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le palais de tokyo, un centre POUR LA CRATION CONTEMPORAINE

le palais de tokyo, un centre POUR LA CRATION CONTEMPORAINE

penser la CohrenCe de la programmation dune institution artistique et envisager Ce programme Comme un mdium ; explorer le quotient sChizophrnique de luvre dart et prouver sa CapaCit susCiter interprtations et glissements multiples ; tester llastiCit du rel au travers de lexposition et penser lart Contemporain par ses marges, partir de la sCienCe-fiCtion, de la physique quantique ou enCore de lillusionisme. tels sont quelques-uns des sujets quaborde marC-olivier wahler dans Cet entretien, loCCasion duquel il revient sur sa programmation au palais de tokyo de 2006 2011.

COnsIderIng the COherenCe Of an artIstIC InstItutIOns prOgrammIng, VIewed as a medIum In Itself; explOrIng the sChIzOphrenIC quOtIent Of an artwOrk and experIenCIng Its aBIlIty tO elICIt multIple and shIftIng InterpretatIOns; testIng the elastICIty Of realIty thrOugh the exhIBItIOn, and apprOaChIng COntempOrary art VIa Its margIns, frOm the pOInt Of VIew Of sCIenCe fICtIOn, quantIC physICs, Or IllusIOnIsm. these are a few Of the suBjeCts that marC-OlIVIer walher addresses In thIs InterVIew, durIng whICh he reexamInes hIs prOgram at the palaIs de tOkyO frOm 2006 tO 2011.

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de lexposition au programme from the exhBition to the Program


INTERVIEW marC-olivier wahler

Nous sommes au dbut du XXIe sicle lorsque tu arrives au Palais de Tokyo Paris. Le XXe sicle aura vu le triomphe du centre dart et de son modle alternatif au muse, lavnement de lexposition comme forme et du commissaire dexposition ou curateur comme nouvel oprateur symbolique de lart. Mais il aura aussi marqu, dj, lessoufflement de ces diffrents modles. Comment penser, partir de cet essoufflement, de nouvelles formes du centre dart, de nouvelles fonctions du commissaire et de nouveaux formats de lexposition?

Christophe kihm You a rrived at Palais de Tokyo in Paris at the dawn of the 21st century. The 20th century saw the triumph of the art center and its model as an alternative to the museum, the advent of the exhibition format, and of the curator as the new symbolic art operative. Yet during this period, these different models have already lost steam. Based on that, how can we consider new forms of the art center, new functions for the curator and new formats for exhibitions? Marc-Olivier Wahler I think its essential, when directing a space for the arts, to rethink its structure, concerns, and possibiliMarc-Olivier Wahler ties. We shouldnt forget that the art center, the KunJe pense quil est essentiel, quand on dirige un sthalle, is an emanation of the 19th century, initiated lieu dart, de repenser sa structure, ses enjeux by artists themselves in reaction to the museum. et ses possibilits. Il ne faut pas oublier que le 1 centre dart, la Kunsthalle, est une manation du XIXe sicle, ini- Since then, this structure has always played an important role between tie par les artistes eux-mmes en raction au muse. Depuis, the institutional legacy of the museum and the commercial gallery. As cette structure a toujours jou un rle important entre le muse such, the art center has occupied a median position for some time: it vocation patrimoniale et la galerie commerciale. Le centre dart could promote artists who were not established enough to exhibit in a ainsi occup pendant longtemps une place mdiane: il pouvait museums, but who produced artworks that could ideally dodge the compromouvoir des artistes qui ntaient pas assez connus pour entrer mercial system. This trilogy worked. However, faced with the success of

