An exhibition on enfermement (locking, imprisonment, sperring?) in the largest prison in Paris clearly, in France surely, and in the world after Australia maybe - normal says the press file. Not very original I think. We all have seen dozens of times the works bought or commissioned by Francois Pinault: Venezia, Versailles, randomly, even Fondation Maeght last summer. Now la Conciergerie. Where will he stop?
The first piece is Pistoletto' La Gabbia (the cage). As usual Pistoletto is witty, so witty that about 95% of the visitors do not realise it is a piece of art. "Please, don't touch. It is art, says the guard. Oh really, is it art? says an astonished tourist". I have stayed 10 minutes in front of it, and only one person has stopped. Poverino Michelangelo!
The imprisonment in the second piece, a video by Diana Thater, is more provided by the set up of the screens, pentagonally circling around visitors, than by the films themselves. At this point, I am already fed up with all the philistines standing between the screens and the projectors - after a day of Perrotin's contemporary art vulgarisation, I feel that la coupe est pleine when it comes to dealing with people and contemporary art. Almost alone in this space now, I quickly immerse myself in Thater's world of superpositions. Gesperrt, ich fuehle, despite the swan swimming on the deep blue sea. The piece is titled Chernobyl. What the hell are the swan and the sea doing here? No comment
One cannot really comment on Bill Viola's Hall of Whispers, slow, high quality resolution images, sinking you in the videos, as usual. It has to be experienced, a bit like the top floor of Collection Lambert in Avignon, designed by Claude Leveque. The title is funny though. Hall of whispers, for a video installation that shows five people on each side of the room, with gags, trying to speak. But why the hell do they also close their eyes?
Back in the light, and a more usual setting. Raphaelle Ricol's Malgre la difference is brilliant (pictured). Watch the photo. So self-explanatory. Note to self: explore the rest of Ricol's works. The opportunity is given to me subito: Sans titre (gaz et telephone) is a lot less witty than the first piece, which, btw, has been massacred by the editor of the leaflet, who only shows half of the painting, and therefore takes away completely the message
The four paitings by Iranian artist Ahmed Alsoudani look like a Bacon study that has met a grumpy Gilles Barbier. Not my cup of tea
Boris Mikhailov on the leaflet looks like a gay icon: again, the editor has chosen to show two sailors with their pompoms, enhanced by subsequent colouration of the photo. Not the best choice of topic, Mr Editor, Mikhailov is the contemporary Arbus, not Mapplethorpe! But Mikhailov technique is quite clear. Just that it has been a long time since we heard about USSR. And I am clearly not a millenial...
Bertille Bak's video looks like a photo by Stephane Couturier. I don't understand the piece by Mona Hatoum that follows. With such pieces, one needs an explanation on the piece itself, not on the artist. My favourite by her remains the string of swings presented a couple of years ago at the MacVal. Then Pinault's blue eyed girl, Ethiopian artist Julie Mehretu. I have never been so fond of her work, and I don't really understand the rapport between the pieces presented here and imprisonment. Is it more subtle, such as Mehretu being the next artist presented in Versailles? Ooops, sorry, I promised myself I will not go there
Most of the videos with sound here are presented with headset - I would have preferred the sounds to intermix, like in the basement of the Palais de Tokyo. That would have been an acoustic imprisonment
Temps mort by Mohamed Bourouissa. I can stay there for hours. At first, I wonder why the quality is so poor. Then I realise it is filmed with a mobile phone, and meant simply to describe the usual Parisian life, and directed at someone who is locked away. In prison. And lives a temps mort. This is the most powerful piece so far. Everyone passes by. No one gets it. I feel like shouting; instead I transform myself in mediateur - and summons people to sit down, watch and listen. Not much success, I am afraid
Sun Yuan and Peng Yu's Old Persons Home is amazing, especially given two of these people move - they are all on wheelchair. But more striking is the mix of people who seem to co-habit in this pensioners’ home: all religions, all nationalities, all dignities. A contemporary Noe's Arch? A Russian girl in the corner is patting the resin head of one of Yuan and Yu's characters. Oh, creepy!
The collection of works by Llyn Foulkes reminds me of John Stezaker, who I believe is regaining momentum on the art scene. Tellez video installation looks like Pinault-owned Vezzoli's video with Sharon Stone and BHL playing the Clintons, that has been widely exhibited. Inside though, it is more Gillian Wearing-like
Yet another Hirst's pharmacy
Then I feel like a voyeur in an interior designed by Kristian Burford, half-way between a failed Maria Pergay designed house, and something undescribable. I am less charmed by the pieces by Justin Matherly and Chen Zen. And Tetsumi Kudo. And Alina Szapocznikow - sort of 3-D bacon, with a negative twist. And Maria Marchal, the message of whom I don't really get
Fortunately, before the end, Frederic Kunath shows a welcome piece, the Past is a Foreign Country. Mix between recklessness of tropical shirt, head imprisoned in a snowball and focus, almost locked-in face of the Duane Hanson-like character, is he really trying to forget the past?
Last piece, commissioned for this exhibition, White Elements, executés à Wavre, by Belgian duo Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys. Beyond the wit of the title, I don't understand the overall piece. Perhaps here again, a dedicated explanation would have been a good idea
At the end, I buy the catalogue. Funny, one of the authors is Marie Darrieussecq... Again, no comment
All in all, was really worth seeing, mainly for the video by Bourouissa, the pensioners' home by Yuan and Yu and the discovery of Raphaelle Ricol. One big regret is about the curation, as often: not enough explanations on the pieces themselves. And as everyone knows, contemporary art has at least three levels of comprehension: first, the aesthetic one - less obvious in most videos or the most innovative pieces; second, the do-I-understand-what-the-artist-means one; and third, the do-I-agree-with-the-artist's-point-of-view one? I am afraid, I only went one and a half level down on average here. But I don’t feel I have been taken for a ride
A triple tour
Oeuvres de la Collection Pinault
La Conciergerie, Paris