In little more than 24 hours, i managed to visit some compelling art events in Paris. My first stop was for numeriscausa, a gallery that dedicates its energy to prove critics, audience and institutions (hence the market) that the so-called digital arts have achieved maturity.

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Image courtesy France Cadet

The space is currently inhabited by the robots of France Cadet. With her exhibition, Artificial Curiosity, the artist questions once again the relationships we have with our pets, whether they made of hardware or flesh and blood, she also takes a critical look at the limits of science and eugenism.

At the entrance, you're greeted by a wall of Hunting Trophies (video), then by an installation bearing a title that references one of Philip K.Dick's most famous novels: Do Robotic Cats Dream of Rlectric Fish?. An electronic kitten is sitting in front of the TV set, transfixed by the image of a virtual fish, floating around the screen.

Video:

Will one day robotic pets behave like our cats and dogs? Will they be willing to engage in social activities or watch TV? Will they want to be entertained like the rocking robot that awaits visitors in the back room of the gallery?

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Image courtesy France Cadet

Its name, Gaude Mihi, comes from a Latin expression that can be translated as 'amuse me', 'entertain me'. As soon as the robot feels a presence it starts balancing itself. All the robot wants is to have fun without any consideration whatsoever for the entertainment of its owner (though i must say that i found his behaviour hilarious), it rejects 'interactivity' (the presence of a proximity sensor is not enough to qualify the piece as really interactive) and participation, redefining in the process the roles of the toy and the player.

Video visit with France Cadet (in french.)

On view at the Gallery numeriscausa in Paris, until October 25, 2008. France Cadet will also have some work exhibited on October 20 to 28 at Slick, a young contemporary art fair which takes place in Paris on the occasion of FIAC in Paris.

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Sorry for the long silence. I made a few trips, spend two days offline (not my choice obviously) but i'm going to be back on track and in full swing tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a quick post to remind you that this blog is alive.

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Sans titre (detail), 2008, in collaboration with Marion Hanania

Two days ago, i was running around Paris trying to cram as many exhibitions as possible into one single Tuesday. One that stood out was a solo show of David-Ivar Herman Dune aka Yaya at Lucile Corty, a gallery that makes out for his tiny size by spreading over three floors off the Arts & Métiers metro station.

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Sans titre, 2008 in collaboration with Trésor

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Sans titre, 2008 in collaboration with Marion Hanania

David-Ivar Herman Dune aka Yaya sings and plays the guitar in a band called Herman Dune but he also creates drawings, illustrations, and collaborates with other visual artists.

Summoning recurrent characters such as aliens, surfers or the blue big foot, his drawings are referencing his songs, everyday-life thoughts or popular culture connected to childhood like Disney's Pete's Dragon.

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Yaya's graphic works about the Blue Bigfoot Of The Negev, an endearing blue creature living on a black ink and white paper land, are shown at the Lucile Corty Gallery until October 25, 2008.

Built in 1975, the Superdome stadium has hosted numerous Super Bowls (the American football championship's final), a Rolling Stones concert, Pope John Paul II, the Republican Convention and in 2005 it served as a "shelter of last resort" for the refugees of Hurricane Katrina. The Louisiana Superdome builds thus a bridge between entertainment and anguish. Taking inspiration from the paradoxes of the stadium, the Palais de Tokyo in Paris is currently running SUPERDOME, a set of five solo exhibitions balancing between entertainment and desolation, pop culture and religion, minimalism and über-geekery. They continue a program testing the notion of the elasticity of art which started with the exhibition Five Billion Years (see report, part 1 and part 2). All artists were showcasing only one large-scale piece, apart from Jonathan Monk whose paintings and installations were spread over both the Palais de Tokyo and the neighbouring Musee d'Art Moderne. It was, how can i put it... very Palais de Tokyo. Slightly edgy but not too much, fun, pop, easy to understand by the hoi polloi like me but nevertheless carrying more substance than it might seem at first sight.

