The forceful, singular personality of the MAC/VAL collection comes across in a new display which is organized as an invitation to an inner journey. This unique grouping provides museum visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the imagination of artists shown in an innovative presentation entitled « I will return ». Paintings, of course, rounded out by photographs, videos, and installations. The pieces are the result of an ambitious acquisition policy and are compelling to all audiences.
MAC/VAL houses a collection of unique and remarkable diversity, built over the past twenty years with unstinting commitment and with a close, cooperative relationship with artists. The collection includes some 1,500 works and is still expanding.
The overarching goal of supporting artistic creation naturally results in sharing these works with audiences and discovering them through regular remixing of the collection’s display, via thematic presentations. Far from being an ossified museum collection, these presentations bring together a representative body of French contemporary art and today’s new artworks, be they products of commissions or of foreign artists in residence at the museum, viewed from a larger perspective. The museum’s larger perspective attests to its commitment for cultural advocacy which is both accessible and demanding for all.
Travel, depart, leave, haul, imagine, dream, hope, search, find, build, complete, return… Action verbs mark this third presentation of the permanent collection, weaving a narrative through works of art, a story of art and life. This new display of the MAC/VAL collection presents recent acquisitions, works never before displayed, and new works directly linked to the history of the museum – via foreign artists-in-residence. Its original approach highlights stories of movement, exile, travel, and dreams – the stories of people who in brutal, involuntary, or poetic fashion, commence a long journey, the journey of their lives.
What is pursued, and what is built at the end of the road ?
Narratives of exile emerge through the presentation, the exile of those fleeing a scorched earth (the title of Vladimir Velickovic’s large painting). Departure from the native land also marks Caraïbes by Hervé Télémaque and Le Bateau Kriegschatz by Sarkis, accompanied by photographs of Istanbul by Ara Güler. The vessel is that of departure and separation, but also that of glimmers of hope for the future.
Stepping towards an uncertain future while bearing one’s own past is at the heart of Kimsooja’s work. In mythical calm, the artist moves across space as if inside an air bubble, as eerie as in her Needle Woman performances (filmed 1998 – 2001), during which she carried her silent silhouette through the streets of the world. As in Chinese painting, her videos are an art of meditation, work which draws on emotions and suffering, an unsettling view of exile. For her MAC/VAL residency, she chose a symbolic route from the museum in Vitry-sur-Seine to the Saint Bernard Church in Paris.
The first part of « I will return » portrays this quest for both a new reality and a future other than a search for self. Works evoke grasping at mirage-like hopes (Pierre Ardouvin’s L’île), travel and crossing territory as an affirmation of one’s own existence along the kilometers (Alain Bublex’s Ryder Project), and immobile travel in an elevator (Tatiana Trouvé’s Expansion of a closure step 1) as a new assessment of space-time, a new way of apprehending existence.
Visitors are led to draw parallels between collective and individual stories, to try to comprehend why people emigrate, why they choose France or other destinations, and to confront issues relating to the destination country. But travel can also be thwarted or constrained, as shown in works by Peter Klasen and Barthélémy Toguo - restricted movement, closed borders.
Travel can be an inherent value, as shown by Davide Balula (Concrete Step Memory Recorder) with his travel recording/broadcasting suitcase, or by Laurent Tixador and Abraham Poincheval. Their Journal d’une défaite is the chronicle of an incomplete odyssey, interrupted at Verdun, undertaken for its sheer verve : tracing on a map a full trip around France. Transportation and movement are, and can always be, real physical movement or imaginary displacement, a personal and existential journey.
By following Cécile Paris’s characters, we view a return to self, to personal history, and to birth. Nathalie Talec’s travel memories are all the more personal for emerging from a combination of her imagination and science, rather than scrubbed by reality.
But travel belongs to everyone. It can be banal, a gaze upon everyday landscapes which unlocks their potential for enchantment (La fontaine des amoureux, by Jean-Luc Moulène). It can also flee the trite, the dictated itinerary, be a tactic for resistance as outlined by Valérie Jouve (Sans titre, avec Pierre Faure, Time is working around Rotterdam, Synopsis d’un territoire). The impossible or involuntary voyage can impose staying put, as narrated in Pierre Ardouvin’s Holidays or Tunnel by Delphine Coindet.
Ineluctably, all travel has its fall, has an arrival, collides with reality, as witnessed by Selected recordings, Melik Ohanian’s long photography series started in 2000 and still in progress. It is interspersed through the entire presentation like a red thread, tying together departures and arrivals, reality and fantasy, always suffused with hope. Images without words, without explanations, travel with ill-defined departure and destination, a story without characters composed of landscapes and unmapped geography.
An itinerary that can not be repeated, though universal and experienced by all who have ever departed and arrived, somewhere. Building is necessary, the dream must meet reality. Such is the work of Alain Bublex, who takes up the projects of Archigram and Peter Cook to reactivate them, to bring them to our present, our landscape and our social universe. Or that of Gwen Rouvillois, with possible futures, both terrestrial or Martian, poetic tomorrows of possibility, if not hope.
Or human-scaled work, dreams on a human scale, as shown in the photography of Patrick Tosani. Human scale, reality : the towering city by Philippe Cognée, where individuals claw for their spots ; the Val-de-Marne interiors photographed by Sabine Weiss, snapshots of reality unrelenting, of manufactured dreams, touching in their humanity - interiors that could contain L’éruption du Weisuvoff, from Daniel Spoerri’s series Le trésor des pauvres, a work composed of amusing and touching kitsch objects and materials.
The presentation will be enriched during the course of the season, as were the two previous collection presentations. New artist residencies will also prompt re-evaluations of the collection.
Alexia Fabre, Head Curator