Rainer Ganahl

Galerie Roger Pailhas

At the very moment when Europe is in the throes of ideological and political reevaluation (problems with minorities, ethnic differences, Yugoslavia, the formation of the European Community, etc.), Rainer Ganahl put together a three-part exhibition, “3 TIMES, 3 WEEKS,” including the work of Peter Fend, Sylvia Kolbowski, and himself, on the question of the production of space. His objective as both curator and artist was to present recent formalist conceptual practices and to problematize the question of power. From this point of view, it was the exhibition itself that held our attention. The principal interest here resided in the literal attempt to deconstruct the tight bonds that link the space of the gallery and the area around Les Halles (space of economic power) to the Beaubourg’s computerized library (space of knowledge). In the framework of “windows”—an abstraction of the computer window (epistemological space and locus of the mechanical administration of learning)—the artist led us on a journey through bibliographical references, index notes, ISBN numbers, and cross-references. All of these referential elements had been selected to address questions of racism, intercultural conflict, and the production of urban space, and were then projected on the walls of the gallery in a continual slide show (the same mode of presentation this gallery uses at international art fairs).

The artist invited us on an intertextual stroll through bibliographical information. There were no references under the name Gayatri Spivak. Étrangers à nous-mêmes (Strangers to ourselves, 1988), by Julia Kristeva, was available. La production de l’espace (The production of space, 1991), by Jacques Lefevbre, was mentioned on pages 50,8 6, and 119 of another essay. Certain slides were closeups of the endnotes of books, referring to the books or to other ideas (the state, power, socialism, power and space, racism, etc.). This intertextual stroll Ganahl conceived as an epistemological experiment in reaction to conceptual formalism.

Because what interests the artist is precisely the link that art can present between the dividing-up (both computerized and immaterial) of knowledge and of social space, his artistic practice, hidden behind the apparent neutrality of technical knowledge-management (by computer), translates the ideological implications of power. In the case of Les Halles, it has to do with the banishment of the small Parisian merchants to the periphery—the suburb of Rungis—in the ’70s, for the benefit of the chic boutiques and galleries that “colonized” the area.

In another way, Ganahl showed how the immaterial space of the “window,” the epistemological space of the computer, determines the production of social space, controlling its uneven flux, its circulation of population, its cultural antagonisms. Ganahl’s art can be compared to the interface between epistemological space (the circulation of knowledge) and urban, architectural space (the visible effects of power). And if he reused the visual codes of the computer screen, projected in the gallery space, it was in order to translate visually the relations between knowledge (the production of information) and power (the production of space).

It was a convincing first exhibition on the scope of this progression, but one that would have been clearer if it had focused more precisely on its subject (Paris, the Les Halles neighborhood, urban migration): if it had selected more limited references.

Olivier Zahm

Translated from the French by Diana C. Stoll