mardi 28 septembre 2010

Murakami at the « Château de Versailles »

The exhibition of the work of Murakami hosted by the Château de Versailles (Ile de France, in Paris’ suburbs), which consists of sculptures inspired by the manga culture, has brought with it much criticism and I think, many misunderstandings.

Some people, and amongst them some associations from the city of Versailles, (the Château being situated in that city’s heart), have explained that the exhibition - needless to say, contrasting with the dominant architectural style of the region and, predominantly of the Château itself, renowned for its flamboyant symmetrical attributes – was contrary to the culture and insulting to the environment in which it was hosted. I understand that royalists feel they have been invaded in what constitutes one of their country’s best source of income in the tourism industry, and a place which carries a very heavy symbol of their royal history. But is the exhibition this shocking ? Should it really be banned from « the castle » ?

What i think is almost shocking, is the lack of open-mindedness of some people. The Château de Versailles has already hosted a couple of exhibitions, namely one of Jeff Coons so why is this one lacking of warmth regarding its welcoming within the walls of the Château ? Maybe the fact that it’s inspired from the manga culture has uninspired some locals. But the exhibition is temporary anyway. What I personally like with this exhibition is the contrast it creates. The art itself does not naturally appeal to me, but the idea of penetrating the royal environment with manga characters is, to me, just exhilarating. Adding to that, when one takes a look at the different sculptures presented, none of them are truly shocking. And everyone knows the mangas can be very, very un-presentable. So in the end - and let me be clear, this is my own opinion - this exhibition is at worst amusing and surprising, and at best exhilarating and inspiring for someone enjoying the contrasts and provocations that art can create.
It’s a little bit like watching Tarantino’s Kill Bill : prepare yourself to intertwine classy backgrounds with manga references or you might end up asking yourself what you’ve just seen.

mercredi 15 septembre 2010

Is Dior's Shanghai dreamers racist?

I’ve heard a lot of criticisms about the exhibition of Quentin Shih entitled Shanghai Dreamers. Most of them (if not all) were accusing him of racism. The reflexion, if reflexion there was, consisted in saying that because the Chinese people in the photographs were all similar and the only occidental was taller and dressed in fancy Dior cloths, then it could be considered that the artist wanted to demonstrate the superiority of the occidentals and their individualistic values over the subjugated Chinese people, oppressed and homogenised by the communist party. This interpretation led to people thinking the artist was patronising and racist towards the Chinese people. I even read someone claiming he was an American artist.

I would like to rectify a couple of things said recently :

First of all, although settled in New-York, Quentin Shih - who’s real name is Shi Xiaofan - is nonetheless Chinese and NOT American. This first rectification does not entirely undermine the legitimacy of the argument saying he is racist, but certainly weakens it. Also, I’d like to say that a deeper reflexion and deeper focus on Shih’s work would have been appreciated before the debate started. Only because there’s no reason to think this work of art is racist if one observes and thinks rationally for the following reasons :

How can the simple fact that a people is pictured as very homogenous be the reason to think the photographs are racist ? I think Quentin Shih simply wanted to put forward the great production of High standard clothing brought by occidentals, because let’s remember this was done in the context of the re-opening of a Dior Store in other words, it can be considered advertising. Also it could be, and certainly is since Quentin Shih said it himself, that the photographs show the homogeneity of the Chinese people during the communist years, while comparing it to the individualism of some occidental countries.

This contrast shown in the photographs does not mean that the artist’s work constitutes a racist judgement, nor does it constitute the most un-insulting judgement. Why do people have to see a critical statement or a judgement in every work of art? It may just as well be an observation. That the observation is biased or not is another problem, but I think we should see Shih’s photographs as an (obviously) exaggerated observation, which is nevertheless quite true when one looks at China’s history (particularly in the 1960s-1980s).

jeudi 2 septembre 2010

Jimi Hendrix – London Exhibition

There’s a nice exhibition in London, about late musician Jimi Hendrix, who died at the age of 27 in 1970. The commemoration his 40th death anniversary is taking place in the hotel where he lived during a year (1968-1969). You can visit the house between the 15th and 26th of September, and a larger exhibition composed of photographs, handwritten lyrics, cloths etc… is taking place in the house of 18th century composer George Handel, which is the house right next to Hendrix’ hotel room. Journalists say that Hendrix was interested in this geographic and neighbouring connection with Hendel, and bought all tracks he could find of Hendel as soon as he discovered the coincidence. I encourage you all to go and take a look at that exhibition for the unique aspect of it, since you get the chance to literally penetrate the late best-guitarist-on-earth’s house and discover a part of his life that was not known of the public. Hendrix was apparently not like the medias enjoyed to picture him. His sound manager Roger Mayer said he was friendly, quiet, calm and not overtly outgoing. He also said, to my surprise, that Jimi Hendrix was not stoned on drugs all the time like everyone seems to think:

« "When I knew him he wasn't stoned all the time, which is what people think," he says.

« You can't play guitar to that standard on stage or in the studio if you're stoned on drugs. I've seen other people try but it doesn't work. » (bbc)

I think, if it is not too late, this exhibition is worth seeing. I’ve got to admit i didn’t know a lot about Hendrix, and this exhibition does make you want to get interested in the legend and the 1960s rock, Woodstock experience.