“A very horrible yet interesting thing has occurred since Covid is here, which is, that death is no longer hidden. Death used to be completely denied by us, and nowadays, because of this disease, we are talking about death as something that is around us and that is present,” says Christian Boltanski. The French artist, currently showing his most recent exhibition at Marian Goodman’s Paris exhibition space, has taken a particularly direct approach towards a pandemic still causing widespread death and disruptions around the globe. For this show, titled Après, the artist asks challenging questions about our current state of the world, and the human values we ascribe to it.
This exhibition comprises a new set of sculptures combined with video projections, a big new video installation in the basement, and, in conclusion, two other, older installations. On the ground floor, masses of white cloths on trolleys randomly fill the centre of the room. In these new works titled Les Linges (2020), which the artist began working on during the lockdown last spring, Boltanski’s emblematic materials are invited into a new dialogue with the world around them, the current state of the pandemic and the sensations of self and identity altered or deconstructed by its presence. By contrast, the lower level of the gallery features the video installation Les Disparus (2020), spread over four large curtains on which a stream of videos play, implying a sense of bucolic joy and safety currently deprived from the world.
Boltanski’s interest in the ominous and the impressions it leaves on the viewers of his work takes center stage here, always negotiating between a direct sense of dread and death that his work seems to often address, and a broader sense of these events not as some cataclysm, but as a step along the road towards something larger. Boltanski seems to seek understanding in his pieces by posing them at their most semantically direct. The result are pieces that ride a fine line between sensations of eternity or finality.
The show closes March 13th.
– D. Creahan
Christian Boltanski: Après [Exhibition Site]