Critics’ Picks

View of “L’Institut des archives sauvages,” 2012.

View of “L’Institut des archives sauvages,” 2012.


L’Institute des archives sauvages

Villa Arson
20 avenue Stephen Liégeard
February 17–May 28, 2012

The challenge taken on by the five curators of “L’Institute des archives sauvages” (Institute of Savage Archives)—Jean-Michel Baconnier, Christophe Kihm, Florence Ostende, Marie Sacconi, and Eric Mangion—was a difficult one: to create a large exhibition based on the idea of the archive, a theme that has been, along with the “atlas” and the “collection,” one of the most investigated, discussed, and exploited by artists and curators alike in recent years. Aware of the difficulty, the francophone team took three years to select some thirty artists to participate and to develop the criteria for their selection. Wisely limiting the field of investigation, the curators took into consideration not the plethora of artists who delve into already established archives, but instead those who create their own archives and come up with systems and tools for organizing the world. They did not place limitations on the material form that the archive can assume, and indeed, some extremely bizarre manifestations are included here, from Christoph Fink’s ceramic disks to Dan Peterman’s recycled plastic tiles; from Tatiana Trouvé’s “waiting modules” to the shelving Franz Erhard Walther constructed to contain and organize his fabric sculptures of 1963–69.

The curators have not always followed their own rules, but the exceptions (and there aren’t many—Ian Simms, Christoph Keller) don’t detract much from the coherence of their endeavor; if anything, they contribute to its richness. Beyond the show’s admittedly interesting theoretical premises, its power lies in the selection of artists and works, a list that intelligently combines illustrious names—Mike Kelley and Matt Mullican, for example—with “niche” and emerging artists, as well as outsiders. Notable “discoveries” for this writer include Patrick Everaert, Anna Oppermann, Alain Rivière, and Patrick van Caeckenbergh. But it is likely that even the most sharp-eyed viewers will find artists they don’t know, whose “savage” criteria for classifying reality—idiosyncratic, unstable, extraneous to the standards of science—will fascinate them.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore