Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Intense Proximity: The Paris Triennale 2012, Palais de Toyko, Paris (20 April-26 August 2012)

Perhaps with hindsight, it was a mistake to jump from seeing two exhibitions typifying the joie de vivre of La Belle Epoque in archetypal romantic Paris locations straight into one with  hard edged twenty first century contemporary globalised art!  It may have been too much of a stylistic and conceptual leap with a touch of exhibition exhaustion thrown in for good measure, but this Triennale (the first such event I have ever visited) really disappointed. Even my friend living in Paris did not know it was taking place and no publicity was seen around the city during my stay.  We walked around the cavernous interior of the Palais de Toyko desperately hoping to come across something interesting, exciting or even controversial, but nothing materialised.  Even the dilapidated architecture of the 1937 building proved more interesting that many of the exhibits.  With 120 contributors, the Triennale brochure talked of the show being inspired by early to mid-twentieth century ethnography and exploring the nodes where art and ethnography converge in a renewal of fascination and estrangement, an intersection of the French art scene and global sites of production…….!
These motifs were apparent in a number of the work on display (for example from Carrie Mae Weems) but the challenge was rooting these out from the relentless assault of sub-standard unmonumental installations, gratuitous female genitalia and unengaging video work, most of which teetered on the edge of disappearing completely within dilapidated building.
Despite a number of big names (Chris Ofili, Adrian Piper, Ellen Gallagher) sprinkled around the contemporary French artists, there were only two highlights for me in this entire show – Annette Messager’s Motion/Emotion (2009-2011) and Dominik Lang’s Sleeping City (2011) installations, oh and the very funky café and delicious coffee (so all was not lost)!..........

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