Christophe kihm

dans un muse, tout en produisant des uvres dart qui idalement pouvaient chapper au systme commercial. Cette trilogie a fonctionn. Or, devant le succs des centres dart, les muses aussi bien que les galeries ont commenc vouloir jouer le mme rle. Les centres dart ont, quant eux, fait appel aux muses pour exposer des uvres patrimoniales et aux galeries pour produire des uvres. Au cours des trente ou quarante dernires annes, on a assist un mlange des genres provoquant lindistinction de ces trois modles. Toute dissolution de catgories est salutaire, mais cette dernire sest accomplie au dtriment de lexposition, qui demeure pourtant une condition essentielle lexprience de lart: les annes 1980 et 1990 ont marqu le passage dun art orient exposition vers un art orient vnement, notamment sous linfluence du succs grandissant des foires dart et des ventes aux enchres, et mme, dans une certaine mesure, des biennales. Ck Comment distinguer une exposition dun vnement? MOW Un vnement est un point fixe dans le temps et lespace. Une foire, par exemple, dure quatre ou cinq jours et se concentre sur des produits individuels, des bnfices chiffrs, des types de collectionneurs et des stratgies de vente. Une biennale dure environ trois mois. Il ny a pas davant ni daprs. Lexposition peut, sous certaines conditions, tre structure comme un vnement: un vernissage, un finissage, point. Mais pourquoi aligner une exposition aprs une autre? Le centre dart peut encore assumer un rle majeur partir du moment o il ne se dfinit pas comme un rceptacle dexpositions, mais o il se pense comme un laboratoire portant une rflexion sur lexposition comme moyen de connaissance. Ck Il en va donc dune structure spcifique du lieu MOW Pour quun outil soit efficace, il faut que la plateforme qui laccueille soit efficace. Le Palais de Tokyo a t conu selon le modle de la Kunsthalle, un modle quon retrouve galement lorigine de P.S.1: une structure lgre, ractive, avec une certaine vitesse dexcution qui peut rpondre celle des artistes. Les artistes jouissent dune libert qui leur accorde une grande ractivit. Le dfi, pour le directeur dun lieu dart (Nicolas Bourriaud et Jrme Sans lavaient parfaitement compris), est dlaborer une structure assez souple susceptible de se transformer sous limpulsion et en fonction des propositions des artistes. En sadaptant leur vitesse, linstitution peut combler son invitable retard sur les artistes. Ck Ce qui laisserait entendre que la fonction dun directeur de centre dart se rsume avant tout librer les conditions de travail les meilleures pour les artistes? MOW Tout fait. Les artistes ont les ides: le rle dun directeur, cest denvisager comment ces ides peuvent simplmenter dans diffrentes logiques structurelles. Il doit orchestrer des quilibres. Cest pourquoi il est important quun directeur puisse aussi tre curateur et quun curateur puisse aussi tre directeur et dvelopper la fois des outils, des structures assez lgres et rapides pour permettre aux artistes de sexprimer, et disposer de la folie ncessaire pour suivre des artistes dans des domaines fascinants, voire certaines fois effrayants. Je pense lexposition de Christophe Bchel (Dump), par exemple, qui, si le Palais de Tokyo ne disposait pas dune structure permettant prise de risque et ractivit, naurait jamais pu avoir lieu.

art centers, museums and galleries began to want to play the same role. Art centers, in turn, have appealed to museums to exhibit canonical works and to galleries to produce works. In the course of the last thirty or forty years, we have seen a mix of genres, resulting in the blur2 ring of the three models. All dissolution of categories should be commended, but this one occurred to the detriment of the exhibition, which still remains an essential condition for the art experience: The 1980s and 1990s marked the passage from art oriented toward the exhibition to art oriented toward the event, particularly through the influence of the increasing success of art fairs and auctions, and even, to a certain extent, of biennials.
Ck

How do you distinguish an exhibition from an event?


MOW

An event is a fixed point in space and time. A fair, for example, lasts for four or five days and is concentrated on individual products, numbered profits, types of collectors and sales strategies. A biennial lasts around three months. There is no before or after. The exhibition can, under certain conditions, be structured like an event: an opening, a closing, thats it. But why line up one exhibition after another? The art center can still play an important role if only it doesnt define itself as a container for exhibitions, but rather sees itself as a laboratory, reflecting on the exhibition as a means of acquiring knowledge.
Ck

So its the specific structure of the place...


