woensdag 29 december 2021

year's end update, sort of

 

I would have liked to do a positive and upbeat report on the new horizons opened up with the easing of restrictions, but alas, it was short-lived and somewhat dowdy... On the one hand happy to be able to visit museums and such again without too much ado – Covid passes are a relatively minor problem when considering the real havoc the virus has created in many countries not so lucky to have economies able to splurge on large amounts of vaccines for it's populace – but even then people seem unhappy... 

 

Anyway, the shows that we were able to see were okay, though I must admit I have a tendency to like the more retrospective ones... While the idea of Eurasia at the Antwerp Contemporary museum is not uninteresting, it is not new and presenting a colorful collection of all and nothing does not really give it umpf – sure – there are always interesting finds – but much like the 'wunderkamer' of yore (and which had been discarded for dedicated theme shows) it is just that... wonderment for those who have never seen this or that – while for older generations there is not much added value. One might say the same of the retrospective ICC show, a mix and match of 'déjà-vues” but here quite the contrary happens, reminding and augmenting already known information in a new light and making it even more interesting than it already was...


 

I enjoyed the retro-view of Marianne Berenhaut, someone I've been watching for a while and always appreciated the downtrodden humor depicted in the objects she collects along the way, to bring them together in an all the more disturbing conversation, avoiding the pathetic but reminding us of the fragility of our so-called cultivation... That she has been 'discovered' in recent years is a very good thing, because otherwise this important artist might have just faded into the musty folds of history (again) and been just an anecdotal footnote perhaps in the gallery of artist-artists... while if fact she was always more than an also-ran... an interesting case in point which I will keep an eye on in the future – see what happens.


 

At the BPS 22 I was a bit skeptical of the “Penultimate version of reality' by Brognon-Rollin at first – fearing yet another collection of all-sorts which seems to be a la mode nowadays ( ...admittedly I myself had been a great purveyor of such shows in an alternative past but in a museum context I expect more slice) But the fact that it is a selection by a seasoned duo in a sort of retrospective mode rather than a theoretical exercise makes it palpable – intriguing and to a degree pleasant in it's depressiveness, featuring the folly of humanity as comfy cushion. Anything but in fact, making us aware of the thin line to disaster along the edge of every day. Maybe it is because of the disaster unfolding outside that the disturbing presentations seem familiar and cozy as compared with the reality unfolding outside – one which is commented on by Alexis Dekonninck in his 'sleeping on concrete' performance series involving a playful re-use of temporary structures.... for me it is a bit bitter, since I thought the trees that have now been removed in front of the museum were it's best asset.

 



 

The fourth mail-art offering (this time Barbery & Stuckens) is interesting but perhaps a bit less than the first three and incorporating quite a bit of similar stuff – which is perhaps also a normal illustration of the phenomenon mail-art, in which authorship and re-distribution tend to favor the most active – which is why: the hard core of the surviving scene are a bunch of people known to each other for quite some time now... but as a reference to various (ether) media (radio, cassettes, records..) and insight to the contemporary social media phenomena it can count – good series, hope to see more diversity in future...

Also passed by the CivA, but there too, so much to see that nothing really stuck even though there were things that attracted the attention, for a bit, but then surpassed/exchanged for the next... the guidelines sort of tell the story – like a switchboard scheme, interesting for those that are looking for a specific glitch.


 

vrijdag 17 september 2021

 

Left early


For Paris on the fast train straight from Antwerp to Paris Nord... Arived a bit later than scheduled but early enough to make our first stop a boulangerie and the a grand crème next to Sainte Eustache... From where we proceeded by metro to the Etoile, place Charles De Gaule where they were installing Christo's 'Arc de Triomphe, wrapped' -finally after years of asking, pleading, wrangling... (project first proposed in 1962' which makes it apt to this research...) and reminding me of Jiorno's comment that " the best thing an artist can do for his career is to die.."


 


But we leave that to one side for the moment and reconsider the reason for going in the first place... Jef Lambrecht's video of the reichstag-wrapping - I also appreciate Christo's work, beginning with Valley Curtain, and later also the smaller works that probably inspired Jef to package various works, often including found packages of Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes as part of the recurring series of processes concerning his fight with the tobacco giant. He also used packaging methods in his performances, resulting sometimes in more-or-less permanent sculptures, but more often than not short-lived statements... (often making use of furniture without asking the owner's consent, and after the exhibition they would be returned to regular duty as chair...)


