French Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale 2015
Curator: Emma Lavigne
“The French pavilion at the Venice Biennale is open to the elements, conjuring up in the Giardini the “follies” of the romantic parks of the 18th century. Now it has become the theatre of an apparition, of an experimental ecosystem that reveals a state of nature unlike any other. Under the skylight stripped of its glass and in its wooded walkways, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot offers the choreographic alchemy of three trees moving in time with their metabolism, variations in their sap flow and their sensitivity to light and shade. Behind these chimeras—these machine/nature hybrids—lies an animist vision of trees. As in Francesco Colonna’s enigmatic novel The Dream of Poliphilus and Primo Levi’s short story Dysphylaxis, we see trees metamorphosing into transhuman creatures suddenly liberated from their rootedness to the ground.
While rekindling the aspiration to the marvellous and the sense of wonder of Italian Mannerist gardens, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot lets his underlying political thrust filter through. His intention here is to commandeer systems used for controlling living beings and their movements and compose a poetic work offering humanity living spaces marked by liberty and unconventional beauty. Surrounded by trees whose electric rustling generates a real-time sound environment based on differential low-voltage current, the French pavilion is transformed into an open-air theatre: a refuge where the visitor can find a place to relax—to float, as it were, on the semicircle of the steps which imitate those of the portico but adapt to the shape of the body—in a harmonious continuum conducive to reverie and reflection.”
–Emma Lavigne, curator of the French pavilion, director of the Centre-Pompidou-Metz
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot was born in 1961 in Nice and currently lives and works in Sète. Internationally recognized for a number of years, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot was the first French prize-winner of the International Studio Program (PS1) in New York, from 1998–99. He is currently represented by the Paula Cooper Gallery (New York), the Galerie Xippas (Paris, Geneva, Montevideo, and Athens) and the Galerie Mario Mazzoli (Berlin).
His work was recently on show at the National Gallery Victoria in Melbourne (2013), Barbican Centre in London (2010) and the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (2009). 2015 promises to be an exceptional year for the artist: after the Venice Biennale, he will present acquaalta, a landscape installation especially designed for the Palais de Tokyo (June 24–September 13). He has also been invited to the Biennale d’Art Contemporain in Lyon in September, the Centre-Pompidou-Metz and the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal in November.
Image: Céleste Boursier-Mougenot and Emma Lavigne. Courtesy Institut Francais.