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Daniel Firman 's elephant Würsa stand still and upside down on her trunk. The pachyderm could only manage this delicate exercise at a distance of 18,000 km from the earth or if she were on a planet with a circumference of 2,484,0031.1 m (because of its weak gravitational pull). It is on the basis of learned scientific calculations that Daniel Firman reached these conclusions. The life size and hyper-realist sculpture borrows from the skills of a taxidermist named Jean-Pierre Gérard and puts into a new perspective the most basic physical laws of this world.

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The super-star and borderline kitsch (but don't we love kitsch?) installation is Fabien Giraud & Raphaël Siboni's Last Manoeuvres in the Dark is a networked field of 300 terracotta Darth Vader masks, perched on high sticks and aligned in a military formation like the Xian army. Outfitted with a set of ethernet ports and a microprocessor, each mask is wired to a monolithic black computer fitted with an artificial intelligence program. The system has been given the task to compose and play the darkest song ever. The evil anthem is assembled from a huge catalog of music that range from Gabriel Fauré's Requiem to heavy metal songs.

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The sources of inspiration for this installation are many. The main one is the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. As Siboni explained in an interview i read in the Palais magazine: 'And then there's that scene where the character realizes the computer is taking over and disconnects it, and the image of a computer that regresses to the point of reciting the children's song. That scene gave us real inspiration for the project. What is meant by an 'evil' computer or indeed by a computer that 'regresses'? It's by making the computer regress that Kubrick demonstrates its intelligence.'

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Photo Didier Barroso

Arcangelo Sassolino's Afasia 1 is a nitrogen-powered sculpture that shoots empty beer bottles, those icons of rock culture, against a wall at 600km/hr inside a zoo-like metal cage. The shooting happens every few minutes. Meanwhile you're left wondering whether you should opt for safety and step back or let curiosity take over and walk closer to get a better view of the blast. The waiting for the upcoming and -let's face it- absurd blast only adds to the anxiety. The artist wanted visitors to add a visceral experience of art on top of the usual intellectual one.
Green shards pile up as the days pass.

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All my little Superdome images.

Superdome runs at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris until August 24, 2008.

Some notes from an exhibition i saw a month ago in Paris:

Bêtes et Hommes is a 3500m2 exhibition which explores the relationships between humans and animals.

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"Frog and a Praying Mantis," from the Food Chain series. Photo © Catherine Chambers, 1994-96

The exhibition takes place at the Grande Halle of La Villette which used to "welcome" animals in the past: the space had been initially built in 1867 as a slaughterhouse for the cows which would then feed the Paris markets.

The exhibition takes individual situations involving a human being and an animal as its starting point and suggests an alternative way to think about living creatures, questioning their place in our society and proffering ideas about cohabitation that might inspire the world of the future.

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Bêtes et hommes, photo © Christophe Raynaud de Lage

Patrick Bouchain based the design of this exhibition on structures that brings man and animal together: the shelter, the refuge, and the den. Visitors navigate from one tent to the next one, the way to move from the beginning to the end of the exhibition is not always clear which makes the experience all the more interesting, it felt sometimes like being lost in a cozy jungle.

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Map of the exhibition parcours

Once again congratulations to the press office people for their poor job: i was not allowed to take pictures and could only use the few images they provided us with. Their photos show the exhibition without visitors (which makes it hard to judge the scale of the tents designed by Bouchain) and most of my favourite works were not featured in the image press kit.

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Bêtes et hommes, photo © Christophe Raynaud de Lage

Still, Bêtes et Hommes is a very good exhibition. La Villette is an exhibition centre dedicated to science and technology and it was exciting to see how well this exhibition makes use of artistic works to highlights some key concepts (full list of art works).

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Grizzly little fucker, by David Mach, 2003. Photo © David Mach - Courtesy Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris

The exhibition proposes new ways to think about animals, challenging preconceived ideas you might have, giving different points of views, asking questions but never coming with answers for you to swallow passively.

