"Voila"

By Breuvart, Valerie | Artforum International, November 2000 | Go to article overview

"Voila"


Breuvart, Valerie, Artforum International


MUSEE D'ART MODERNE DE LA VILLE

Unlike most thematic exhibitions, which in their attachment to illustrating an idea become mired in a fairly colorless systematic display, "Voila: LeMonde dans la tete" (Voila: The world in mind) stood out for its freshness and originality. As articulated by Suzanne Page in the supplement to Les Inrockuptibles that served as a catalogue, the goal of the show (cocurated by Page and Beatrice Parent) was to look at the century now ending through works that evidence memory and the recording of time, using techniques that involve "encyclopedic compulsions, fragile biographical traces, learned systems of acquisition, whether loose or methodical." We are not far from Georges Perec, and the exhibition thus managed to touch on the encyclopedic more through the artistic processes used than through the show's installation. It is here, perhaps, that the realization of this exhibition seems a bit hasty: Its trajectory in no way responds to the systematic treatment, classification, or inventory of works which, to my mind, could have given rise to an installation that fully engaged with the theme, thereby underscoring its character, whether utopian or derisive.

As for the selection of works, it included many of the artists for whom the process of classification, or the exhaustion of of possibilities, sometimes to the point of absurdity, has been characteristic for many years: This is the case with Bernd and Hula Becher, On Kawara, Douglas Huebler, and Claude Closky. Other works tackled themes of memory, or references to the past or to history, while avoiding such a purely compulsive approach--though these were not always successful. Matthew Barney's installation based on elements from Cremaster 2, 1998-99, presented what were essentially relics from the making of his film, and so had only anecdotal interest. The powerfully visual and acoustic installation by Claude Leveque (Claude, 2000), a memorial to adolescents killed by stray bullets on the streets of Chicago, illustrated the theme of the exhibition only superficially, despite its spectacular impact. …

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