Paris – Palais de Tokyo | esse arts + opinions

Paris – Palais de Tokyo

Palais de Tokyo
  • Fabien Giraud & Raphaël Siboni, Last Manoeuvres in the Dark, 2008. photo: Didier Barroso, courtesy of the artists

[Texte en anglais]

Palais de Tokyo, Paris, May 29—August 24, 2008

Superdome takes as its object the legendary stadium in New Orleans, which has been the site of record attendance concerts, political conventions, a papal visit, and most recently the last refuge for victims of Hurricane Katrina. As an affective space, the stadium is fixed in the collective imagination through spectacle and celebration as much as disbelief, disillusionment, and horror.

The installations in the exhibit take up the force of the dome’s history without overstatement. Christopher Büchel’s Dump (2008)—an unmistakable commentary on the hurricane aftermath—is a massive landslide of trash filling a three-story space, suggesting both material and human refuse. The smell of the space—stale, heavy, dusty—is overwhelming. The drone of cello and viola is heard through a speaker along the wall facing the slope of waste, drawing attention to the tightly contained space. Fabien Giraud & Raphaël Siboni combine menace and nostalgia in their installation, Last Manoeuvres in the Dark (2008), composed of 324 Black enameled terracotta replicas of Darth Vader’s mask, each fixed with a microprocessor linked to a huge central computer. Evocative of the thousands of ancient Chinese terracotta warriors, the work gives the sense of something unseen controlling an army of automatons, guided by villainy and bad taste, all accompanied by throbbing epic music. Menace takes on a different form in Arcangelo Sassolino’s Afasia 1 (2008), a machine that (with the help of compressed nitrogen) propels empty beer bottles 600 km/h down a long alley of metal fencing, pulverizing them against a wall. A rock concert fantasy ending with tiny pieces of green glass, the work dominates the space, with viewers either waiting in eager anticipation or racing past the contraption with a cringe and plugged ears. Jonathan Monk’s Time Between Spaces is a series of scattered objects where time is suspended, disturbed, or accelerated. The most arresting work in the installation is a diptych, Before a Bigger Splash and After a Bigger Splash (2006). The paintings are nearly exact copies of the well-known David Hockney painting of a pool scene, but with the absence of Hockney’s famous ripples. The paintings are eerie, as though a moment we are collectively familiar with has passed (or is yet to happen). Daniel Firman’s Würsa (2007) contemplates a situation of the impossible: he asks at what distance from the earth could an elephant balance on the tip of its trunk (Answer: 18, 000 km). With the appearance of a taxidermy animal, the hyperrealist life size elephant seems to teeter in precarious balance in a dim gray room, magisterial and alone.

The parts that make up Superdome are as diffuse as the history of the Superdome itself. Nevertheless, somewhere at the intersection of the suggestive, the explicit, and the obscure, is the site of meaning.


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