Former BIWA co-director Karel told me about how Jef was adament about going to Paris the meet Christo during his wrapping of the Pont Neuf - he wanted to make some sort of BIWA combination-piece or conversation piece, but there was no funding and it is unclear if Jef went to Paris at the time on his own, since Karel was not willing to pay for his own travel and expenses... So far I have not found any specific reference to the Pont Neuf project. (but pretty certain he went anyway...)




A very different story is the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin. By this time BIWA as such no longer existed and so it was an independent effort, but still related to BIWA Ear or Earth, as far as I can remember.. ( will have to check to ascertain if he still used the BIWA label for his presentation..)

Jef filmed the wrapping process with his own handycam, even though he was there in an official capacity for the state radio ( I think) he made his own reportage entitled "Reichstag im Negligé" which he presented at the AK-37 in 1995....(video will be run as soon as digitized)


I had planned to show this video as an opener at the archive presentation in his home town Avelgem because the hosts were also into Christo and had some works of his on display... Why not use this coincidence... Then, when it became clear that the Arc de Triomphe project was going to be ahead and the video of the Berlin project would not be ready I thought I would shoot a sequel as a sort of homage...


Emerging from the metro it was already quite a sight... The silvery cloth had already been draped and for the most part already closed, except for some corners and details and fiddly bits... Much like the situation that Jef encountered in Berlin. ( a bit earlier, with some banners still being let down the façade...) The light too was similar, it had just rained and the sky was lightening up but had a similar hue and intensity as the drapery, making for a ghostly and sometimes difficult to discern silhouette... Again much like Jef had encountered in Berlin...


I found it was not that easy to get good shots but the visuals were intriguing, and by doing it myself could understand more fully the reasons for the slowness of Jef's video... The work of Christo sort of forced one to slow down... I was watching one person filming the activities through the reflection in a puddle left behind from the rain... Many passers-by, on foot motorcycle or car would pull over to take some pictures... Some viewers were obviously there specifically for the theatre being presented, and there were even some ushers provided... They were wearing plastic capes and could easily be included in the wrapping process...



Just as with Jef's video the workers were installing the drapes by means of absailing and cranes, ropes and dangling bits here and there making for an interesting variation in activities, while I myself changed position, going around the Etoile section by section, and so having a complete 360 degree roundabout view, with a shot from the middle of the Champs d!Elysees as anchorpoint. The sun came out for a bit, enhancing the contrast and making the piece nearly luminous... I decided to return in the afternoon if there was a chance of direct and low sunlight, which I imagine would be quite spectacular.


The lanterns were also a feature which I found important... Jef concentrated quite a few of his shots and still photographs on the Lanterns surrounding the Reichstag, and here too there were lanterns perfectly placed to be incorporated in the shots. There were old style and more modern lanterns, as well as broken and damaged ones which all had a useful function in the process of recording the situation.


( so perhaps I will use one of these images for a copycat Lanterne de Lantin, being Bombyx Mori, as homage and information carrier... See if I might still have a Reichstag LdL somewhere... Preferably an original sent from Berlin)



Of course used the opportunity to enjoy Paris, given that the rain had stopped and there was intermittent cloud, some rays of sun... Very agreeable weather to do some rambling around, lunching on quiche in a park in the Marée, visiting the construction site of poor Notre Dame, a sorry affair... And a visit to the newly refurbished Samaritaine... Gleaming but not what it used to be... At the Palais de Justice large security force, streets blocked for the terror trial: the perpetrators of the Bataclan massacre... Noticed in the subway older men just standing in the corridors holding up one finger... 'There is but one...' - Taliban grandfathers admonishing modernised Muslims to revert to archaic teaching... I fear France has not seen the back of Islamic radicalism just yet, perhaps it's only the beginning, seen as how the historic centre is surrounded by banlieues...


Dark clouds accompanied our train as it slid out of the Gare du Nord in the evening, but it had been a bright and agreeable day, and I was glad that I decided to go through with the undertaking, being just in time before the negligée was buttoned up completely... Now the official presentation can commence, and we will see if the 'desnudance' might be worth another trip...



donderdag 26 augustus 2021

Young Years

 Gruzemayer is assisting in a retrospective / archive project in far-flung west flanders fields & towns...