MOW 183

For a tool to be effective, the structure that houses it must be effective. The Palais de Tokyo was conceived following the model of the Kunsthalle, a model also at the origin of P.S. 1: a responsive, loose structure with a speed of execution able to match that of the artists. Artists enjoyed a freedom that allowed them a great deal of free reign. For the director of an arts space (Nicolas Bourriaud and Jrme Sans understood this perfectly), the challenge is developing a flexible structure, able to transform itself under the impulse of the artists initiatives and proposals. By adapting to their speed, the institution is no longer constantly lagging behind artistic creation.
Ck

Which would suggest that the function of the director of an art center comes down primarily to creating the best working conditions for artists?
MOW

Exactly. Artists have the ideas; the role of a director is to figure out how these ideas can be implemented in different structures. He has to orchestrate a balanced system. Thats why its important for a director to also be a curator and for a curator to also be a directorsimultaneously developing tools and structures dynamic enough to allow artists full expression, while possessing the madness necessary to follow artists into fascinating, even frightening, realms. Im thinking of Christophe Bchels exhibition (Dump), for example, which could never have happened if the Palais de Tokyo wasnt structurally responsive and equipped to take risks.
Ck

Do you subscribe to the definition of the curator that focuses mainly on producing the conditions for the presentation and visibility of the artworks?

the palais de tokyo, a center for contemporary creation

the palais de tokyo, a center for contemporary creation

le palais de tokyo, un centre POUR LA CRATION CONTEMPORAINE

le palais de tokyo, un centre POUR LA CRATION CONTEMPORAINE

Ck

MOW

Partages-tu cette dfinition de la fonction du commissaire dexposition qui insiste essentiellement sur la production des conditions de prsentation et de visibilit des uvres?
MOW Un curateur est un peu comme un coach: il essaie de mettre en vidence les qualits inhrentes aux lments dont il dispose. Prenons par exemple le coach dune quipe de football: il dispose dun certain nombre de joueurs, mais ce nest pas lui qui va marquer les buts. Son travail consiste faire en sorte que chaque joueur puisse sexprimer de la meilleure manire. Les qualits de chaque joueur peuvent ainsi contribuer lefficacit et la beaut du jeu. Le curateur connat mieux que personne les spcificits et les contraintes du lieu dont il soccupe. Il est celui qui peut permettre la production des conditions optimales de la prsence, voire de lefficacit des uvres dans un contexte donn. Ck Lorsque je tavais rencontr, ton arrive au Palais de Tokyo, tu insistais beaucoup sur ta volont de placer lartiste au centre du centre. quelle ncessit rpond cette position? MOW Les artistes disposent dune libert de rflexion et formulent des ides qui ne correspondent en rien celles dun curateur. Outre les Kunsthalle, les lieux les plus innovants ont toujours t penss par des artistes. Lorsque je propose des cartes blanches aux artistes Ugo Rondinone, Jeremy Deller, Adam McEwen et John Armleder , je ne les invite pas enfiler le costume de curateur dexpositions. Il ny aurait l rien de nouveau. Je les invite exposer leur cerveau, cest-dire dplier tout ce qui a pu transformer et influencer leur travail, travers des rfrences qui, aujourdhui, ne sont plus intra-artistiques, mais ancres dans notre quotidien et dans une diversit culturelle quils mettent en perspective et rinterprtent avec leur propre langage. Cette carte blanche dpasse la simple exposition, puisque lartiste peut agir sur tous les lments qui composent un programme et, partant, reconfigurer lidentit du lieu qui linvite. Un centre dart ne peut plus aujourdhui faire lconomie dune rflexion sur les outils qui participent llaboration de ses expositions, mais aussi sur tout ce qui contribue la construction de son identit sa gestion, son architecture, sa pdagogie, sa ligne graphique, ses espaces satellitaires Ck Tu viens dvoquer le programme, notion qui compte normment et dans ta conception de la structure du centre dart et comme rponse critique lexposition comme vnement. Peut-on revenir sur cette notion en retournant vers la premire impulsion du programme initi au Palais de Tokyo, lexposition Cinq milliards dannes? MOW Tout commence en effet avec Cinq milliards dannes1, prologue dune histoire venir. En lisant le New York Times, japprends que suite un chambardement cosmique, il y a cinq milliards dannes, lexpansion de lunivers qui jusqualors avait tendance ralentir sest acclre de manire inexorable. Il ny a pas de point fixe dans lunivers et il ny en aura jamais, comme la dfinitivement dmontr Albert Einstein. Depuis la Renaissance, on a pris lhabitude de voir une uvre dart comme un point fixe, comme une fentre isole de son contexte.

