The Museum of Mistakes: Contemporary Art and Class Struggle presents a set of works made out of reproduced images. Photographs, film extracts, advertisements, postcards, posters, slides, record sleeves, magazines, and other types of mass media are brought together here in the form of unique works. But these works evade solidifiying into fixed forms. Each one is intimately informed by a principle of movement, or, indeed, of reversibility, and they are deployed on mobile, light, or transportable structures. Thanks to its economy of means and the autonomy of its presentation displays, The Museum of Mistakes proposes a new exhibition model that attempts to foil, or de-class-ifyto reprise the exhibitions titlethe hierarchies of art.
Conceived by the French artist Pierre Leguillon, this museum brings together works that he has created over the last fifteen years. Their presentation does not unfold chronologically, but is articulated around a central wall 27 meters in length, which in a sense forms the backbone of the exhibition. The wall presents a large number of documents from Leguillons collection, which he has arranged in thematic groups specifically conceived for this presentation at WIELS
. These arrangements, with their constructivist overtones, tackle subjects also found elsewhere in the museum. One of them, for example, broaches the notion of limit, metaphorically evoked via lobby cards that stage scenes in a bar. Elsewhere, illustrations of sandwich-board men are used to convey themes of autonomy and mobility. This monumental fresco reprises the structure of a town map in which the visitor is free to trace his or her own course.
While the images Leguillon appropriates are diverse in nature, a large number of them are linked to art historyan interest that runs through most of the works around the central wall. This is the case with Diane Arbus: A Printed Retrospective, 19601971, with which the museum opens. This retrospective gathers works produced by the New York photographer in the 1960s, presenting them as they were originally disseminated in magazines, including Harpers Bazaar, Esquire, or The Sunday Times, for whom Arbus carried out reporting assignments. Similarly, Leguillons diorama Dubuffet Typographer explores a generally understudied area of the French artists work, namely his typographical inventiveness. Likewise, the performative lecture titled Non-Happening After Ad Reinhardt reveals the photographic practice of the American artist (who is better known for his abstract painting) through a select series of slides from the archives of the artists estate. Leguillon presents these major artists in The Museum of Mistakes for their artistic work as much as for the reflection they enable on the conditions of arts production and reception. In Diane Arbus: A Printed Retrospective, 19601971, for example, he aims to expose the system of dissemination and commercialization of photography, which today operates by making a limited number of prints for art galleries to sell at inflated prices. In the diorama dedicated to Jean Dubuffet, he attacks a sort of French monument about which everything seems a priori to have been already said or written, and inquires into the place of handwriting in an era of growing digitalization of means of dissemination.
Leguillon is a former collaborator of Raymond Hains, who was best known for his décollages of posters and political slogans; he has devoted to Hains two exhibitions and an edited monograph published by the Centre Pompidou (Jai la mémoire qui planche, 2001). Leguillon drew crucial lessons from Hains, a keen practitioner of détournement, and early on learned not to take the meaning of dominant discourses at face value. Instead, his Museum of Mistakes invites us to use available archives to rewrite history our history. It is for this reason, moreover, that he uses tools that are within everyones reach. One among them is the home cinema, which forms the basis of La Promesse de lécran, a series of film projections that the artist holds on a 4:3 screen, which is raised during the interval and opens onto a bar with a 16:9 aspect ratio. At each screening, La Promesse de lécran is followed by a subtitle indicating the films content, for the most part specifically designed to suit the projection site, and often with the involvement of other artists. La Promesse de lécran: Manuel de photographie, for example, uses film extracts that introduce us to photographic practice, whereas La Promesse de larchitecture collects filmed sequences undertaken in remarkable architectural structures, or that describe architecture remarkably. At WIELS, a dozen Promesses will be displayed, including an unprecedented one conceived in collaboration with the Belgian artist Sylvie Eyberg.
Begun in 2007, La Promesse de lécran continues the series of diaporamas that Leguillon has presented since 1993, and that mark the beginnings of his artistic practice. The artists most recent one, Le Diaporama/Vestiaire, which dates from 2006, will also be presented at WIELS. It is inspired by screenings of slideshows: at home, of holiday photos, and in art history courses. It interrelates images that Leguillon has photographedoften exhibition viewsand that are sometimes accompanied by a reading, a performance, or a musical background. With each presentation, Leguillon changes the order, or the selection, of the images, so that each diaporama is unique and the semantic links woven between the slides are in constant fluctuation. This early work attests vividly to Leguillons interest in the contextualization of artworks, and of images more broadly, and the ways in which their conditions of appearance influence their reception.
If Leguillon thus sets images free of any predefined meaningencouraging us to devise our own interpretations, our own storieshe also frees himself from all preestablished identity. As photographer, speaker, collector, bartender, projectionist, or curator, Leguillon adopts all postures without ever confining himself to any one of them. The Museum of Mistakes proposes that we follow his example and redefine our own role within the exhibition. Each person is thus given the opportunity to organize a screening or to engage in dialogue with the artist, who will be present throughout the project and will be able to present his performances according to his discussions with the public. In decompartmentalizing identity, whether it is a matter of the artists, the visitors, or those of the exhibited images, The Museum of Mistakes invites us to rethink the conditions of the reception of art, here depicted not only as an object but also as one human activity among others. In so doing, Leguillon inquires into the political function of art within society, wherein each individual, being in a perpetual process of emitting and receiving information, has also become a medium.