These two weeks were again, confusingly busy, and wonderfully rewarding. So busy that I didn’t get around to posting it beforehand or during; so rewarding that I must do so, even retrospectively. First, I set out to Paris to see Henry VI - a triple Shakespeare play, in French. I was eager to see it, even if it took an expedition to a suburb of Paris, and the patience to sit through 8 hours of theater, because the title role was played by Thomas Germaine, the male lead actor of our project . Here you see Thomas as Charles B. asleep next to his restless, unsatisfied wife Emma (Marja Skaffari). The small photo can be clicked through to the relevant film page. If you click on the page about the installations created within this project, you will see more of him. Madame B. Installation pieces And on the second photo, you see him as a patient, facing his analyst, in our exhibition Landscapes of Madness in the museum Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova in Turku, Finland.
As Henry VI Thomas was the incarnation of a sensitive, lonely soul within a spider web of empty power, surrounded by court intrigues oddly reminiscent of contemporary power environments (Berlusconi’s Italy, Sarkozy’s France come to mind).
An incipient madness is already visible in the young king, in these photos by Nicolas Joubard. Thomas is the best in expressing both sanity and madness; to make you doubt about those categories. In the second photo, one sees the paranoid look of Henry but also the ghostly figure, representative of the plotting surroundings at the court who may have contributed to the madness.
Similarly, the third photo images the loneliness, another contributing feature. The connection between this play and our film on madness seems inevitable. The density of the social fabric where conventions and intrigues constitute the elements of power and its emptiness, suffocates the young king.
The Shakespeare plays were written when the author was 30 years old; the mise-en-scène I had the great happiness to see, was done by Thomas Jolly, also 30 years old. It is hard to imagine how such a young director was able to pull this off: three plays, reputedly unstageable. The performance was full of creative moments, where comedy and tragedy merged. It was visible from the vibrant energy of the play that this director was able to come up with a gesammkunstwerk in the literal (not the historical) sense of the word: collective creativity, born from the sense that the contributions of all were respected. I saw the first cycle, and when they play the entire 16 hours somewhere next year, I vouch that I will make the trip, however long and complex it may be, to see it. Pure genius. I think this is the best theater I have seen in my life.
In New York, I participated in the annual seminar of C-MAP: Contemporary Modern Art Perspectives. This is organized by the museum’s Internationalization Program, directed by Jay Levinson. This was the 4th seminar, and each year I enjoy it more. Realizing that comprehensiveness is neither possible nor in fact desirable, MoMA has decided to focus their efforts to make the museum more “global” on developing around three areas they happen to have in their collections: Performance, in Japan, Fluxus, in Eastern Europe, and Abstraction/Conceptualism, in Latin America. This year, a special C-MAP website was launched. Here you see a part of the opening page.
The site is meant to be a platform for discussion. It invites not so much comments as participation: true discussion. The site was designed by Berlin-based artist Caleb Waldorf. He aims to modify the philosophical underpinnings of that vexed term “user”, and the extreme indivdualism that underlies the “social networks” that, in fact, drill people to believe they are connected while they are alone, and to believe they are autonomous while their action radius is severely pre-scripted. This is a goal that aligns itself well with C-MAP’s stated intent to internationalize MoMA on the basis of exchange, not expansion.
As I was there, I explored the museum from top to bottom and from left to right. To metnion just one great exhibition: Inventing Abstraction, curated by Leah Dickerman, although focused primarily on painting, was basically a multi-media installation, including film, music, and architecture.
I was struck by the relatively large number of women artists included, and the assertions on some of the captions about them. The exhibition foregrounds the international nature of the abstraction movement right from the beginning. It also emphasizes the influence literature, especially poetry, had on the first abstract painters.
Unfortunately, after one and a half sunny day, it started to pour again and the world reverted to gray… no fun walking around. Instead, I saw many friends, attended a “Photography Forum”, and visited a collector’s house full of great art.
Then, back to Paris, I had the opportunity to visit the huge exhibition Dynamo in the Grand Palais, on light and movement in art, from Duchamp to today. I was especially interested because Ann Veronica Janssens has four pieces in the show. This work, here in an earlier version, is one of them. People were queuing to get into her literally sensational mist room, where you see strictly nothing; only color.
Her work is the interlocutor in my forthcoming book Endless Andness: the Politics of Abstraction According to Ann Veronica Janssens (Bloomsbury 2013). This is the principal reason I went back to Paris, to see the show and speak with her about how to launch the book in her country, Belgium. It is hard to stay informed about the work of an artist who practically has an exhibition opening every week. But I try hard to continue following artists on whose work I have published.
Finally, on my last day here, I visited my favorite art gallery in Paris, Marian Goodman, 79 rue du Temple. As always, the exhibition I saw there, of enigmatic works by Sabine Moritz, makes me deplore everything I inevitably miss seeing in the gallery. See for yourself!