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Fuck'd Tony Matelli, 2004. Photo © www.frigesh.at - Coutesy : Fondation culturelle Ekaterina, Moscou, Galerie Gary Tatintsian, Moscou et Studio Tony Matelli

Four themes are presented:

Animals affect humankind
Human beings have tried to learn from animals and to acquire some of their characteristics. Example: Inspired by the way bats are able to navigate in darkness, the Batcane uses ultrasonic echoes, signals which bounce off objects present in the environment, and feedback information to the cane.

Animals are strangers to men
Animals live in a world apart from our own. For us to gain access to it, we have to understand what interests them, what affects them, what motivates them. An attempt at this understanding has led to some of the most astonishing discoveries about them.

Ethologists' recent discoveries reveal that animals have abilities which have traditionally been attributed to men only (for example Wattana, an orangutan living in a Paris Zoo is able to make true knots using her hands, feet and mouth) while the experience of people who actually live with animals (breeders, shephers, care givers or pet owners) show further unexpected skills.

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Orang-Outang, Carsten Höller, 2000-2001. Photo © Carsten Eisfeld - Courtesy Esther Schipper, Berlin

When devoid of his or her hair, isn't Höller's Orang-Outang more human-like?

Animals have a job to do
One of the best-known forms of connection between man and beast involves working together, forming a team with an animal - the blind and their guide dogs or circus trainers and their animals are just some examples. But what function do today's pets and livestock have? Why do we feel sad and angry to see images of a baby seal killed for its fur but have next to no qualms at the idea that thousands of pigs are slaughtered every day to feed us.

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Zoopsie, Philippe Loparelli, 2003

Animals force us to choose
Some people want bears to keep on living in the forest, others would rather see them safely locked in a zoo. Crows are ok, but not in your own backyard. In the Pyrennes, vultures used to be allies but when there are too many of them, they are not welcome anymore.
Who do we want to live with? That's the question at hand. The current debate is unique in that it concerns so many different characters: ecologists, scientists, breeders, animal lovers, tourists, inhabitants, and animals.

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Série Lucky Family Yang Zhenzhong, 1995. Photo © Yang Zhenzhong - Courtesy Shanghart Gallery, Shanghaï

The exhibition space is also hosting living animals in residency (a bit as if they were artists) such as Mynah birds, iguanas, buzzards, crows, vultures, and otters. Each of them is a witness of the conflict and cooperation relationship with humans. These animals were either hurt or healed by humans, seized at customs or at private homes, etc.

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Evolution, 1971 - Série Jours de cirque. Photo © Jill Freedman

Henry Horenstein's Aquatic photo series with an amazing close-up of a squid and other marine portraits

M6info has a great slideshow of images from the exhibition, and i have a small selection online (please respect the credits if you ever want to use these images).

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Photo © Christophe Raynaud de Lage

I found about the exhibition Toy Comix when reading Cati's blog who read about it on another blog. So now i am telling everyone because i visited the show on Saturday and it is so so good.

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Yes this is a big image but a really cute one too

The basics: Toy Comix, which explores the importance of toys and games in contemporary comic strips worldwide, is running until March 9 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

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For Aleksandar Zograf, the mysterious bear-doll is facing some identity issues (Photos by Jean Tholance)

The goods: The curators invited contemporary artists to pick up a toy in their collection and create an art piece starring the toy. The result is that an exhibition which you'd expect to be for the Under 12 Only is a huge hit with adults.

Comic strip artists who had shown a particular interest for toys in the past were asked to feature the toy as the main protagonist of a story in 3 comic strips.

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Max Andersson strips starring Felix the Cat (Photo by Jean Tholance) and the 3D vintage model

Other artists were commissioned an installation --which the museum calls a "universe"-- revolving around toys.

