MAC/VAL

MAC/VAL is opened every day of the week, except on mondays:
tuesday to friday, 10 h to 18 h
week-ends and holidays, 12 h to 19 h.

Closed on january 1st, may 1st and december 25th.

phone: 01 43 91 64 20
fax: 01 79 86 16 57

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Place de la Libération
94400 Vitry-sur-Seine

-10/000

Anette Messager

Notice

How many lives there are in Annette
Messager’s life! In the early 1970s, at the
heart of the ‘Paris scene’ (made up of
Christian Boltanski, Sarkis, Paul-Armand
Gette, among others, most of them men,
apart from Gina Pane, presenting their
‘personal mythologies’), Annette Messager
invented for herself as many lives as she
needed titles, each one helping her to be
other and invent different artistic
projects. For each one of these ‘Annettes’
she inventoried a repertory of gestures and
practices, attitudes and subjects,
revealing all at once the female world, its
genetic code and the possibilities of
escaping from it, and its buried desires.
Annette Messager continues to wrap her
world, perhaps more private than ever
today, tightly around her, as it becomes
more serious and solemn, ‘artist messenger’
in a world of brutes.

Les hommes que j’aime, les hommes que
je n’aime pas brings together two albums
of Annette Messager the collector, the one
who operates in the studio section of her
apartment, gathering and annotating
photographs. For reasons precisely more
peculiar to men (aesthetic reasons, hasty
and superficial judgments), she judges and
reverses her judgment on these men pinned
to the wall in small black frames
(mourning?), flighty, as if proud of what
some might call female fickleness.
Methodically assembled and filed, this
collection of peremptory and contrary
judgments asserts the right of the woman
artist to judge men unilaterally.
At her retrospective show ‘The Messengers’
at the Hayward Gallery (London, 2009),
Annette Messager brought together in
the selfsame installation two collections
made in 1972: Collection pour trouver
ma meilleure signature and Ma collection
de châteaux. Here, rather than claiming the
right to judge others, it is her own right
to invent herself that she challenges,
contemplating and exploiting her desire
to become, and appear like, a cultural,
sexual, existential datum, a datum between
a desire to manufacture herself and
constraints and social expectations,
inevitable steps in any woman’s life.
The signature is actually a public
appearance of oneself, invariably claiming
to say a great deal about the personality
you want to put across. Her name is
repeated on 90 sheets of paper. Annette
Messager here seems juvenile, childish,
mutinous, hard, strong, calm and composed,
nervous. The counterpoint would be
Comment mes amis feraient mon portrait
[How My Friends Would Make My Portrait]
(1972–1973).
Ninety ‘I exist’s, then, in every way,
shape and form; attempts to invent oneself,
for oneself’s sake, but also in the eyes of
others, caught vice-like between the wish
to be herself and also what society expects
of a young girl: dreaming of prince
charming while drawing castles, thinking
of living happily in them and having lots
of kids.

So many cultural archetypes, which trace
on the wall a puzzle portrait of the
artist, a monument to a determined youth,
whose models are arrayed in the fictitious
autobiography of the 1970s, as in Voyage
à Venise [Journey to Venice], a four-handed
work made with Christian Boltanski, and
Le Bonheur illustré [Happiness Illustrated]
(1975–1976). If Annette Messager does not
systematically rail against female
practices and obligations, she makes them
the raw material of her oeuvre by using
them the better to foil and taunt
expectations.

Many years elapsed between this groundbreaking
work and Les Restes. Annette
Messager became a cheat and invited herself
into the world reserved for voyeurs
and peeping toms, she became a fairy and
a witch, depending, looked at her mother
and old age, nicked objects (long live
the Revolution!) and stuffed toys, which,
in 1998, became a recurrent element in
her formal vocabulary. As ex-votos
of childhood, they also recount the
violence of that age of life: when cut,
these beings emptied of their kapok stuffing
and their soul alike evoke a humankind torn
asunder. Les Restes nails the tradition
of the family portrait by summoning a
thoroughly masculine gender: the hunting
trophy rather than household bliss.
The quartered animal bodies, like members
of the family, are arranged in a semicircle,
drawing sun-like on the wall.
Just as she had reared her ‘little
boarders’ in the 1970s, so Annette Messager
here rediscovers animals – today stuffed
toys and traces of childhood, which she
mistreats by creating a sense of malaise.
Like an entomologist, she dissects our
cultural habits, questioning the situation
of woman, but also the more universal one
of beings in the contemporary world.
Her determinedly unusual, not to say
solitary, oeuvre is nowadays deployed in
space, more staged and at times scripted,
like the installation Casino for the French
Pavilion, winning the Lion d’Or at the 2005
Venice Biennale. Always re-enacting the
same techniques of the female ‘tradition’,
she steals its condition the way you
crucify what you want to sacrifice, but
paradoxically retain.

A.F.