Fareed Armaly

The ceiling construction in the Hall d’Animation reflects the utopian notion, characteristic of the political climate of the ’70s, of the global village: at the point where this construction comes together, it can either support the entire building or bring about its collapse. Fareed Armaly centers his video and his exhibition, “BREA-KD-OWN” on the socio-political issues raised by this structure.

The Palais des Beaux Arts has two entrances, both of which symbolize the promise and the shortcomings of institutions. One leads to the Hall d’Animation. In the ’70s, the Hall of Sculpture was transformed into the Hall d’Animation because of the changing sociopolitical situation. At that time, the demand to initiate a forum for the public in an art institution was met by installing movable seating elements since fixed seating does not offer the viewer a choice of perspective. One of the main themes of Armaly’s exhibition is the collapse of institutions—not as a loss or a gain, but simply as an evolutionary development: as an exploration of the connection between high culture and the public, between architectural and social space. What the interior architecture of the Palais offered as an unattainable promise, the artist analyzed in his video by filming found materials. The video was presented on podiums used as bases for the video monitor showing a tape of the ceiling structure.

The second entrance leads into the rotunda, whose symmetry has been destroyed by institutional changes; no longer does each hallway lead to publicly accessible rooms. Here there was no promise of an interrelationship but, rather, one of multiplicity. One room beneath this rotunda is used as an office. The other two exhibition spaces were closed by Armaly; in one, the viewer looked through a peephole into an empty room; and in the other, the room was used for slide projections which addressed questions of establishing and crossing borders, echoed by the population statistics displayed in front of this space.

Armaly constructs a complex exhibition structure based on architectural details, historical dates, and social relationships. Within the context of such a review, it is impossible to follow all the themes of this exhibition—all of which enter into current critical concerns. Armaly emphasizes the points where social and institutional space meet, questioning how meaningful the institutional framework can be for both the exhibitor and the visitor.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.