A curator is a bit like a coach: He tries to bring out the inherent qualities of the elements at his disposal. Lets take for example the coach of a soccer team: Hes in charge of a certain number of players, but he isnt the one who scores the goals. His work consists of making sure that each player is able to perform to the best of his or her abilities. The qualities of each player can also contribute to the effectiveness and beauty of the game. The curator knows better than anyone the particularities, the strengths and weaknesses of the place hes in charge of. He can enable the production of optimal conditions for the presence, or even the effectiveness, of the works in a given context.
Ck

When we first met, just as you arrived at Palais de Tokyo, you insisted on your commitment to placing the artist at the center of the institution. What is this position a response to a specific need?
MOW

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Artists possess freedom of thought and formulate ideas that dont correspond at all to those of a curator. Along with the Kunsthalle, the most innovative places were always created by artists. When I give carte blanche to artists like Ugo Rondinone, Jeremy Deller, Adam McEwen, or John Armleder, Im not asking them to don the suit of curator. That wouldnt be anything new. Im inviting them to exhibit their mindsto display everything that might have transformed and influenced their work, through references that today arent just art historical, but are rooted in everyday life and in a cultural diversity that they put into perspective and reinterpret with their own language. This carte blanche goes beyond the simple exhibition, since the artist can have an effect on all the elements that compose a program and hence reconfigure the identity of the space that hosts it. An art center today cant afford not to reflect 4 3 on the tools involved in the development of its exhibitions, as well as on everything that contributes to constructing its identityits administration, architecture, teaching methods, visual style, satellite locations
Ck

Cette vision-fentre a grandement influenc notre manire de percevoir, au point o elle dtermine encore en grande partie notre apprhension du monde. Pourtant, notre cerveau ne fonctionne pas ainsi: il ne se structure pas en passant dun point fixe un autre, mais travers la connexion illimite et en continu de synapses qui voyagent la vitesse de la lumire. On nous a appris aborder le visible partir dun point de vue idal, isol de son contexte, visiter les expositions en passant dun tableau un autre en faisant abstraction des cimaises et du contexte, mme si cette vision-fentre a bien fini par plier un peu sous les coups de boutoir des artistes du XXe sicle, ne serait-ce qu travers les objets transitifs de lart minimal sur lesquels le regard ne peut que glisser lobjet est volontairement insignifiant du mur au plafond et du plafond lensemble des lments qui structurent lespace. Cinq milliards dannes tait une ten4 tative de comprhension du visible, de ce qui est donn voir. Elle tait galement une analyse de llasticit du temps et de llasticit du rel: lexposition commenait avec des choses trs ordinaires (une moto, un homme qui marche dans un tunnel) et plus on senfonait dans lespace, plus le quotidien sestompait au profit dun univers plus abstrait. Jusquo peut-on tirer la ralit avant quelle ne se dchire? Inversement, jusquo peut-on tirer lart vers la ralit? Y a-t-il des moments de friction, de dchirement, ou bien lart et le rel possdent-ils une lasticit sans limite? Ce questionnement du visible sest poursuivi avec les sessions suivantes. M, Nouvelles du monde renvers se construisait autour dartistes comme Tatiana Trouv, Michel Blazy2, Dewar et Gicquel3, Peter Coffin, Joe Coleman et David Noonan, qui proposent chacun un univers o la ralit reste prsente, mais se rvle comme plie par une force de gravitation inconnue. La Marque noire, centre autour de la personnalit de Steven Parrino4, mettait en vidence les rseaux de capillarit entre des pratiques apparemment htrognes, comme les courses de Hot Rod des annes 1950, lart minimal et la noise music. Avec Cellar Door de Loris Graud5, le visible se confondait de plus en plus avec le spectaculaire: un terrain de paintball se transformait en Merzbau, qui son tour se transformait en opra. Avec Superdome, le visible questionnait ses propres limites, ses propres excs. ct dun lphant en quilibre sur sa trompe (Daniel Firman6) et dune exposition qui se ddoublait dans le muse voisin (Jonathan Monk), trois tonnes de dchets cachaient lunivers sidrant de Christoph Bchel7; la chorale de trois cents Dark Vador entonnait le hit le plus sombre de lhistoire, compos par un algorithme imagin par Fabien Giraud et Raphal Siboni8; Arcangelo Sassolino, au moyen dun norme canon, propulsait dans lespace des bouteilles de bire la vitesse dune balle de revolver Que se passe-t-il lorsquon questionne les limites du visible? On sort du spectre lumineux, on tombe dun ct ou de lautre du spectre lectromagntique, dans les infrabasses, les ultrasons, les ultraviolets, dans un domaine qui chappe au visible. Gakona, exposition dont le titre reprenait le nom du lieu-dit situ au milieu de lAlaska o larme amricaine conduit des expriences sur lionosphre, invitait des artistes tels que Micol Assal9, Ceal Floyer, Laurent Grasso et Roman Signer tester les limites de notre perception. Si larc lectrique produit par les deux parapluies de Roman