Benoit Jacques used discarded materials to build a flying vessels surrounded by smaller flying objects (planes, birds, parachutes, etc.) and angels made especially for the project. Poudre d'Anges (Angel Powder) is light, dreamy and poetic.

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Helge Reumann & Xavier Robel suspended some of their Soft Fabric Toys, plush pink objects with organic shapes, and mixed them with wooden toys, race cars, latex super heroes in ridiculous posture, etc.

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- For his installation Perte de connaissance sous les visages (Loss of consciousness under the faces) Stephane Blanquet took his cue from Hans Bellmer's eerie dolls. selected dolls from the 19th and early 20th century and had them done masks. The dolls, most of them stripped down from their luxurious clothes, are slightly scary and threatening. They sit, stand or hang above a ground which looks dirty and unwelcoming.

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- Winshluss, Cizo and Felder created the Jouets M. Ferraille, Chambre de démonstration avec enfant (Toys Mister Ferraille, Demo room with child).
M. Ferraille is a fictitious brand, a brain child of the artist, a fake Disney-like empire whose main protagonist isn't a mouse called Mickey, but a subversive tin character which is also the hero of a comic strip. For the exhibition, Winshluss, Cizo and Felder recreated the room of a kid and filled it with posters of Monsieur Ferraille and what the artists call a "beautiful collection of ugly toys."

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Also on show: the OuBaPo (Ouvroir de Bande-dessinée Potentielle (Potential Comics Workshop) made a collective work which reflects on other artists' contributions to the exhibition; Sardon's Le Tampographe installation, the Pecking Chicken movies by Jean-Michel Thiriet which feature the adventures of a mechanical chicken; interviews of artists talking about their favourite childhood toy.

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All my images. Slideshow at the website of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs.

0micronationnnnnn.jpgMore from my latest visit at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

The space is currently hosting a fascination exhibition called ÉTATS (faites-le vous-même) - Grow Your Own. Set up by the artist Peter Coffin, it brings together an impressive range of micronations, sovereign independent states, concept nation states, and secession movements.

In 2000, Coffin initiated his own independent nation and began collecting information about other such projects around the world. Grow Your Own is an expanded version of a similar exhibition he curated in 2005 at the Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York in conjunction with Robert Blackson: We Could Have Invited Everyone. All the States featured in the Paris show are presented as a creative response to a global political climate.

Micronations are countries (often without territories) conceived by artists, eccentrics, malcontents or egocentrics. These merge the imaginary, the artistic and the real in their embrace of a parallel world, motivated by artistic and conceptual concerns, a dislike for paying taxes, an immoderate love of royal titles, or even the simple desire to create a new civilization.

Grow Your Own aims to blur the distinction between art, politics, anarchy and fiction. The governments, societies and artists represented in the exhibition have lent some of their symbols for display.

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There are projects by recognized artists: like photos and papers that document Yoko Ono and John Lennon's declaration of birth of a conceptual country called Nutopia, IRWIN, Gregory Green's New Free State of Caroline, Groucho Marx's Principality of Freedonia (Groucho played its prime minister in Duck Soup) or Atelier van Lieshout's AVL Ville.

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They are presented along with uniforms, the BIZEPS money machine that makes it possible to mint the 5 SoS (State of Sabotage) coin with a hammer blow, maps (Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland which claims all the borders of the world), national anthems (Empire of Aerica), a model of the Principlity of Sealand, documentary films, portraits of kings and queens from a micronations summit, a manual on How to start your own country, flags, all kinds of passports, stamps from countries bearing lovely names like Molossia (!), medals from Ladonia, the royal crown of Talossa (founded in 1979 by "King Robert" in his bedroom in Milwaukee at the age of 13), coins or letters of citizenship from some forty nations including the Empire of Atlantium or the Kingdom of Pinsk. Applications for citizenship and naturalisation can be completed and filed by visitors.

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The exhibition closes on May 6. My images on flickr.
Lonely Planet Guide on Micronations.

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