|Morieux panorama/diorama painting from the World Exposition, circa 1900. Image courtesy of Pavillons de Bercy|
I feel the visit was very important to my research as I was effectively able to see how a diorama painting is constructed up close and how light can be used to manipulate the scene (the work area was rigged to have lighting on both the front and back of the picture). Denis was also extremely generous with his time and showed me a lot of the unseen treasures in the museum's vault. Plus, I won't lie, it was cool to ride a one-hundred-year-old carousal and seen a fully functional pipe organ in action. I highly recommend visiting this museum if you are Paris.
Next up, contemporary art at the Centre Pompidou. Since I haven't lived in a large metropolitan centre in some time, I am not used to visiting art centres on this scale - the collection is completely overwhelming and I didn't seen half of what was on exhibit. However, I did spend a lot of time in the Video Vintage exhibition on the fourth floor.
Framed as an exhibition of early video/ performance video works, there were a lot of goodies in there: General Idea, Dara Birnbaum, William Wegman, and a new favourite for me, Ant Farm's video Media Burn from 1975. This video sees the artists collective, composed of Chip Lord, Doug Michels and Curtis Schreier, modify a 1950s-era Cadillac that is subsequently driven into a gigantic pile of flaming television sets. I had never seen this work before and thought it was totally hilarious and awesome.
|Media Burn. Copyright Ant Farm. 1975|
I also really enjoyed this layout of this exhibition. Though it could be construed as too kitschy on first glance, the construction of a retro living room complete with chairs, pillows and couches was quite conducive to spending a lot of time with each work- something I think can be a challenge for video work in general. In fact, it was challenging to see all the work (I didn't) because almost every t.v. set was occupied at any given time. A good solution for a survey show of this size.
|Video Vintage. Centre Pompidou.|
The other museum of note that I visited this week was the Jeu de Paume, which featured work by Bernice Abbott and Ai Weiwei. It was a real treat as both of these shows focused primarily on photography. Bernice Abbott (1898-1991) photographies features work from the artist's time in Paris in the 1920's, a survey of images from her project about the city of New York, as well as a collection of documentary images from the American midwest during the height of the depression. I was interested to also see a collection of photographs that Abbott created for science textbooks in the 1950's that I had not seen before. In some ways, these images were the most surprising because of their departure from the other works. In all of the works, I was again reminded about the exquisite nature of large format photography and the pleasure at seeing an immaculate fibre based black and white print in person. You can't beat looking at the real thing, which is why I'm not posting any Abbott images in this blog post.
Ai Weiwei's Entrelacs exhibition functions as part survey show, part archive, revealing documentation of the artist's architectural and performative works, as well as personal documentation of the artist's time in New York in the 1980's, and subsequent return to China in the early 1990's. I was excited to finally get to see an exhibition of this artist in person, however, I was slightly disappointed by the presentation of some of the works. In two of the presented photography/video works, Ai Weiwei's photographic works are diminished in their presence by becoming a sort of wallpaper for the video monitors placed in front of them. As a result, I felt the most interesting work in the show was the documentation of Ai Weiwei's now-defunct blog in the form of a video slide presentation. I sat and read posts from this work for about half hour, which led me to buy the blog from the bookstore afterwards.
|Ai Weiwei's Blog: Writings, Interviews and Digital Prints, 2006-2009.|
Edited and translated by Lee Ambrozy. Published by MIT press. 2011
In any case, I feel this week has presented a lot of opportunities in terms of my research, as well as all the city has to offer in terms of exhibitions and cultural spaces. Now back to the studio in the hinterland...