Prix Marcel Duchamp 2016 has been shortlisted to 4 candidates – Kader Attia, Yto Barrada, Ulla von Brandenburg and Barthélémy Toguo. of whom presented their works together in Centre Pompidou.On November 18th, according to judges, the laurel goes to Kader Attia this year. Displaying the works of the finalists, additional to the winner is a first in the Prix Marcel Duchamp history. The show sets as an example of the French contemporary art landscape. The diversified aesthetic formula can encourage artists in new artistic forms, which shakes public interpretation towards the world and unveils concealed humanism belief.
Kader Attia created a space of mediation with an installation combining sculptures, objects and film under the name of ‘RÉFLÉCHIR LA MÉMOIRE’ (‘REFLECT MEMORY’ in English). Audiences are taken on a journey exploring damage and repair. In the film projection room, narration of the main concept of the works and interviews with surgeons, neurologists, psychoanalysts on ‘ghost member’ (‘membre fantôme’) caused by loss. Philosopher René Girard explained this symptom as an instinctive reaction produced by human themselves due to mimetic desire. Kader expanded this study and expressed it with a new form of mirror labyrinth.
Heavy and profound feelings are ignited by Kader’s tracing back to wartimes. Through installation, Kader generated questions about repair. On a physical level or on the surface, it is expressed through what has been ripped or bruised. Refugees from Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and Syria are illustrated as a symbol of the psychopathological scars of centuries of religious conflicts and industrial exploitation.
Kader Attia is probably one of the only contemporary artists who selected objects neglected in the evolution of canons in the history of European art. He picked out specimens of dismembered histories, inviting audiences to recognize the blind spots in the aesthetic practices.
The other 3 artists along with Kader Attia, all base their installations on real world and social issues. Ulla von Brandenburg conceives a platform for contemporary ritual in her film ‘It Has a Golden Sun and an Elderly Grey Moon’. White staircase acts as the background in the film and also a piece of furniture where viewers can watch the film. Ulla’s first attempt of color usage stands for social messages. Yellow is historically signed to marginal social groups. And dancers walking up and down the staircases represent the exchange of social status on the society ladder.
The installation of Barthélémy Toguo is devoted to two epidemics that strike hard at the world: the AIDS and virus Ebola under the name of ‘Overcome the Virus!’. Various artistic forms are presented including drawings on the wall, monumental vases made in China and small sculptures. With close collaboration with scientists, visions of viruses in 3D can be observed and realized in aesthetic way. The big vases symbolize the ambivalent relation between human and water. Water is the source of life but also source of contamination when it is polluted.
‘Unruly Objects (Suite for Thérèse Rivière)’ marks a new stage in the work of Yto Barrada. It moves away from naturalism to seek a biographical form and a portrait of the artist as an ethnologist. The imaginary reconstruction of the display room is conducted by a pupil of Marcel Mauss. Yto Barrada searched the gap between ethnographic classification and the elusive nature of cultural specificities, poising between Thérèse ‘s meticulousness and melancholy.
The new works of the 4 finalists offer the public an experience to rethink our wounded contemporary societies and repressed history. From science to art, from the individual to the collective, from anthropology to magic, these pose as potential healers of sick civilizations. This is more a ritual than an exhibition. Although physical installations are different, they all lead to mental and spiritual exploration. The messages of works manage to reach us simply because they touch us.
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© Adagp, Paris 2016
I believe that art is the only activity by which man manifests himself as a true individual.
–Marcel Duchamp (Extrait interview de 1956)