You just mentioned the program, a notion that counts enormously in your conception of the structure of the art center and as a critical response to the exhibition as event. Can we come back to this notion by discussing what first sparked the program initiated at the Palais de Tokyo, the exhibition Five Billion Years?
MOW

Indeed, everything started with Five Billion Years,1 it was a prologue of things to come. While reading the New York Times, I learned that after a cosmic disturbance five billion years ago, the expansion of the universe, which until then was actually slowing down, accelerated inexorably. There is no fixed point in the universe and there will never be one, as Albert Einstein definitively showed. Since the Renaissance, we have become accustomed to looking at a work of art as a fixed point in space and time, as a window isolated from its context. This window-vision greatly influenced our way of perception, to the extent that it still determines in a large part our apprehension of the world. However, our brain does not work this way: it isnt structured to go from one fixed point to the next, but rather to travel at the speed of light across the continuous and unlimited connection of syn-

apses. We were taught to approach the visible from an ideal standpoint, isolated from its context; to visit exhibitions by passing from one painting to another without taking into account the wall hangings or surroundings, even if this window vision ended up giving a little under the attack of 20th century artists (for example through the transitive objects of Minimal Art over which the eye merely slides the object is deliberately insignificantfrom the wall to the ceiling and from the ceiling to all of the elements that structure the space). Five Billion Years was an attempt to understand the visible, whats there to see. It was also an analysis of the elasticity of time and the elasticity of reality: The exhibition began with very ordinary things (a motorcycle, a man walking down a tunnel). The more you delved into the space, the more the everyday faded away in favor of a more abstract universe. How far can you stretch reality before it rips? Conversely, how far can you pull art towards reality? Are there moments of friction, of tearing? Or do art and reality possess a limitless elasticity? This questioning of the visible was prolonged with the following sessions. M. News from the upside-down was constructed around artists like Tatiana Trouv, Michel Blazy2, Dewar & Gicquel3, Peter Coffin, Joe Coleman, and David Noonan. Each created a universe where reality was present but was altered by an unknown force of gravitation. La Marque Noire, centered on Steven Parrino4 , brought to light the capillarity networks between apparently heterogeneous practices, such as the Hot Rod races of the 1950s, Minimal Art and noise music. With Cellar Door by Loris Graud5, the visible merged more and more with the spectacular: a paintball field turned into Merzbau, which then turned into an opera. With Superdome, the visible questioned its own limits, its own excesses. Next to an elephant balancing on its trunk (Daniel Firman6) and to an exhibition that spilled over into the neighboring museum (Jonathan Monk), three tons of trash hid the astonishing universe of Christoph Bchel7; a chorus of three hundred Darth Vaders struck up the most somber hit in history, composed by an algorithm created by Fabien Giraud and Raphal Siboni8; Arcangelo Sassolino, using an enormous cannon, shot bottles of beer into the air at the speed of a bullet What happens when we attempt to move beyond the visible? We leave behind the visible spectrum and find ourselves on either side of the electromagnetic spectrum, of sub-bass, of infrasonic sound, ultraviolet raysin a field that escapes from the visible. Gakona an exhibition that took its title from a place, located in the middle of Alaska, where the American army conducts experiments on the ionosphere. For Gakona, we invited artists like Micol Assal9 , Ceal Floyer, Laurent Grasso and Roman Signer to test the limits of our perception. If the electric arc produced by Roman Signers two umbrellas (Parapluie, 2009) remained spectacular, the visible disintegrated to the point of disappearing com5 pletely in Micol Assals electromagnetic streams (Chizhevsky Lessons, 2007). Even less perceptible, radio waves washed over the entire session of Spy Numbers,10 an exhibition built around a tower continuously broadcasting coded messages in the form of series of numbers. Finally, what happens when we step out of the electromagnetic spectrum? We disappear. That was the subject of the exhibition Chasing

