“No Man's Time”

Villa Arson

“No Man’s Time” presents the work of 20 international artists: 19 plus Martin Kippenberger, here celebrated as the master. The installation of the show grew from a labyrinth of small spaces constructed in one wing of the museum. Here, each artist exhibited small-scale works, while in the other spaces they were free to make large-scale installations. This was the least successful part of the show, because the large-scale pieces seemed to work to the detriment of the young artists, too easily pushing them toward exaggeration and redundancy. Angela Bulloch’s “television” installation, Slide Projection (King of Comedy), 1991, was the exception. But the labyrinth was truly a path of continuous adventure and surprise. If there was something unconvincing about this exhibition, it was not the quality of the artists; rather, it was that a French institution would try to promote its own national artists, putting them into an international context, where the sense of being international is identified with the Anglo-Saxon world.

The character of emerging directions did take shape. “No Man’s Time” accentuated the fact that for artists art has become a tool for intervening in reality, and a specific way of elaborating a political view. Although diversity was the dominant characteristic of the work exhibited here, only the bylines in the catalogue texts allowed us to distinguish between the arguments of the critics. They all say the same thing, dreaming of uniform cultural references that simply don’t exist. Shrewder, as usual, the artists know how to make use of differences. Reality can only be known on the basis of individual experience, which sets aside a space not neatly placed within the system. These differences (really paper tigers) can be straddled with predictable yet amusing results. “Welcome to Twin Peaks” reads Philipp Parreno’s sign in the garden. It is an appropriate emblem to which many of the works here might refer, particularly Pruitt • Early’s pieces “for adolescents.” In any case, it is possible to twist the spectacle and to create one out of opposites—the critical investigation of languages of the most varied representatives of power (Bond & Gillick); the personal utopian choice (Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster); or a place where one can construct antagonistic knowledge, with the courage to assume one’s own personal melancholy (Felix Gonzalez Torres). And then there are the subtleties with which we are presented with the topoi of the art system (Paul Devautour, with his “collection”), and the playful irony with which its parts are decontextualized (Pierre Joseph), leading to the age-old question of the art/life relationship, finally conquered once and for all in “chic” as a realized category, and in shopping as a consequent practice (Sylvie Fleury).

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.