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

Access map

Place de la Libération
94400 Vitry-sur-Seine

  014/023  

Claude Lévêque

Notice

Steeped at the time in the punk movement,
new wave music, alternative rock, the
alternative avant-garde and counter-culture
in general, Claude Lévêque was admitted to
the École des Beaux-Arts in Bourges in
1970. At the end of that decade, he was
involved with the artistic programming at
the Nevers Maison de la Culture, where he
exhibited major artists in the Body Art
movement (Gina Pane, Rudolf Schwarzkogler,
Michel Journiac) and organised concerts and
experimental film programmes.
In 1982, he took part for the first time in
a group show, at the Créteil Maison des
Arts with an installation, Grand Hotel,
which immediately attracted the attention
of the art critic Michel Nuridsany. He
subsequently developed a multi-facetted
oeuvre presenting a deconstruction of our
society’s codes and references, by means
of retrieved and recycled objects. His
sculptures and installations conjure up,
turn by turn, themes of childhood,
ideological conditioning, ritualisation of
the body, human deprivation, loss and
alienation, and all the resulting violence
and revolt.
In the 1990s, Claude Lévêque focused
more on objects reflecting collective
representations that were invariably
alienated, not to say disembodied by
the light device. He then veered towards
in situ work. He developed immersive
installations, where the elements drawn
from reality and transfigured by light and
sound form staged arrangements that summon
both the subjective and the collective
imagination.
These arrangements bring to mind the
language of film, with the movements of the
viewer replacing the movement of the
images. They involve all our cognitive,
sensory and affective faculties, with the
various elements helping to project us onto
another stage – that of the imagination,
games, dreams, and nightmares.
Acquired by the MAC/VAL in 2005, Datapanik,
an in situ work created at the Juming
Taipei museum in Taiwan in 2004,
illustrates this approach perfectly.
Conceived as an installation, it invites
you to stroll through a night-time
cityscape. Large buildings made of fabric,
given life by the air from a fan and an
intimist kind of lighting illuminating the
scene from within, evoke a poetic vision of
the suburbs, where the private and the
universal, the sensual and the ghostlike,
and the familiar and the strange all come
close. The title of this installation is
like a counterpoint: it refers to panic
when faced with data, to the illusions and
decoys of the information society, while at
the same time making reference to a piece
by Père Ubu, the legendary punk rock group
from Cleveland, itself probably inspired by
the science-fiction film Panic in Year Zero
(End of the World), made in 1968 by Ray
Milland.
In the 1990s, Claude Lévêque tended more
and more to a sparseness of forms, a rigour
of gesture, and an artistic vocabulary
emphasising his kinship with Minimalism,
especially in his way of playing with
perception and giving pride of place to
experiment. Light, which is omnipresent in
his work, became a material in itself, with
its volume, thickness and colour; and the
neon writings, there since 1993, became
more and more salient.
Although a number of artists, with whom
Claude Lévêque shares the goal of creating
‘special visual states’, make use of neon
(Alberola, Raysse, Morellet, Buren, Höller,
Nauman, Kosuth, Koons and, above all,
Flavin), many use it to appropriate
advertising messages, political slogans
and for other wordplay.
Claude Lévêque’s neon works draw more
from a repertory of quotations, at once
autobiographical and borrowed from a
contemporary mythology. Conceived with
a view to giving rise to ‘zones of
reactivity’, they serve to create poetic
spaces akin to dreams. And although these
neon works have no messages to get across,
they address the visitor in the most
immediate way and draw him, so to speak,
into the depths of his being.
In 2005, Claude Lévêque produced for the
MAC/VAL an installation made of blue neon,
where the French word amertume — bitterness
— communicated his feelings about the
world, through the tremulous writing of the
young Léo Carbonnier. Amertume is part of a
superbly provocative series of words, which
the artist scribbled in coloured neon. In
it, turn by turn, you can find irony, selfdisparagement,
a sense of failure, rage and
melancholy: Nous sommes heureux [We are
happy], La vie est belle [Life is
beautiful], Vous allez tous mourir [You’re
all going to die], Goût à rien [Don’t like
anything], En finir avec ce monde irréel [To
hell with this unreal world], Dansez
[Dance]...
These words, shouted like counter-slogans,
call to mind the nihilistic radicalism
of the punk movement, with which they share
a disillusionment with the state of the
world. Like punk music, their aim is
to reveal the everyday goings-on of a whole
system of references and processes, at
work in spite of us, to bring about —
let us hope — a lasting change in our
perception of things.

An.B.