While in Paris over the New Year, I bested my natural aversion to Art Galleries and exhibitions to take a trip to the wonderful (and surprising) Palais De Tokyo. For those that don’t know, the gallery is situated in a rather nice part of town, that also happens to be a little bit off the tourist trail, so you won’t be bumping into people creating strange pornographic poses outside the Lourve. (This did happen). Showing there was a great exhibition called, somewhat strangely, Chasing Napoleon…The essence of the exhibition was a mediation on isolation, how we react to displacement in our society, and looking for reasons as to why people isolate themselves the blurb tells the story…
“Marc-Olivier Wahler brings together eighteen artists whose works also read as instruction manuals on how to withdraw into seclusion and take refuge in the limits of the visible.”
With a dozen artists on hand to show their wares, it was a fun and diverse series of interpretations. All held together brilliantly by one of the best art spaces I have seen in a long time. (This is one my big bugbears about visiting exhibitions in London, they feel like they need to cram too much in and you can’t appreciate the work appropriately) The emphasis was certainly on conceptual art and sculpture, but a couple of pieces really stood out. Vorkuta by Micol Assael was one. Essentially a giant freezer (which you could only stand in for two minutes temperatures, were at -30ºc) You could sit and be bombarded with small electric shocks from the antique electricity board in front of you, the combination of the large loud cooling fans and the eerie hum of the electricity generator was unsettling, not helped by the fact that the extreme cold raised your blood pressure and heart rate considerably. It was a disorientating and confounding experience. However, my highlight was the masterful and decidedly bizarre works of Paul Laffoley, who has since the late sixties, worked on a series of highly intricate and tightly expressive artworks detailing the minutest details of cosmology and religious iconography. They are at times disturbing in their laser sight like fervour and their trippy detailing, but also are highly visual and totally immersive. As a complete set, they really did take your breath away. Reading them was as intense as standing in the freezer for 2 minutes, and captured the essence of the seclusion and an immersion into private, sometimes dark worlds. Here’s a video of the man himself explaining one of his paintings in 1994 (sadly not in the exhibition)
If you are in Paris over the next few weeks (it runs till January 17th) then make a point of visiting, if not for the exhibition, but also for the chance to discover a little bit of Paris off the beaten track.