SUPERDOME at the Palais de Tokyo

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.

0aelepghanf3.jpgDaniel 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.


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.


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.’

0aaorchestralmanoeur.jpgPhoto 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.


All my little Superdome images.

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