Luna Park – at the Fair of Contemporary Art and “Barbe à Papa”

“Daddy scared?” asked a four-year-old girl on my lap. The La Briche Foraine flying chair started spinning as they climbed in the Aubervilliers grounds at 104. She put her hand on my cheek. I thought I was going to puke. “This exhibit is too good! she cried at me when I’m pale. I close my eyes. An art critic doesn’t retch. This is what I repeated to myself while waiting to reach land.


What is the difference between a contemporary art exhibition and a night market? One sound and cry may be replaced by another cry and, less often, another sound. Let’s change our point of view: can we imagine a night market in the form of a contemporary art exhibition? Then there will be, at the collapse of the line between mass entertainment and the more elitist fields of the Arts Center, a desire to break with austerity, sobriety, and this for the sake of liberation’ what might seem severe straitjacket. There will also probably be a break with the history of the exhibition, perhaps more specifically that which has been written about since the minimalist movement founded, in Europe as in the United States, the white cube in the case of reference to plastic art.

The two exhibitions that opened this winter allow us to observe this porous boundary, or at least to report it, between the “atmosphere” of the exhibition arena and the field of contemporary creation. The first, “Foire Foraine d’Art Contemporain” was held in 104 in Paris with the subtitle “come and play with art! » and the second, « Cotton candy » happened, flying away, at the Capc de Bordeaux. Both projects pay tribute, in different ways, to the contradictory feelings distilled by the attractions and grandstand lights in the rapid transition from laughter to dread.

Age Swollen Children

The holding of two fairs in their proper places at Capc and 104 is no anecdote. In Capc’s case, it’s close to the “Fair of pleasures” Place des Quinconces. A city’s symbolic event, the party noise of approaching the noble museum to the challenge of Cédric Fauq, curator of the exhibition, who seizes it, and for its possible convergence with the idea of ​​a temporary exhibition. At 104, 10 years after the “Attractions” exhibition, the goal was to put the question of interactivity and play back at the center, and this is at the heart of the city’s former coffin reserve.

The two exhibitions contrast in their fairground interpretation and artistic experience. They offer us an almost paradigmatic formulation, in the antagonism of artistic experience that seems interesting to put into perspective here. Indeed, it is possible to discover in approach 104 what constitutes, in its own way, the abandonment of any fracture line both in relation to the globalization of artistic discourse and in relation to mass entertainment. whose par excellence example is the “capitalist fable”, which is central to the experience of the “work-attraction” approach. Here the project replaces the notion of public space in Habermas’ sense as the center of the visual experience of a “showcase”. “Art revisited in this way reveals another side of the artist, paying attention to the role emotions play in our choices and actions. And accept what science has taught us from the very beginning: we are first and foremost living things. »

It is in these terms that the exhibition curators at 104 Fabrice Bousteau and José-Manuel Gonçalvès introduce us to the playground project, which will give the audience another place and another sensitive role in the exhibition’s hybrid experience between play and contemplation, moving the work and, in fact, our eyes. The attractions were then staged in space by many talented artists, Adel Abdessemed, Pilar Albarracín, Delphine Reist, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Hervé Di Rosa or even Groland. The list is long. A similar intention of sensibility across the “Barbe à papa” exhibition in Bordeaux, carried by devices beyond any interactivity, we are invited to capture the exhibits and works in their clash, their collision and sometimes their pollution of one another. , like the hilarity that often characterizes amusement parks.

In the movement of works, and encounters with a number of borrowed works or productions, the curatorial project becomes a site of multiple ambitions, between contemplation and disorientation, guiding the shared feelings here. In this respect, “Barbe à papa” is a true witness of the project of artistic postmodernism, especially in its attempt to reconcile sensations in exhibitions through its critical and declarative components between the positions and postures of artists and those chosen. work. This is where “critical” art is criticized for its lack of effectiveness. There is also a relationship, or opposition, to the celebratory or performative dimensions of exhibition 104. The sensory dialectic of both exhibitions reveals a deconstructive dimension in the spirit of the productions, videos, images or sculptures that are part of the exhibition. The works of Julien Ceccaldi or the duo Julie Villard and Simon Brossard at Capc are truly organic and terrifying.

