“Personne Sait Plus”

Villa Arson

The local public didn’t seem to get “Personne sait plus” (Nobody knows anymore), perhaps in part because the German art scene differs so greatly from the French (the artists included in the exhibition aren’t all German, but most had studied in Germany), and in part because the show was curated by Olaf Metzel, an artist known for his unconventional approach to things. None of the pieces Metzel selected fits any traditional definition of sculpture.

At the entrance to the exhibition space, Rainer Oldendort, an artist who usually works with film, presented a series of slides depicting the participating artists, as well as the exhibition’s organizers and their social milieu. Stephen Craig’s contribution to the show was a construction—at once a sculpture and an architectural model—made out of photographs and fabric. One side served as a screen for the projection of a Super-8 film. In the footage one saw the Union Jack, flying in various locations throughout Northern Ireland, as a foreign body invading a beautiful landscape.

Simone Böhm’s two remarkable relief sculptures, crafted from fluorescent modeling clay with near-photographic precision, evoked a sense of ephemerality. The reliefs are mysterious to the observer, who cannot detect any hidden light source that would explain their astonishing luminosity. The larger of her works depicted the main street in the harbor town of Nice, seen at night, illuminated by the lights that would decorate carnival processions in coming weeks; the smaller showed the artist blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. Another artist trafficking in the ephemeral was Ralf Homann, who attempted to draw attention to the disappearance of shortwave from most of today’s receivers with his installation Missing Link, 1998. In this piece a Morse signal coming from afar was diverted by a shortwave radio into portable UKW radios.

A desire to astonish seemed to fuel many of the works. Suspended upside down from the outer wall of the villa, for example, was a male dummy scrupulously attired like a businessman. This piece, by Nevin Aladag, recalled scenes from innumerable thrillers, though it was certainly an unnerving sight for passersby. The posters by the Copenhagen-based artist Jans Haaning—which were displayed around town as well as in the exhibition space and which featured jokes in Arabic alongside a photograph of a bare-chested blonde—also made a stir. This cynical work, directed at the numerous Arab immigrants living in Nice, was remarkably thoughtless—especially considering the volatile political situation.

Schneemann (Snowman, 1998), a more innocuous sculpture by Daniel Knorr, stood in the middle of Banana Beach. Snow is, of course, a rarity for the inhabitants of the Côte d’Azur, so Knorr built his snowman out of stones found in the region. No doubt it will be billed as an attraction for the upcoming beach season in Nice.

Justin Hoffmann

Translated from the German by Diana Reese.