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Exhibition Brings Together the Great Names of Belgian Contemporary Art
Christian Boltanski, Les Registres du Grand-Hornu.

By: Denis Gielen

HORNU, BELGIUM.- "À toutes les morts, égales et cachées dans la nuit” (To all the departed equal and hidden in the night) is the major summer exhibition at the MAC's (the Museum of Contemporary Art). It opens its doors to the public from 20th June to 10th October 2010.

Bearing the unmistakable mark of the work of Laurent Busine, the exhibition brings together the great names of Belgian and international contemporary art, as well as little known artists and even some anonymous works.

By casting an anthropological and artistic eye over portraits and small, personal tokens of remembrance, Laurent Busine invites the visitor to trace their stories. A poetic exhibition, sensitive and enjoyable ("for the pleasure of being moved"), comprising installations, drawings, photographs and items of lost property.

Focused around two exquisite portraits by Giorgio de Chirico and the magnificent work of Christian Boltanski entitled "Les registres du Grand-Hornu" (1997), the exhibition features the artists David Claerbout, Thierry de Cordier, Luciano Fabro, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Douglas Gordon, Chris Herzfeld, Giuseppe Penone, Damien Rankovic, José Maria Sicilia, Paul Strand, René Demarez, amongst others.

Who are the departed souls to whom this exhibition is dedicated, an exhibition which opens with a tribute by the conceptual artist Christian Boltanski to the former miners of the Grand-Hornu collieries (some of whom, it should be specified, are still living) and closes with a visit (wanted by Laurent Busine) to the crypt where their masters are laid to rest, the owners of this site which was formerly a thriving coal-mine and now a museum of contemporary art? Who are the departed souls intended to be retrieved from obscurity and silence by these works of art and these objets de curiosité through the miracle of their presentation and commentary? Who are the departed souls whose names and images have been assembled and laid out (along a circuit where no cadavers or morbid corpses are to be found, however, and where the focus is on life), objects as diverse in appearance and provenance as a meteorite from a natural history museum, the relic of a saint or a pictor classicus selfportrait?

Just who are these departed souls ‘hidden in the night’, if not the very ‘equal’ of everything - bright or extinguished like a star, simple or proud as a man – that is no longer of the living world, other than through lingering memory, image, legend, name or object? Because although we are all equal before death, in the tragic sense that nothing and nobody escapes from eternity, the end of all things, we have to acknowledge that these departed souls – drawn out of the shadows here – are not all equal before history, which celebrates some but forgets others. So, side by side with now-defunct emperors, ‘sun kings’ and captains of industry, we should also acknowledge in the Book of the Dead the nameless and voiceless, the strays and the accursed – less glorious, it is true – all waiting for the recognition afforded them in these songs, tales and pictures. This exhibition A toutes les morts, égales et cachées dans la nuit is a collection of just such testimony-givers: these are works created and objects invented for these nameless ones, the word ‘for’ as interpreted by Gilles Deleuze, the philosopher of ‘becomings’, when he felt it was necessary to write for animals, for savages or for the mad, clearly not for their attention but on their behalf; in the same way as Gustav Mahler put to music the Kindertotenlieder for dead children.

Belgium | ""À toutes les morts | égales et cachées dans la nuit" | Giorgio de Chirico | Contemporary Art | Christian Boltanski |

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