating PVC nose to the hybrid mask, a symbol of the undulation of dancing bodies, making these objects into something midway between a mask and an instrument. By producing and collecting hybrid, polymorphous, plurivocal, ambiguous objects that have lost their origins and purpose, Théo MERCIER gives shape to a very particular, transcultural, trans-geographic, trans-temporal exoticism. He emphasises it through a mise en scène process that causes the presentation to constantly oscillate between being a curiosity shop, a plunder room, a warehouse, a workshop, a group photograph… Between real and imaginary anthropology, the artist's approach is like that of an explorer who brings objects back from existing and non-existent worlds, like so much evidence of journeys that did or did not take place.
Théo MERCIER tries to undertake a kind of total re-examination of the history of humanity and its creations, a process he compares to that made possible by the Internet. However he reminds us: La possession du monde n'est pas ma priorité (2013) [Possessing the World Is Not My Priority], and gives a set of three hundred fake aquarium rocks (purchased during trips around the world) the status of a surprising imaginary geological collection, a symbol of the creation of fantastical nature through a culture of mass (re)production. Just as he likes to mine the ambiguity of the status of his objects and his hangings, Théo MERCIER endlessly plays on the confusion, indeed the loss, of the artist's gesture in the work, a play that is also stressed by the way he stages his performance untitled Radio Vinci Park.