Report Carte


Left: “Printemps de Septembre” president Marie-Thérèse Perrin with curator Christian Bernard. Right: Snowdrop. (All photos: Lillian Davies)

“They all know Martin Parr, so they get it.” DJ Guillaume Sorge was responding to my inquiry about how Jeremy Deller’s Folk Archive, an expansive collection of British “folk” art that opened last Thursday at the Palais de Tokyo, would translate across the English Channel. How would the eternally sophisticated Parisians read photos of, for example, Tom Harrington MBE, Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling champion, dressed in his floral embroidered briefs and undershirt? But as I approached the museum early Thursday evening, Peter Clare was already cheerfully leading Snowdrop, his life-size mechanical elephant, on short tours for enthusiastic young French attendees. It seemed an avenue of communication had been forged.

“When I first saw the elephant perform, as it were, six years ago, that was an epiphany for me,” Deller said. Snowdrop and the rest of the Folk Archive are being presented in “From One Revolution to Another,” Deller’s six-part project for Palais de Tokyo’s second “Carte Blanche” exhibition. (The first was presented last September by Ugo Rondinone.) For “Carte Blanche,” the museum invites an artist to act as curator but also, as Palais director Marc-Olivier Wahler put it, “to imagine something you’ve always dreamed of doing—something impossible.”

The Folk Archive works in Paris, in part because of the five other documentary projects shown alongside it that emphasize the common denominator of the exhibition—personal or collective action toward a type of utopian alternative. “This exhibition is about how you can go from being a miner to a glam-rock wrestler in a generation,” explained Deller.

Left: Artists Ed Hall and Jeremy Deller. Right: Artists Vincent Lamouroux and Marcelline Delbecq.

Hanging above much of the space, banners by Ed Hall chart the recent political history of Britain, from the miners’ strikes to the Iraq war. Hall was proud to have his work shown in the contemporary art context but lamented the absence of one piece: “I can’t get the banner I made for the Eurostar cleaners back. They said to me, ‘What’s more important, the banner hanging in the prestigious gallery in Paris or in use in our dispute over fair pay?’” Because Deller “wanted to have something in the exhibition having to do with France,” he included Golf Drouot: The Early Days of Rock in France, archival material from the legendary Parisian venue. Matthew Higgs presented work by William Scott, an artist with the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California. “Sound in Z,” organized by Matthew Price and Andrei Smirnov, chronicles the musical and industrial revolutions of 1920s Russia. Deller’s connection with the subject grew out of research for his forthcoming film on Depeche Mode fans, and the discovery of a very strong fan base in Russia. A little digging brought Deller and Price to Léon Theremin, “And then it was like, ‘Whoa, this is techno from the ’30s,’” says Price.

On my way out, I saw Yann Chevalier, curator of Confort Moderne, Poitiers, and mentioned my plans to go to Toulouse the next morning for the opening of “Printemps de Septembre.” He got me up to speed on curator Christian Bernard’s program for the three-week festival: “It’s not just young French artists—it’s all of the artists that you’ve got to follow.”

Left: Artists Samuel Richardot and Michel Perot. Right: White Columns director Matthew Higgs.

Toulouse is gorgeous. The rose-colored city is well designed for the “perambulation” that Bernard suggested was the ideal way to explore the work of forty-eight participating artists installed in twenty-four locations. The majority of the works were made specifically for exhibition in Toulouse, many by Bernard’s old students from the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. My first stop was the public art center bbb to see the exhibition of Samuel Richardot and Michel Perot, two recent graduates from the école, where they were both selected to participate in Bernard’s famous seminar—now in its final year. Their large-scale paintings (Richardot’s abstract and Perot’s figurative) were installed over John Armleder’s backdrop for the festival—a series of seven colors of wall paint used in a variety of combinations in the exhibition venues. Toulouse’s Lieu Commun was also a highlight, hosting a group show curated by Claire Moulène and Mathilde Villeneuve with artists from the 2008 summer residency at Les Ateliers des Arques in Les Arques, a village (population 190) in southwestern France. Claude Lévêque’s Rendez-vous d'automne (Autumn Rendezvous), installed at Maison Éclusière, also captured the spirit of the provinces, a voyage far beyond the barriers of familiarity.

At an evening cocktail at the Capitole (Toulouse City Hall), Bernard, “Printemps” president Marie-Thérèse Perrin, and mayor Pierre Cohen officially inaugurated the festival. Bernard clarified the title of this edition, “Là où je vais, je suis déjà” (Where I am going, I am already), explaining that “you can only see the works when you are ready—history forms perception.” Bernard also confirmed for me that his invitation of artists for “Printemps” was offered in a similar spirit to his seminar at Beaux Arts. With his selection, “it is not the thematic” that Bernard is interested in but “what develops out of this collision of work.”

Left: Curators Stéphanie Moisdon and Veronique Terrier-Hermann. Right: FIAC directors Jennifer Flay and Martin Bethenod.

Pushing past the growing crowd, I hurried down the cobblestone streets to catch the rest of the evening’s program. Vert Pâle (Pale Green), a performance by Marcelline Delbecq and her cousin Benoit Delbecq at Auditorium Saint-Pierre des Cuisines, was an homage to Russian silent-film actress Alla Nazimova. Walking back to Beaux Arts with Marcelline Delbecq and Vincent Lamouroux for the Red Krayola’s concert, we passed Sylvie Fleury’s contribution (and cheeky tribute to Toulouse’s aeronautics industry)—an installation of flying saucers lit by searchlights on the opposite bank of the Garonne River. Lamouroux told me about his work for the exhibition—installed at the Abattoirs Museum—and also his participation in Bernard’s Beaux Arts seminar. Toulouse, it seemed, was a veritable class reunion.

At around 10 PM, the Red Krayola started their energetic set in the Beaux Arts courtyard, and an hour later and a few streets over, Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet opened in the concert hall of the Les Jacobins Convent. The evening climaxed with a party in the garden behind the Abattoirs Museum where finally everyone seemed to relax. Like the crowds at Deller’s opening, the festival artists and organizers, locals from Toulouse, and many more who had traveled from Paris seemed to revel in the experience.

Lillian Davies

Left: Palais de Tokyo director Marc-Olivier Wahler, Art:Concept's Olivier Antoine and family, and Jeremy Deller. Right: Artist Claude Lévêque.