Best of 2014

This round-up of my three favourite show in a French context appeared on artforum.com:

Latifa Echakhch, L’air du temps, 2013, chinese ink, wooden cloud scenery, canvas, acrylic paint, and steel wire, dimensions variable. Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2014.

ALEXANDRA BACHZETSIS’S RIVETING NEW PERFORMANCE and installation piece, From A to B via C, comes in three versions, respectively destined for theatrical, museum, and online viewing. I caught the premiere of the first iteration staged as part of the Biennial of Moving Images at the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva (September 18 to 19, 2014). Three dancers—including Bachzetsis herself—mirrored each other as they went from mimicking athletic movements to following an online tutorial on how to dance like Beyoncé and then on to executing ballet instructions. Throughout, they peeled off successive layers of clothing until they were only wearing anatomical suits, all sinew and muscle. This somewhat macabre vision was just as hard to shake off as the pop songs dealing with the violence of language that the performers sang while simultaneously translating them into sign language in a poignant final scene.

Last year’s Prix Marcel Duchamp winner, Latifa Echakhch, plays with the idea of a negative image in her whimsical prize exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (October 8, 2014 to January 26, 2015). On entering the narrow, elongated exhibition room, visitors are faced with clusters of low-hanging black, wooden clouds suspended from the ceiling. Each formation is paired with an object of the kind one finds at a flea market, including a Kodak camera, a box of vinyl records, and a vintage perfume bottle, all smeared with black ink. In stark contrast with this mournful color, the reverse of each sculpture is painted with dainty blue-and-white cloud motifs. This unexpected shift of perspective has a positively uplifting effect, as one retraces one’s footsteps, drifting amid clouds.

Playfulness likewise characterizes Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Musings on a Glass Box at the Fondation Cartier in Paris (October 25, 2014 to February 22, 2015). The titular glass box, with a nod to Duchamp, is the Jean Nouvel–designed building itself, whose two ground-floor exhibition spaces are surrounded by large sliding-glass panels in lieu of walls. Normally opaque, these periodically cleared up like a mist to reveal the outside garden, illuminated with a phosphorescent green light at night as part of DS + R’s atmospheric orchestration. The larger gallery is empty except for a red bucket equipped with sensors and a camera guiding it towards controlled leaks in the ceiling. Every time a drop falls into the bucket, the sound is amplified to reverberate across the vacant space. Meanwhile, images captured by the camera flit across an LED screen hung low in another gallery, offering visitors a tantalizing glimpse of the building from a robot’s perspective.

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