In other registers, we measure our primal cry, we amputate ourselves and make ourselves a prosthesis at 104. Thus, it is possible to reproach the contemporary, in perceived closeness, for relying too much on what is critical. exhibition, to remain an overly negative art in which contemporary thought, breaking the old dialectic, wants to be no longer destructive but only the most deconstructive or even affirmative in its “play”, “ludis” or laughter as out of fear.


Undoubtedly, the question of audience is central to contemporary questions for museums and art centers, as is the question between generations. It establishes cultural policies that work today, such as the projects discussed in this article. Likewise, “public is a limiting magic word and must limit questions of festive architecture” explain the researchers Oechslin & Buschov, uniting here “public” and the notion of space. It cannot be said better in the field of contemporary art and contemporary creation more broadly, “public is the magic word. In fact, the two exhibitions at CAPC and 104 reflect urban space, understood as a network of relationships and therefore, in a broad sense, asliving space.

The works “Cotton’s beard » in CAPC is written here with the same ambition, namely an interesting interweaving of signs, symbols, codes and metaphors that are close to its appeal and imagination. Five themes of writing courses in the center and beyond: gravity, ball, merry-go-round, lantern, 1893. They brought together who AA Bronson, René Clair and Marcel Duchamp were, who were Kevin Desbouis, Carsten Holler and Lutz Bacher. We come across a complex system with many entries, which is interesting to understand the distinctive signs, to understand the meaning of this individual or collective action. The latter has the power to modify the physical structure and relational components of the exhibition space as a play space, through a process that often spontaneously triggers a strategy of meeting between works, which one does not always manage to understand but which is often questioned.

That bamboo

A central question inhabits the two exhibitions in Bordeaux and Paris. It’s about the artistic but also political scope of fairgrounds and amusement parks. It starts with its organization, its cadastre and the symbols it conveys and escapes from. Capc addresses the human zoo issue through this piece 1893. 104 incorporates the politicization of Greenlandic schoolchildren within its walls. Symptomatically, the integration of several carnival elements and the field of mass culture (amusement parks) within the museum space does not negate the hierarchy between the aspects of “scientific” creation and the perception of fairground art. The realization in 104 ghost trains of a select series of works, or the skill play exhibition by artist Mathis Collins only provides a new foundation for this association. We will unite here, under the terminology of artistic post-modernity, two trends of our time, each of which, if realized, will mean the death of the other. Fortunately neither of the two is hegemonic today. Therefore, in Capc exhibitions such as in 104, there is a paradox of the legitimacy of this “other people’s culture” both in its criticism and in affirming the process of its use or implementation.

The 1960s, as theorist Stefan Germer explains in his article “Museums, noble art, and popular art” (1990), the museum institution “mourned the illusion as a meeting place, a neutral place, which both critics and critics would likely trample on.” nor the propagandists of modernization. In fact, the three criticisms are primarily directed at cultural institutions and exhibition venues. The latter is brought about by a shared desire to regard museums as places of exclusion. Between the so-called “noble” production of images on the one hand and the so-called production “popular” image, it seems unlikely between two. Contemporary logic, from the exhibition blockbusters until the implementation of the artistic factory in the image of the White Night invites us with such accuracy to define art, to rethink it at all costs in order to “return the public art that has been lost or, better yet, the public that has been destroyed into a different special public”.

However, this correct analysis seems here to question us about the framework of acceptance of the works themselves and this is especially so in the case of the dialogue with the carnival. In this case, we return to the question of acceptance, because a shake-up or a tuning organ, in a contemporary art museum, is no longer a simple game or musical instrument. The debate of the 90s was therefore unresolved “it is increasingly difficult to recognize that a phenomenon will still fall under art nobleman, objects that have the appearance of mass culture are given a decisive function within the framework of an institution, namely a museum, that is, they serve as a substitute for noble art. »

At this location, the two exhibitions succeeded in presenting a talent in creating dialogue high art and Community culture, one in the experience of the exhibition and the other in its approach to the field phenomenon. Pursuing a path of work interactivity and spatialization, the two projects seek to define museums and cultural offerings differently. In this respect, they are not only understandable in their approach but also the ultimate consequence of the relationship with the public that is being recreated.

“Contemporary Art Exhibition” has location at 104 in Paris, and “father’s beard” at the CAPC in Bordeaux.

Leo Guy-Denarcy

Art critic


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