 

Research project Jef Lambrecht 'Young Years 1948 -1967'

 





On September 11th 2021 it will be five years since journalist, writer & artist Jef Lambrecht left us, and members of'Samarkand vzw' thought it a fitting moment to revisit his life & work by presenting some archival material in his home town Avelgem, with specific attention to his 'early years'. Sadly there is very little material left from the early years, but by reconstruction and (local) memories quite a few references can be made to important elements in his later artistic oeuvre... Together with family-archive, friends, and some later works an attempt to sketch an impression of those early years and the lasting influence on his artistic career, as well as his extensive travels and journalism. His love for history and cultural diversity stems from an early wish to surpass the boundaries of the local landscape, but is also deeply rooted in it.

 

Aside from the presentation of a workbook, investigative presentations are planned – in the former cinema 'Rubens' across from the old school, now 'Tanghe Interiors' and the cultural community center 'Spikkerelle' are anchorpoints for ambulatory investigations around the town... Collected material will then be added to the general archives.

This is to be a first edition of a series of investigations into the backgrounds of the artist, basic chronological sections to provide an introduction to a more general 'catalogue raisonnee' in future. The next section being considered is 'student years, marriage & young family' from 1968 to 1978.

 

from september 11th to October 24th 2021

Spikkerelle community center and Tanghe Interiors, Kasteelstraat 8

Saturdays research-sessions at Tanghe Interiors only (11 – 17pm)

 


otherwise opening hours as per website, the work at Spikkerelle can also be seen from the outside

 

zaterdag 19 juni 2021

Rhomboid Reflex

 

Rombouts Wederzijds / mutually reciprocal


Finally coming across a work which speaks to me – after a long stretch of disappointments and the notion that somewhere there is no progress to be had, and old mistakes are constantly being refurbished to look like new ones... well perhaps it does sort of fit this bill, but in a sympathetic manner:

A mutually reciprocal reading of Multatuli in an anatomical circus – not quite has haphazardous as the encounter of an umbrella and a sewing machine, but as 'azartous' as one might conceive: reading the word-pairs connected by 'and' in simultaneously opposite fashion, across from each other as in a chess tournament, crucible theatre of operations – in this case called 'cirque anatomique' from the time the Ghent bourgeoisie spoke French... but very fitting. The readers being a young actress Coltette Goossens born in Belgium on the frontier of the twentieth century to the twenty first, and her opposite reader Bob Latuheru, born on Ambon when it was still a Dutch colony, just before the difficult attempts to create a free South Molukken Republic... and ending up a refugee... In this choice the entire history of the Dutch colonial era, the east India Company, the spice trade, the colonial wars and horrible attitudes prevalent in Europe concerning the well being of the indigenous peoples of the far flung lands they occupied – succinctly illustrated by Multatuli's (semi Latin pseudonym of the writer Eduard Dowes Dekker) “Max Havelaar” still one of the most read and translated book in Dutch letters....

 




 








So in this quiet and concentrated performance, lasting a few hours, with visitors coming and going – albeit quietly – there is also a high concentration of political and cultural import not apparent on the surface – iceberg style considerations needed to fathom the length and breadth of this quiet gesture... For the audience the word-sets read could be followed by a projection on the wall behind of the programme devised by Theun de Lange, longtime collaborator of Guy Rombouts and a whiz at finding technical and presentational solutions for the AZART alphabet (just have a look at the azart website) – making this in effect a quintessentially fifty-fifty work in which not only the basic premise, 'wederzijds' mutually reciprocal reading performance, but collaboration and sharing, set between theater-performance and exhibition-publication by the art-book producers 'balanseer' teetering as it were between here and there, now and then, intriguing and amazing...

 



 

 

 

 

For the exhibition space Guy Rombouts chose some déjà-vu classics always glad to run into: 'belemmering' as wel as unseen trouvailles and curiosities, mind twister-rebusses and rhomboid reflections... a refreshing dip into the mental synaptics of a wayward typesetter!



zaterdag 1 mei 2021

 

Mayday


Well, I have not added anything to this blog for quite some time because I thought I would wait until I might have something positive to say – reserving the grumpy dissatisfaction about the running of the city for the Dutch-language version, in which you can follow my increasing frustration and anger in your own time.. but by now it's May and I should say something... and as there is nothin positive to say, will have to complain as I do on all the other platforms:

 

 

idiotic renovations in times of climate crisis


Antwerp was a red bastion when I first arrived... it was a quaint but agreeable haven for all sorts of colorful birds, there was a great degree of tolerance, laissez-faire, slightly chaotic but entertaining mix of rare breeds; disagreement existed but it was in a boisterous café-style fashion, most of the time anyway – perhaps there was already a hard-nosed fascist coup under way, but it was not yet obvious, seemingly a minority fringe phenomenon that would peter out eventually...

