Christian Boltanski – Personnes

According to Laura Cumming at the Observer Christian Boltanski is France’s greatest living artist, and an installation piece made by him has just opened in the Grand Palais in Paris as part of the Monumenta series (the Parisian equivalent of Tate Moderns big exhibitions).  There is a short clip of an interview with the artist and footage of his work if you google vernissage boltanski and personnes – but below is a summary from a reviewer on the vernissage website page:

For Monumenta, Christian Boltanski created a work in sound and vision titled “Personnes” – meaning both “people” and “nobodies”. Personnes is a “social, religious and humanistic exploration of life, memory and the irreductible individuality of each and every human existence – together with the presence of death, the dehumanisation of the body, chance and destiny. Conceived as a work in sound and vision, Personnes takes up a new theme in Boltanski’s work, building on his earlier explorations of the limits of human existence and the vital dimension of memory : the question of fate, and the ineluctability of death.

 Cumming describes the effect of walking past all these clothes scattered in between these metal posts and the fact they seem like memorials to the missing and how moving is this experience.  There is also a recording of many many heartbeats.  To one side there is a huge pile of clothes with a metal grabber that descends, picks up a handful of garments lifts them high and then releases them to fall back down again.  My understanding is that the clothes and human possessions have come from as and where, no particular source. 


This work is close to some of the ideas I have been thinking about.. the traces we leave, is there a difference that is because I was.  I will probably come back to this post about Boltanki’s Personnes in a wee while but at present I find myself irritated by it.  I have a very strong image in my mind of visiting the WW2 war cemetery in Singapore, with the lines and lines of graves and huge marble slabs about 10′ high with thousands of names of real people killed.  And at the moment the television and newspapers are full of heart rending scenes of real people dying or dead in Haiti.  It seems a bad time to be making a piece about fictitious missing people.   

I will come back to this post at a better time.


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