Dynasty 10 Juin 2010  Tok 5 1
Dynasty, installation view. Photo Pierre Antoine

‘Krystle: Alexis! What are you doing here? Alexis: I’ve been asking that same question about you Krystle, and I still haven’t found an answer that satisfies me.’ [1]

Built and opened in time for the 1937 Paris World Fair, the Palais de Tokyo in Paris is split into two different organisations devoted to recent art forms. In the west wing, the national art centre, the Palais de Tokyo, is currently directed by Marc-Olivier Wahler. The east wing houses city-run Musée d’Art Moderne (MAMVP), directed by Fabrice Hergott. The architectural confrontation, proximity and differing funding channels imply a certain element of rivalry; nothing close however to that unravelled in the original Dynasty, the prime time 1980s American television soap opera.

On appointment in 2006, Hergott and Wahler discussed orchestrating the first combined group exhibition between the art centre and the museum. In 2008,
they jointly presented Jonathan Monk’s exhibition Time Between Spaces . Meanwhile, the curatorial teams in both organisations were preparing the parameters of Dynasty .

The plan was to propose a snapshot of young artists active in France in the last few years. Forty artists were selected—mostly born in the mid-1970s or early 1980s—from Algeria, Belgium, China, France, Iran, Japan, Spain, Taiwan, UK, USA, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. Comparable endeavours to capture a generation of French artists or artists from abroad working in France, include Traversées (Crossings) and Escale à Paris (Stopover in Paris), in 2001, in the contemporary department of MAMVP (known since the early 1970s as ARC, Animation Recherche Confrontation), when Suzanne Pagé and Hans Ulrich Obrist still operated there. In 2006, the Palais de Tokyo, led at the time by Nicolas Bourriaud and Jérôme Sans, organised Notre Histoire : une scène artistique française émergente . Last but not least, Force de l’Art, first curated by 15 groups or individuals in 2006, and then by three in 2009 for the Grand Palais, is compared to the British Art Show, though it does not tour and is staged only in Paris.

Playing on the symmetry of the building, each artist is represented both in MAMVP and Palais de Tokyo. Site specific work includes Laëtitia Badaut Haussmann’s historical interrogation ‘No One Returns’,and Jorge Pedro Núñez’s towers of accumulated found objects ‘Todo lo que mam me dio’. Sculpture, mostly controlled and contained, is sited throughout the galleries. Worth noting are Vincent Ganivet’s taut cinder blocks ‘Caténaires’ in the Electricity Fairy Room at MAMVP, Julien Dubuisson’s cement resin impress ‘Ghost Dance’, and Vincent Mauger’s polystyrene ‘Château Millésime’.

References to prehistory and archaeological displays, caves, mammoths, make several appearances in the work of Dewar and Gicquel, Antoine Dorotte, Camille Henrot, Laurent Le Deunff. The diversity of media reflects the current landscape. Pierre-Laurent Cassière’s copper wire sound installation ‘Mag-Net’ discreetly lines the gallery space and Farah Atassi, Armand Jalut, Duncan Wylie show representational paintings. The more conceptual or rigorously synthetic practices are the exceptions rather than the rule; for example Benoît Maire’s ongoing investigation ‘Esthétique des différends’ and Nicolas Milhé’s chilling political pointers like the sign ‘Respublica’ on the rooftop and the incongruous stuffed hyena with gold teeth ‘Untitled’.

The artists known for their performances and storytelling face serious challenges in their exhibition-long presentations: Louise Hervé and Chloé Maillet give various forms to their research into Hercules and Maciste in ‘L’Homme le plus fort du monde’ and Pauline Curnier Jardin shows a ‘dia-opera’, ‘Le Salon d’Alone’.

It is interesting to note that a form of relational aesthetics can only be found in Alain Della Negra and Kaori Kinoshita’s ‘The Coming Race’ project, documenting various utopian communities. The overall atmosphere is one of disbelief, lack of humour, cynicism. The future does not seem to appeal as a land of possibility.
In terms of lineage, where is the influence of the art of Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parreno, French artists who have been embraced by the international stage? Perhaps it can be found in the collaborative work of Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni who relay a light event, or in some of the remarkable film work. Mohamed Bourouissa pushes the boundaries of filmmaking and plays with notions of time and language in ‘Temps Mort’, in which the mobile phone camera and text messaging enable a creative exchange between him and a prisoner. Equally pixelated and raw, ‘Légendes’documents illegal cigarette sellers in and around the Barbès metro station. Chen Yang’s ‘Instant’ and ‘Belle Journée’ videos have intimate, low-fi and high impact. The short film ‘Liberdade’by Gabriel Abrantes and Benjamin Crotty is a love story with a twist, set in Angola. As the police and helicopters home in on the couple on a the rooftop of a building, Liberdade says to his girlfriend: ‘Everything’s going to be okay’ and the camera lifts into the air to the 1980s soundtrack ‘Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes’.

Caroline Hancock is a writer and curator based in Paris

End Notes:
[1] The first Dynasty exchange quoted in Palais magazine (special edition, Summer 2010, pp. 6–7) encapsulates the understated tone of the curators attempting this survey.