That was a serious miscalculation...

Gone are the days when you could run into the mayor in a café after a moustache-club meeting, hob-nobbing with citizens, enjoying local ales among the old trees on wobbly chairs on dancing cobblestones, as if Breughel's days were not yet done – a sphere of hippiedom still lingering in the air, remnant from when Antwerp was an attractive haven for experimental everything... There was an expectation that the green movement would be part and parcel of future politics and the social aspects of of an expanding city would be dealt with in an sympathetic and inclusive manner...

But something went amiss – much like 'new labour' across the channel, the socialist movement decided they had to become more liberal, and began a rather curious metamorphosis into something that turned out to be worse than predatory capitalism – a sort of black hole in sheep's clothing, letting in all sorts of intolerant tendencies and becoming so full of itself as not to have to listen to it's electoral base anymore... the straw that broke the camels back was a pretentious and intolerant style-yuppie mayor who would not retreat from a megalomanic project to cover the city with a stinking flyover highway... (along with a whole string of mismanagement and scandal-ridden incidents that sunk the venerable movement in a quagmire of sleaze...)

So, if sleaze is the norm the voters turned elsewhere, opening the door to the the short-sighted flemish nationalism that had already been festering in the underbelly – these also mutated after a general realignment of politics in which all the major parties though they had to change their identities and lost, lost their way, lost their base, lost their credibility... even the greens who used to consider themselves a movement 'living differently' decided to get in on the game and become a political party, making all the compromises necessary to gain power... which they now share as junior partners with a deflated former social platform that calls itself 'foreskin” *and has become all but irrelevant... (*having even dropped the term socialist and stolen the name from the basic philosophy of the movement 'avanti' (vooruit) – they now have lost even the most die-hard socialist sympathisers and handcuffed themselves to a liberal coalition nobody likes...

In the meantime the flemish fascist have mutated into a saloon-party calling itself the NVA – an alliance of themselves, with the former bullies in an ostensibly separate party, but close enough to form a block against the others... These have now been the largest party in these parts for a while and have 'reorganized' the city into a showcase village...

Making away with local and provincial structures the flemish government together with the NVA mayor have torn down most of what was quaint and replaced it with a boring euro-norm attitude that caters mainly for the mindless commercialisation of culture, which in their minds is cold beer and sausage rolls, surrounded by 'flemish' masters and such... in a new designer-surrounding taken from the brochures of international bricklayer-magazines... or rather cement-mixer digest... This great renewal is of course expensive and the mussing-up of the local art historical museum is many years behind schedule and way over budget... as well as turning a perfectly agreeable park and surroundings into a Disney-style driveway for exclusive restaurant experiences... while removing works of contemporary art that might stand in the way of this new enterprise... as do the trees...

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trees for some reason have become a nuisance – for years now the city has been eagerly beavering away at cutting down stately old trees that were not sick nor dangerous because of the insatiable hunger for modern living – trees as street furniture, which you can move around with a scroll & mouseclick – videogame-style... the fact that trees are habitat and part of an ecosystem that takes hears to develop doesn't really compute... sure greenwashing trees (those little sticks left to fend for themselves in shallow cement graves) are springing up everywhere, but room for real nature is disappearing fast, even in the central city park, where instead of digging out the german bunkers left over from the war they pour even more cement into the green zone for – yes restaurants, cafés, (same in the once leafy zoo..) infrastructure etc... already they pumped the water out of the lake, and announce the cutting down of old favourite trees.... where has the time gone when the city built metal support structures for old trees that were in danger of collapsing... (back in the 80's)

Whittling away at the once apparent grandeur of the remains of the golden age, only key buildings remain as tourist attraction while the rest is replaced by excruciatingly boring off-the-shelf design architecture, usually in beige or shit-brown fake brick – like the provincial flat building they just built next to the 'Steen' – oldest remnant of the city... next up is the garden (what remains of it) of the Rubens House Museum, which has to make way for a trinket-shopping experience by renowned architects – the usual glass box.

