Review of L’Etat du Ciel, Part I, Palais de Tokyo, Paris

Palais de Tokyo started its new programme for 2014 under the title L’Etat du Ciel, which is borrowed from Victor Hugo’s Promontoire du songe, where the author wrote “the sky’s normal state is at night”. The programme is a series of exhibitions with a big intention: the participants of individual and group shows are expected to propose reflections on the physical, moral and political factors that are shaping our world. The first part of L’Etat du Ciel opened with two personal exhibitions of David Douard and Angelika Markul, a selection of performance artworks from the Centre national des arts plastiques and a collaborative project by Georges Didi-Huberman and Arno Gisinger.

The latter, Nouvelles histoires de fantômes (New Ghost Stories), is neither an exhibition, nor an art work. It is an impressive installation of cinema fragments and photography. Inspired by the legendary unfinished Atlas Mnemosyne by art historian Aby Warburg, the philosopher and artist conceived a spectacular installation, including a video selection homage to plate 42 of the atlas and photographic essay. The projections on the floor of the exhibition hall remind you of the contours of Warburg’s examples, but rises to times of modern and contemporary cinema: there a viewer could recognize creations by Sergey Eisenstein, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sergey Paradjanov, Jean-Luc Godard, Dominique Abel and others outstanding films producers, reinterpreting the political component of plate 42, eventually focused on the representation of death.

David Douard’s solo project, Mo’Swallow, creates a schizophrenic atmosphere in an exhibition space after you enter through a constructed registry office with happy orange colored walls. Freaky personage sculptures, curved plastic and metal constructions, sound installations, video works and graffiti prompt references to counterculture, science, technology and poetry, transforming the exhibition, as the artist states, into a rumor.

Des choses en moins, des choses en plus (Something less, something more) is a selection of a not widely-know performances collection of Centre national des arts plastiques. The curators of the exhibition attempted to replay the experience of art, scripted in performance instructions of credited works of art by Lawrence Weiner, Ceal Floyer, Dora Garcia, Pierre Bismuth, Gordon Matta-Clark, etc. The purposive concept of the exhibition is not only to show off the unknown part of a collection, but the exploitation of the relational aspect of performance artworks: a new context and a newly staged reproduction generate a different image of an exhibition.

Piercing by its calmness, French artist Angelika Markul’s solo project Terre de départ (Land of Departure) focuses upon a fascination with technology and nature’s reaction to it. The assortment of forces unavoidably and radically changing the life of humankind are the main protagonists of Markul’s almost environmental project. She bravely chooses to shoot films in locations that are still represent danger, such as Fukushima, Chernobyl, Bagdad. With a use of a palette of pauses and sharp moments the artist questions a future of the planet Earth.

Ekaterina Shcherbakova

Nouvelles histoires des fantômes, until 7 September, Mo’swallow, until 12 May, Des choses en moins, des choses en plus, until 2 March, Terre de départ, until 12 May, Palais de Tokyo, 13, avenue du Président Wilson, 75 116 Paris.

Didier Faustino, Opus incertum, 2008. Coll. CNAP © ADAGP, Paris, 2014 – Galerie Michel Rein.