For a long time I dreamed about it – there was a before and there’ll be an after. This is a passage. With Après, the second act of an “opera” whose first, Personnes, is being shown at the Grand Palais for the Momenta Contemporary Art Exhibit, Christian Boltanski has us adventure to “the other side”. In this installation he reconciles the different periods to MAC/VAL’s dimensions. He lures us into his vision of the beyond, tangible, existing, and almost reassuring as it’s portrayed as black on an abandoned reality. A familiar beyond with friendly voices welcoming us, yet worrying with this drawing of endless meandering.
We wander between the walls of a black city, within a trembling present amidst this “kaaba” burdened with history and operating by the inspiration of compacted project and well-arranged, locked-up souvenirs.
If “the time left” is a gambling matter for Christian Boltanski, the time to come is made of a concentrated past full of personal lives which can be unfurled as a story. The latter should be written, with each step, along these ghost streets where light pounces on each person from each encounter. Because this is the program and it’s really something worth seeing! Go wander around, but as a group! Around the corner on the other side of a wall is a person with a story to tell.
Christian Boltanski likes telling stories. With Après, he invites us to invent our own story, “Things in life” which are supposed to appear, dazzling, at death’s dawn, where the past, present and future gather together. Time is his matter, his subject. He uses it to embrace, emerge and hold us back in this harmonious, vertiginous work of art.
For the MAC/VAL, Christian Boltanski created a work of art, an exhibition and an environment where the visitor is invited to experience an extraordinary adventure with there’s no turning back …. “Après”. In parallel to his invitation to the Grand Palais for the Monumenta 2010 Contemporary Art Exhibit where his project talks about life, his exhibit here has us face death. The visitor crosses the picture of an anonymous face and suddenly finds himself in a dark city where the solid and black geometrical architectural components create a path which appear in the meandering to come.
In this dark and worrying environment, the light (in both the literal and figurative meaning) spotlights encounters. Only the men walking – a reference to Man’s existential quest, so magnificently depicted by Alberto Giacometti, bear this light by asking visitors question regarding their presence, their death, etc… in a happy manner. Christian Boltanski has made collective historical memory the most intimate of his themes. He conciliates these two often-opposed expressions to tell better stories about an invented fact, sometimes mentioned, but never described. Life and its opposite, death, are the subject of his work of art. With tangible traces, their lives are expressed by photographs, archives, objects such as clothes, coats, monuments which celebrate them, and by voices which remember.
His created environment is similar to theatre, along with the presence of space for the visitor. Here he invents a world to come, made of compacted memory in architectural structures, blown by the wind, and by the breath of life and voices – human, comforting, reassuring about this unknown future. The visitor is therefore just visiting and leaves to return to the present world but nevertheless affected by this fleeting and breath-taking experience …
Head Curator of MAC/VAL, exhibition administrator