While most of the galleries showed painting, sculpture or photography, there is another aspect to art-making that is difficult to explain visually – a photograph of the gallery is the best i can do – and is much more challenging.
The group show at Le Plateau (this is a non-commercial space under the direction of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the City Council of Paris) was put together with the British Council. The title is: “THE WATCHMEN, THE LIARS, THE DREAMERS. The best way to describe conceptual art, and this exhibition, is the way it’s French curator Guillaume Desanges did. Imagine a circle cut into quarters. 1. Political art, either raporting it or imagining a political utopia,; 2. Documenting or revealing the “truth”; 3. The aesthetes, the inventors; 4. Fiction, or the lyers, giving false information.
We first encounter a short documentary film by Jean Luc Goddard, to celebrate the 500th year of Lausanne, Switzerland. It is titled “Letter to Freddy Bauche” (1981) and simply shows Goddard’s favourite scenes in and around Lausanne. Nothing beautiful, in fact he shows both the ugly and the serene, everything through his own eyes, with his voice reading the “letter”, and the “eye” of the camera moving around “documenting” the truth “according to Goddard”.
Stacked against the wall in the next room, is 64 books all with the same title: “Unfinished Business” This is also the title of the work by Eric Baudelaire (1973 – from the USA) Each of these books is real, and they cover all types – romance to religion to business. On the table in front of the books is “Autumn Song” (2009), which consists of the open editions of several Wall Street Journals. The artist has underlined sentences on each page of the journals. When read, they form the poem (in english) by Paul Verlane titled “Autumn Song”. This poem was also used by the BBC during WWII to send messages to the French Resistance. The question remains: what is the coded message being sent by the Wall Street Journal, and to whom??? Is this artist a political reporter or is he simply passing false information with his tongue in his cheek.
A small work by Louis Camnitzer (1937 – ) called “AMANAPLANACANALPANAMA” done in 1995 caught my attention. It is a small piece on the ground. Plastic “water” with the letters of the title in it, has a mirror placed over the middle, thus reflecting the letters and further muddling them up. The Panama canal was built with much confusion and political meddling. It physically and ideologically separates the 2 Americas. But it was when researching this artist that i sensed how gripping his art is. I am calling it “think art” as apposed to “look at that beautiful painting”, which is forgotten the next moment as you move to the next “beautiful painting”. The work of Camnitzer has been described as political, but without any use of propaganda or graphic illustration. He is a conceptualist who focuses on analyzing the language and concept of art, and made to elicit thought. There was a retrospective of his work at the MOMA in New York in 1990, with very interesting essays on his work to read.
Another work that made me smile, was Chris Moukarbel’s (1978 – USA) work “Point of Departure”. Moukarbel works with images he finds on the internet and the media. In 2006 he made a film shot entirely in his own apartment and with student actors, based on the Oliver Stone movie “World Trade Center”. Mourkabel put his movie on the internet for free, and was immediately sued by Stone. Stone’s movie cost 60million dollar, and the problem here was one of copyright. This led Moukarbel to make the video on the exhibition,”Point of Departure” where he documents everything around the lawsuit, taken from internet sources and interviews. An historical event has now taken on completely new and different meanings, through the thought-processes of the artist.
This was a difficult exhibition, there is much more, for example the Russian group Medvekine who worked during the 60’s, i have one photo of their installation.