 

the only thing trees are good for

 

While politics is debating the curbing of new construction in green zones, there has never been as much concrete pourd into these former wildernesses as today – lost chances to create more park space for the expanding city- it is easier to drive a highway though a nature reserve than a suberb, raise a tower block on fields than refurbish derelict industrial buildings... the money stupid...

The rare architectural curiosity like the harbour house, retaining the old fire station and reflecting it's maritime surroundings, was a fluke, expensive but controversial – so the rest has to be a cheap and non-committal as possible... while at the same time giving off prestige allusions...

...so much for the first of dis-may...

and have not even touched on the social... happy Mayday!


zaterdag 7 november 2020

 
Season kick-off, Covid-wise
 
 Insecurity was still very much in the air when September rolled in and it was not so clear what was going to happen to the season's openings... But  we began with a small and sympathetic show of local talents at Watermael-Boisfort, leafy suburb and pleasant, easily distanced visit to intimate, personal works: to with Carine Van Erps, whom we have been following for some time and who refuses to follow any trends but her own heart... Often in connection with nature, and often with relatively minimal interventions and gestures... Here too she added ( or rather subtracted) from what was already there... Natural forms suggesting images, enhancing theses and laying them onto a conducive/ conductive base, literally, copper coils generating a sort of static tension... Simply effective, presented in a boite-en-valise and transportable to any site... Where the context takes over no doubt, but the work stands on it's own... A great opener I found, with positive energy...
 


 Next up were Marc Rossignol and Marie Cloquet opening proceedings at A.Gentils Gallery... Entre deux was not only Marc's double-dexterous drawing/painting, aquarelle in this case, but also the two shows juxtaposed... Cloquet's finely shaded drawings of Aleppo soaps (halab) and the intricate colourful vibrancy of Marc's mesh-mesmerising mental tapestries, forcing the eye to oscillate between interpretations of space constantly, while at the same time being straightforward and methodical... Intricate like the text-decorations in the middle east, playing profusely with the images that are mot allowed to be shown but suggested... So too do we have to surmise where the next soap bubble might come from now the famous historic town is reduced to rubble...
 

 (Die badewannen von habe ich nicht gesehen) well somewhat later... Didn't manage the vernissage... But the didn't really matter... The show is a series of versions of a template from Kaldewei Badewannen, probably because it sounds exotic, but perhaps because I've ssen quite a few of things inspired by banality... Sometimes a new take can be refreshing, and the trouvaille " Kinderpncho" comes close, but does not really surpass the yuk-yuk stage and reminds one of a lazy afternoon at Fifty-Fifty... Or not even...
 

 Another careful emergence was a small group show at Factor 44 (yes the old name has surfaced again but it's no longer the place of yore) young talents with some commendable work, while Harry Heirmans presented a small archive offering in the front (red) room harking back to the "Qurantaine" space that was a precursor back in the mid nineties... A good combination of rear view forward striving...
 

 More futuristic retrospective to be had at Knokke, with Schmalzigaug at R. Van de Velde's and Jessica Lynn Lens at the Scarpoord, but will comment on these elsewhere...(nl blog) 
 
 And then of course -closer to home- the re-launch of museum operations with material from the archive I had been working on... Included in two sections: Mail Art and Monoculture...  While the small archive presentation of Mail Art pieces selected from existing collections is a pleasant browse-banter, the Monoculture show is quite a marathon, covering a very wide area of recent end fairly recent issues on domination and subjectivity when it comes to cultural interpretations, the use and misuse by the powerbrokers and the reactions that go with it all... Very wide ranging and intricate but also hard to swallow in one go... So best visited more than once perhaps... Or at least that is my own first impression... Even just the small presentation of the archive fragment I have been dealing with is subject to a doctoral investigation by a student from the ULB, and is only a small corner of the archive as a whole, and that sort of fragment is repeated numerous times... Some would say ambitious, others might find it not selective enough, with not enough highlights or detailed zoom-in instances... Hard to tell...
 



 The presentation of another dear departed friend Nicole van Goethem is a well balance overview, and a breather... Simply presented in a number of tables in a decor that could have come from one of the animated films she's famous for... Upstairs an interesting presentation of artist books from the CRAP section of the academy: a very nice selection of books by Dieter Roth, one of my heroes, again juxtaposed with a young talent Rein Dufait, and up at the top a NICC presentation of CCinq/Cvijf/CFive with a subdued but fine selection of works by Kohei Yoshiyuki, Nicholas Leroy, Shigeko Kubota and Patrick Carpentier... So, lots to see, maybe best in smaller bits, (trying is also the fact that due to Covid 19 it's gauntlet-running and time slot regulated... No cafeteria, no socializing..). Makes it more attentive and focussed, but a bit dry... Depends.. Sometimes it's not so bad to take it easy, find time, take time... In these strange times...
 

