I’VE DREAMT ABOUT
The societies we live in are the outcome of thinking; they take form, they are re-formed, they are transformed and they are revolutionized, above all by the mind. The idea of coming up with “realist utopias”, which may seem a paradoxical expression, is, indeed the feat achieved by those artists endowed with both daring and fantasy who invent worlds with unsuspected outlines, and whose works offset our most diehard habits.
Tomás Saraceno has a go at the free flight game and imagines nomadic dwellings, inflatable structures which can be modulated and also make any idea of boundaries and circumscribed territories obsolete. Above the mere pleasure of conducting experiments, he invites us to shift the way we look at things, and think differently about the political world. Michel Paysant, for his part, metaphorically conjures up that space in the making which is the European Community, a burning issue if ever there was. For Peradam (project), he has thus pushed back the strictly administrative confines, and taken, sample-like, 55 bits of asphalt from different symbolic places, from Mitrovica bridge to the square where Frankfurt’s stock exchange stands, which he has then filmed in a slow continuous movement, like a changing organic entity.
We find the same moving dynamic, forever gestating and evolving, in François Roche’s experimental work, and the R&Sie(n) research platform he has initiated. His multi-facetted maquettes propose novel models of urban expansion. He replaces the principle of city planning applying pre-established rules, by the dynamic of an organic development in which forms produce themselves, and thus become, not the outcome of a concept, but something generated by a principle of energy. Stimulated by the most unexpected architectural experiments, François Roche, together with the artist Philippe Parreno, has responded to the invitation of Rirkrit Tiranavija and Kamin Lertchaiprasert - who have developed the The Land project in the very heart of Thailand, to wit a space of creation and life linked in with surrounding communities and connected to the whole world. They have duly come up with an open structure supplied with electricity by a buffalo’s power. A collective venture during which Tiravanija and Lertchaipasert’s utopian project, R&Sie(n)’s forward-looking architecture, and Parreno’s film with its bewitching atmospheric poetry, The Boy from Mars, all emerge in a connected way, and reciprocally enrich each other.
The characters in Judith Walgenbach’s photographs seem informed by a similar spirit of quest and experiment, all given the distinctive signs of the perfect scholar as he appears in our collective imagination. Grey smock, the look on his face concentrated, and spectacles with severe frames, all at once alert to the world and isolated in their searches, they seem to focus on phenomena which the advances and techniques of science enable them to observe.
It is with the same ironical distance, with regard to the idea of scientific progress that, in 2009, Nikolay Polissky created the work Large Hadron Collider for the museum’s Grand Hall. Now on view outside, this sculpture with its fantastic cogs has lost nothing of its evocative power and its capacity to get us to dream. The series of drawings which preceded and went hand-in-hand with the execution of the project helps us to discover the many different developments of this machine which, though directly inspired by the same-named particle accelerator, and extremely complex, technologically speaking, bears the patina of time and is akin to certain rudimentary but fascinating ancient tools.
For their part, Steven C. Harvey’s surprisingly subtle drawings, teeming with details, plunge us into a future with at times apocalyptic overtones. His complex compositions represent so many scenes which draw as much from a collective fount as from fantastic projections. For this artist it is not a matter of being visionary, but of staging visions in which man finds himself confined within an organized, not to say authoritarian system. Chad McCail’s seemingly more larksome, if schematic drawings also plunge us into a world governed by coercive “natural” laws, and the way it is packaged is such that any escape from it seems illusory: the various stages inexorably follow on, one from the other, in a cold progression.
This disenchantment seems to permeate the work of Michael Ashkin, who develops in space what might be vast desolate urban expanses, as are to be found in American cities. Through an anarchic succession of standardized dwellings, the flaws and cracks of our societies are drawn, in the negative. These societies are revealed in all their harshness, in the raw light of the lens wielded by Paulo Nozolino, a longhaul traveller who never stops globetrotting unto the planet’s farthest flung nooks. His candid eye, which makes no concessions but is not without propriety and delicacy, reveals an extremely sensitive portrait of humankind.
Because, if various hope-inspiring utopias have informed our societies - Nous sommes tous indésirables (“We all are undesirable”) declares the work by Fernando Sánchez Castillo referring to May ’68 slogans in France - many of them have nevertheless been short-lived. Without counting those caught up in rigid ideological systems, which are themselves now vanished or contested. Filip Markiewicz’s Mao Dollar, the video The Partisan Songspiel. A Belgrade Story by Chto Delat? and Vyacheslav Akhunov’s collages involving the figure of Lenin all remind us of the not that distant era when the world was bipolar. So the exhibition I've dreamt about symbolically mingles Thomas More's city of Amaurote and Jerem Bentham's Panopticon, proof of the complexity of our societies and above all of the significance of the challenges putting the focus on both the hope and the dark side of our projections.