“One More Time: The Exhibition of Our Exhibitions / The Never Ending Stories Cycle” at Mamco, Geneva / MOUSSE CONTEMPORARY ART MAGAZINE

“One More Time: The Exhibition of Our Exhibitions / The Never Ending Stories Cycle” at Mamco, Geneva

by mousse

January 3~2016

“One More Time. L’exposition de nos expositions” (“One More Time: The Exhibition of Our Exhibitions”) is a sequence based on the theme of reproduction. It offers an overview of the past twenty years of original hangings, by revisiting, in the same spirit, some of the most memorable Mamco exhibitions: “Oh cet écho! (Duchampiana 1 and 2)” [“Oh, this echo! (Duchampiana 1 and 2)”] presented respectively in 1999 and 2001-2002, “Rétroviseur (Loués soient les grands hommes!)” [“Rear-view Mirror (Praised be the great men!)”] (2002), “La Vie dans les plis, un Cabinet surréaliste” (2012-2013) [“Life in the Folds: a Surrealist Cabinet”] or more recently “Partage de minuit” (2013) [“Break of Midnight”], to cite just a few examples.

The notion of “replay” is already found in embryonic form in the vast majority of reactivated exhibitions within the frame- work of this sequence. Many of these are made up of a term–echo, rear-view mirror, stutter–reflecting the idea of reiteration, while others borrow their title from a pre-existing literary or cinematographic work. While these are often pretexts of language to spark thinking on another subject, they still remain meaningful. At Mamco, exhibition strategies effectively favour chronological order less than they do the experiences produced by their arrangements. Underpinning the Museum’s principle is the idea of producing and conserving exhibition situations and, in their sequential order, preserving the “ghosts” of the circumstances in which these works were produced. In other words, each of the presentations creates ties with the one preceding it. Therefore, “One More Time” reveals the essence of this museum–in the manner of the thread from a fabric that you pull until all the material is revealed. In this respect, this sequence is presented as both a mise en abyme and an ultimate unity of meaning.

One of the principles of Mamco is therefore found in reuse, but it is a fragmentary reuse that conserves some elements while modifying others. When an exhibition is redeployed, its pertinence is therefore verified and it is taken to its limits in such a way that the “replay” often becomes the ironic coun- terbalance of the initial presentation. By updating several exhibitions at once, “One More Time” thus proposes various levels of reinterpretation. One of them appears in the signature of painter Stéphane Kropf, who partially created the colour scheme of the walls, thus creating new relationships between the rooms on the various floors.

On the fourth floor, the new version of “La Vie dans les plis”, which borrows its title from Henri Michaux, reworks the principle of the surrealist Cabinet that consists in effacing the categories between objects, juxtaposing surrealist artworks, African objects, art brut pieces or Naïve Art.

On the third floor, among others, the presentations “Oh cet écho! (Duchampiana 1 et 2)” are replayed. The “replay” is here multiplied since these hangings are not only brought together under a palindromic title taken from André Thomkins, but the word “echo” also refers to a resonance and repercussion. As for the sub-heading, it turns out to be just as important. This exhibition brings together works that have a direct or indirect link with Marcel Duchamp, in an allusion to the exhibition undertaken at the MOCA of Los Angeles by John Cage in 1993. The protocol of this presentation was as follows: all of the artworks had to be hung according to the directions of a random computer programme. Every morning, the computer thus defined the arrangement of the sculptures and the hanging of the paintings, resulting in a perpetually evolving exhibition, constantly being made and unmade before the visitor’s eyes. The current variant is therefore similar to former presentations in that it reproduces the same process but its result differs precisely for this reason. By reproducing the protocol devised by John Cage that consists of leaving it up to chance to juxtapose the artworks, Christian Bernard thus strived to redefine the very principle of exhibiting: “the juxtaposition effects produced by chance enable major and minor artworks to be combined. It was sometimes inaudible and other times incredibly loquacious, polyphonic at times, cacophonic at others, but always sustained, always new.”

A monographic exhibition by Siah Armajani is also presented in three rooms on the third floor. It presents works covering all of his artistic practice, in particular Letters Home (1960), which the artist recently donated to Mamco. Spanning 9 metres, this canvas consists of various pieces of fabric sewn together, like a codex. These bits of fabric feature notes from daily life or poems in Farsi that S. Armajani, for fear of losing the connection with his culture, had scrawled on them upon his arrival in the United States. This incredibly powerful artwork will be presented on two walls of the museum.

On the lower floor, the visitor discovers a variant of “Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle”. This is a poetic way of questioning post-abstraction that is more often qualified as a neo-geo movement. A parody of pictorial radicality, this artistic movement is still the subject of close interest on the part of the museum. Here, it is expressed through the dialogue between, on the one hand, abstract objects, and on the other, figurative paintings–that is, two types of plastic, aesthetic and artistic worlds, that nonetheless do not clearly maintain any theoretical visual community.

Still on the second floor, the reinterpretation of Moulinsart by Francis Baudevin, presented for the first time in 2002 in “Rétroviseur (Loués soient les grands hommes!)” conserves the theme taken from the inside cover of the Tintin albums, but comprises new artworks of different origins.

In the Kino, located on the same floor, David Claerbout’s Radio Piece (2015) will be shown. His “Performed Pictures” exhibition took up the whole floor during the previous cycle. For his part, Peter Downsbrough will present THE[AS, a new film shot at Geneva airport.

Finally, on the first floor, three presentations are showcased: “Hellzapoppin” takes its title from an irrational film by H. C. Potter. Like this production that plays on the classical codes of cinema by adding images taken from other films, the exhibition is presented in the form of a patchwork; its corpus is evolutive, it is transformed with each reinterpretation. As for the two other proposals, they offer a simultaneous dive into the museum collection. Presented today as a parallel to Partage de minuit–whose title refers to Paul Claudel’s Partage de midi (Break of Noon)–“Le Regard du bègue” (“The Stutterer’s Gaze”) was originally its sequel. Proposing a programme brimming with formal and conceptual correspondences, this presentation invited the visitor to probe the darkness in order to discover the affinities between the works. Continuing the same task that consisted in creating an exhibition out of the relationships that are created over time between the artworks in the collection, “Le Regard du bègue” was constructed through double-ups, echoes and other forms of remanence. The method that enabled these pieces to be brought together and arranged relies on the idea that the collection is like the subconscious of the museum and that its elements are distributed there according to a “spectre” of formal, analogous and symbolic criteria.

The basis of “One More Time” is the desire for exhibitions to be remembered and reinvented, by bringing procedures into play that are later reworked for new ones. There is a true process-based support network in the interplay of the collection that was invented over time and results from the attempt to criticize the history of the museum in real time and to preserve the experiences previously undertaken in the rear-view mirror, so that they can fuel the imagination. In this respect, the “Cycle Des Histoires sans fin” (“The Never Ending Stories Cycle”) could not be more appropriately titled.


at Mamco, Geneva
until 24 January 2016

“One More Time: The Exhibition of Our Exhibitions / The Never Ending Stories Cycle” installation views at Mamco, Geneva, 2016

Courtesy: the artists and Mamco, Geneva. Photo: Ilmari Kalkkinen