 
 Another trouvaille was a show tucked away in Oudenaerde, per chace that i got an invite during the museum relaunch... In a beautiful art-deco house ( garage of) in the Gevaertsdreef... Ellen Pil created some intreguing combinations with relatvely simple materials, but neatly presented, surreally functional... Wooden presentationpanels, paint sprayed in part, neons, repetitions and variations re-locating the view each time... So becoming part of the refurbishment of one's own attitude...  Associations which don,t quite, but then do fit, matching schemes that don't... The video of her handling a block of wood close to or on the horizon makes the point.   Well. 
 
With quite some expectations we visited Netwerk wher Laure Provoost had gathered a gaggle of friends and then combined with an associate expo in which Annick Nölle was participating... A multi-story story exhibition with rooms, nooks, crannies, basement pools and such... But somehow not quite what it could be...
 

 The effect of the Provoost show in the museum  was not replicated... Not sure why, and in the end Annick wasn't there, being less than satisfied with the result... Which we tend to agree with... More jumble than astonishment...  So that's that then...
 



 Just to mention honourably - (see also dutch blog) a show of recent paintings by Rufus Michielsen... Always a sight for sore eyes, a small but potent show off the beaten track at he Wilrijk Academy, part of a circuit of off-track interventions, of which Dennis Tyfus bonked the bongo on some poor sod's head in Merxem of all places!
 


 Was sort of geared up to become involved in various activities myself... With some amount of enthusiasm and effort... Only to be slowly shot down in stages... Restrictions rising faster than one. An keep up and resulting in yes, another lock down... Short lived season... more soon

dinsdag 11 augustus 2020

Grande Dame Palais

Trips and travel had been reduced to a minimum since early in the year - only the most essential there and back, if even - the borders were closed for quite a while - carefree jaunts into nowhere quite out of the question… That is why this little investigative trip was such a breath of fresh (well, hot) air: it had been a while since an excursion like this: Avoiding the main arteries we headed down due south form the border, already taking a wrong turn and semi-lost, which is exactly the way we like it… short stop at a quiet Cateau en Cambresis for a croissant and brioche, and on towards Paris along small departmental roads, stopping briefly at Guise - agreeing that this was well worth an extra trip in the future…














But the heat was on and after Laon we stayed on the N2, the old imperial road, being turned into a highway bit by bit… a pity since the agreeable meandering between shady trees and through sleepy villages has been replaced by stress-chasing on frying-pan asphalt framed by cement barriers and beating sunshine: rows of long-distance lorries that want to avoid paying Peage on the highways… in short, even the French countryside is going to the dogs…



















We try not to dwell on that and enter Paris through the gauntlet of the market stalls on the boul Clichy, heading for the quieter area around the Place de Ternes - for it is around those parts we need to be: I had been sent a radio fragment by a friend with an interview about the renovation of the ‘Grand Palais’ - Chis Dercon explained how he had discovered the artist now resident in the vast hall at a small gallery in the early nineties… Frank Scurti did a small show together with François Curlet in the ‘inexistent’ hole-in-the wall place in Antwerp some thirty years earlier… a surprising little flashback I decided I wanted to investigate further… I had come across Scurti in the magazines a couple of times but had not followed his career - nor of any other acquaintance of that time… Dercon was by now a bit of a star curator and the others were not doing badly, whereas I was still doing what I had been doing then: investigating possible leads to new insights… but with a strong nostalgic twist - going for the archival rather than the brand new… So it was also logical that I wanted to see the Grand Palais before it was closed for an overhaul… Personally, I tend to dislike today’s trend to have to pimp up all the old institutions, messing up their interiors at exorbitant prices, giving them ridiculous catchy new names and turning the cultural experience into a disneyland fantasy… (our local more than adequate art history museum is still a messy construction site and financial sink-hole many years after promised completion…)



