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Palais de Tokyo opens exhibition of works by Kader Attia and Jean-Jacques Lebel
Exhibition view of Kader Attia and Jean-Jacques Lebel, “One and other”, Palais de Tokyo (15.02 – 13.05.2018).


PARIS.- “ L’Un et l’Autre [One and the Other] is not an exhibition but a research laboratory. It is the result of an exchange of our perspectives, of a partnership underpinned by our deep friendship. We present here a selection of our work linked to the major questions of our civilization, which are approached principally through two installations. The first addresses the fabrication in and by the dominant media of the absolute Other, a violent and warlike entity that never fails to inspire fear: the Satan, the Savage, the Terrorist. The second concerns the persistence throughout history of humiliation, rape and torture in imperialist war crimes.

As a counterpoint to these installations, we present some of the enigmatic and polysemic objects that we have collected over the years, objects charged with spirits that are invisible to the naked eye, which speak to us all, which transmit coded discourses, and which enact both réparations and détournements .

Alongside this heterogeneous ensemble — of visual and sound works, of films and viewpoints, of nameless objects, of face and stomach masks, all woven together with one another — we have looked to bring together artists and filmmakers whose approaches intersect with our own. Together, we form a ‘collective assemblage of enunciation’ (Felix Guattari), an endless ‘ montrage ’ which generates multiple perspectives, horizons and criteria for appreciation and evaluation.

This transcultural laboratory is only just getting started.” --Kader Attia and Jean-Jacques Lebel

With: Marwa Arsanios, Sammy Baloji, Alex Burke, Gonçalo Mabunda, Driss Ouadahi, PEROU – Pôle d’Exploration des Ressources Urbaines

Jean-Jacques and I
“The isolation coming from artistic practice sometimes leads you onto the pathways of research. From fieldwork to books, it sets off rich and always different echoes with our own histories, through encounters with other cultures and their objects.

It was due to a war, WWI, and a railway station, the Metz railway station, that I have become fascinated with the work of Jean-Jacques Lebel: the assemblage, re-assemblage and re-appropriation of objects of death that had become art objects, on the threshold of hell which power had been equalled only by the fragility of the times when they had been created. The fact of feeling the deep emotion, emanating from these modestly immense objects, was the starting point of our dialogue. A conversation in motion whose winding roads have constantly transported us. The idea of telling the story of the encounter between our thoughts and our shared sensitivity through objects seemed self-evident. These objects are things we have collected, or just encountered during the course of our lives, and more particularly those that have powerfully built up questionings: be they traditional objects coming from other cultures, immaterial objects such as texts, music, political speeches, or else the works of other artists. The idea for our upcoming exhibition at palais de Tokyo is to display our thought, so as to share it, both through works by artists, and everyday objects, and to show how each object is fully charged with energy, meaning and poetry without us realising it.

What transpires from our mutual passion for the encounter between objects is what André Breton told Jean-Jacques one day: ‘We don’t discover objects, they come to meet us’. Metaphorically, the desire behind our interest in these various objects and the variety of their aesthetic and ethical values is to reproduce our questionings about society and its structures. So it is that our exhibition will provide a view of society under the concrete angle of what it produces, for better and sometimes for worse...

Daily objects haunt us, and we intend to allow the dark light emanating from the objects we have brought together to be sublimated. The simpler they are, the more they are immutable, incontestable and incredibly great. A wooden spoon, an old wooden telephone, a coffee grinder with a sculpted handle, an 18th-century Chinese tea-tray repaired with staples, a nickel false hip, a sculpted wooden washboard, etc. Some of these objects were made with unexpected materials, such as an opium pipe made from an artillery shell from the trenches.

And then there are sacred objects: religious or animist, ritual tools and holy books, classic and modern, wooden masks, a sacred pole, a Dan mask from the Ivory Coast made from a Senegalese infantryman’s trousers, or else a sickness mask whose teeth have been made from the metal of a rifle bullet. These once sacred objects are twice as much so now, thanks to a modernity that has set them up as indelible traces of humanity’s history. But did they really need that? Haven’t they already existed?
These sacred or secular objects have a lot to say to each other, and to us… They will follow us because they will be collected by others who will pass by in turn, and others will come along to love them. It is not us who collect objects, they collect us, and observe us as we pass by: objects watch us! Together, let’s try to rethink the artwork without any rankings and reveal the semantic conflagrations which occur between action and representation, between politics and poetics...” --Kader Attia

Kader and I
“Our socio-anthropological and artistic work had long ago begun to cross-pollinate, though unbeknown to us, when, in 2012, we met at a symposium organised by Laurent Le Bon and Claire Garnier, during their “1917” exhibition at the Centre Pompidou-Metz. At once, and reciprocally, we were struck by the sharpness and depth of the organic affinities expressed in each of our singular trajectories, far from the mainstream and dominant ideologies.

Our friendship developed into lively jam sessions and thereafter, four or five times a year, into intense, prolonged debates – despite the geographical distance between Berlin, where he lives, and Paris where I have set up camp – via the exchange of revelatory objects discovered by one or the other in our world travels. These image transactions evolved into the concrete exchange of our own artworks and a mutualisation of our research efforts and our personal experiments in terms of politics, philosophical prospection and artistic process. Our unending quest and daily explorations have not ceased to bear tangible results, hence the project of a common exhibition which arose spontaneously during our practical encounters. Kader visited my retrospective at the ZKM, in Karlsruhe, I went to see his at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne. It became crystal clear that we were if not on the same path at least going in the same direction.

Our project was accepted by Palais de Tokyo in its primal complexity, being, in the strict sense of the terms, a ‘agencement collectif d’énonciation’ (i.e. a collectively elaborated artistic discourse) to quote – Félix Guattari, major theoretician of the unseen and dear friend – in other words: an intersubjective co-operative endeavor and combination of materials, concepts, practices and wanderings stemming from egalitarian dialectics, free from any obsession of identity or hierarchy. This approach has allowed the full articulation of our otherness and plurality by way of barter and shared schizo shifts. The idea for a dual work, conceived and produced together, specifically for this exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, was suggested by Jean de Loisy, that fearless admiral of a fleet of ice-breakers sailing in all directions. Kader and I are indebted to him for the trust he placed in our project.

Hybrid by birth, polyglot by necessity, belonging to different generations and living in different countries, nomadic by preference and by principle, we instinctively discovered or rediscovered what it takes to make collective art, and so, little by little, our artistic and social dissent gathered momentum and stood tall in the face of today’s ignominious culture of consensus and in opposition to the present period’s world-wide regressions into massive blood baths.” --Jean-Jacques lebel





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