 I wanted to see the Grand Palais without too much clutter before the renovations… I had never had the opportunity to see it properly - remembering an occasion where I looked up to the fantastic cupola only briefly while installing a sticky-letter sentence by Laurence Weiner during one of the Fiac’s - between stressing around… Here was an opportunity to see the garand old dame ‘in the flesh’ - and well worth it. Aside from a long string of (found) objects hanging from the central apse, the space was empty save for a scattering of ‘bureaux’ in a restricted area near the opulent staircase - giving it a theatrical feel: performance ongoing, arrested, considering… Scurti himself was not there and the activity space was quiet save for an assistent/invitee sweeping up some bits & pieces from the previous intervention… so it was a perfect moment to consider the space and what’s in it rather than being entertained by some artistic activity… Built at the tail end of the belle époque, it’s rather manneristic art nouveau elements are nonetheless prime examples of the industrial production of wrought-ironwork - Eifel tower and bridges nearby making the era apparent - one of the las remaining ‘crystal palaces’ - and upon entering a feeling of being transported back to a copper engraving of the vast hall with small figures scattered about - quite unique, and one had the feeling the visitors too were slightly speechless… the occasional muttering of someone who could not appreciate the moment: “they couldn’t think of what to do with the place and invited an artist who doesn’t know what to do with the space… (and that with taxpayers money no doubt)” - far from it -








Scurti’s minimal intervention of bits & bobs just right to give a presence to the vast space while leaving the space itself uncluttered and free for the light-show of alternating sun & clouds and vista’s that become apparent only after moving around a bit… there was a circuit of information panels for those that wanted to brush op on the palace’s history - form grand exhibition heyday to hospital and convalescence clinic during and after the great war… But it was the space ‘soi même’ that was on show… one could climb the cascading staircase for different vantage point of the hall as well as the intervention by Scruti: he had barricaded a part with apple-crate liners, making for a viewer-performer separation quite apt to the space - one could observe from different vantage points the goings-on (or lack of) and consider the clusters of activity-bureaus - one for woodwork, cutting panels, the other for wire and mesh studies, a beureau de chippotage and a collection of trinkets to be considered - centrally located a plinth-refurbishing area in which large pieces of décollage posters (bluebacks) were reformulated into “socles d’air” - cloudy-like patterns folded into cubical structures… and a table of exposition en cage - much like the Palais itself; caged art, arrested like colourful exotic birds for the amusement of the bourgeoisie - netting hung from the banisters denoted price ranges - the variability of value - seemingly a barometer of the current crisis - free entry with guided visits at around one euro - as opposed to the exorbitant prices demanded for regular exhibitions- this being a work i progress rather with oneself as protagonist… What will become of the grande old dame? Hopefully the renovations are in fact restorations and the many exquisite elements are saved: the terrazzo floors, the brass bannister-railings, even the irregularities of the stucco on the walls, now catching shadows of dust, should be retained - and use of modern materials avoided altogether… but yes, given today’s penchant to ‘modernise’ everything I fear it well become a figment of it’s former self with the more spectacular elements highlighted with difficult to replace hand-made craftsmanship thrown out… perhaps here the aspect of using recuperated material is intentional; though it is well within the vocabulary of the artist - it is still a statement perhaps to not replace but re-use…
















 Normally Paris is pretty good a retaining original elements, but one does not have to wander far to see the onslaught of the mass-produced plastic rubbish packaged in coveted trade-marketing names on the Champs d’Elysée to realise that there are more and more generations out there that have no feeling with basic materials but for whom ‘look’ is all… and longevity a four letter word… kinky lighting and repetitive beats whipping up an ‘experience’ rather than the calm and collected consideration of silence and emptiness… so in many ways this was a unique moment to view the cavernous Grande Palais in it’s own time, no piped music, lasershow or spectacular ‘event’ - just it’s timeless self, with the humble presence of the artist as conduit: reason for coming inside an empty hall ‘with nothing to see’…



 Of course we also took some time to enjoy Paris in a short touristy sort of way, and had a look around the Seine, Invalides, Tour Eifel, Arc de Triomphe and all that - of course the café crème and the croissants, the people watching from corner café at the market, the boulevards with early leaves - fall being precipitated by the extreme heat of global warming - another reminder of the fragility of it all… heading back out of the city through market stalls full of plastic wares from China, riding the waves of automobile haste back to the slightly less exasperated roads to the north, stopping this time at the wondrous mediaeval town of Laon and its cathedral perched high: by now the heat was such that one could easily mistake the moment as being in Aix-enProvenice rather than these northern climes… Phew…