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the palais de tokyo, a center for contemporary creation

the palais de tokyo, a center for contemporary creation

le palais de tokyo, un centre POUR LA CRATION CONTEMPORAINE

le palais de tokyo, un centre POUR LA CRATION CONTEMPORAINE

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Signer (Parapluie, 2009) restait spectaculaire, le visible se dlitait jusqu disparatre compltement avec les flux lectromagntiques de Micol Assal (Chizhevsky Lessons, 2007). Encore moins perceptibles, les ondes radio irriguaient toute la session de Spy Numbers10 , exposition dont le centre tait une tour diffusant sans discontinuit des messages cods sous forme de suites de chiffres. Enfin, que se passe-t-il lorsquon sort du spectre lectromagntique? On disparat. Ce fut le sujet de lexposition Chasing Napoleon11, dont le point de dpart tait le personnage dUnabomber, avec son obsession de la disparition, de labsence, de linvisibilit, de la furtivit, etc. Jai parcouru le dveloppement de ce programme et je me suis pos une dernire question: o va-t-on une fois quon a disparu? Question difficile dont certains lments de rponse mont t donns par le livre de Christopher Priest, Le Prestige (publi en 1995 par Gollancz). Christopher Priest nous rappelle que tout tour de magie comporte trois tapes: The Pledge (la prsentation), au cours de laquelle le magicien montre son public ce qui est visible, par exemple un oiseau lintrieur dune cage; la deuxime tape, The Turn (la transformation), au cours de laquelle le magicien recouvre par exemple la cage dun drap, la frappe de sa baguette, puis retire le drap. Plus de cage, plus doiseau. The Turn, cest la transformation du visible dans un processus de disparition. O vont donc ces lments qui disparaissent? Vient alors la troisime tape, The Prestige, la rapparition de ce qui avait disparu: loiseau sort de la poche du magicien. partir de ce dcoupage, jai chafaud une suite au cycle dexpositions entam au Palais de Tokyo, mais elle doit se manifester ailleurs: les objets ne rapparaissent jamais l o ils avaient disparu. Le programme qui a pu se faire au Palais de Tokyo va donc continuer dune autre faon, dans un autre lieu, dans dautres conditions. En dfinitive, jai construit chapitre par chapitre une histoire de prsentation, de transformation, de disparition, pour en arriver une rapparition qui va se faire ailleurs. Ck Lorsque tu racontes ce programme, tu numres des questions. Est-ce que ce rcit fonctionne par des relais de questions? MOW Je commence avec des questions. Je poursuis avec des questions. Je termine avec des questions. Mais la finalit ne rside pas dans les questions, il sagit chaque fois dactiver un mode de perception. Ck Le programme est donc une sorte de rcit, constitu et complt par des expositions, qui enveloppe le centre dart et lui imprime ses rythmes MOW Lide de programme dcoule naturellement de la rflexion sur labsence de points fixes. Si on admet quune exposition se dfinit par une composition duvres dart, alors, que serait une composition dexpositions? Un programme, lvidence. Et si on constate que lexposition est devenue depuis plusieurs dcennies un vritable mdium, il faut galement considrer le programme comme un mdium part entire. Pour dpasser lexposition comme point fixe ou vnement, il faut donc lintgrer dans un ensemble qui la dpasse. Le Palais de Tokyo est ainsi devenu un laboratoire pour la dfinition et llaboration du mdium programme, compris comme un outil de rflexion, de connaissance et de mise en pers-

Napoleon,11 whose starting point was the Unabomber and his obsession with disappearing, absence, invisibility, concealment, etc. I looked over the development of this program and asked myself one final question: where does one go after one has disappeared? A difficult question Certain elements of its answer were given to me by the book The Prestige by Christopher Priest (published in 1995 by Gollancz). Christopher Priest explains that a magic trick is always made up of three fundamental steps. The first is the pledge, during which the magician presents to the audience something visible: for example, a bird in a cage. The second step is the turnthe transformation, during which, for example, the magician drapes a sheet over the cage, prods it with his wand, the removes the sheet. 6 No more cage, no more bird. The turn is the transformation of the visible in a process of disappearance. Where do the vanished elements go? This is when the third and final step takes place: the prestige, or reappearance of that which had vanished. The bird flies out of the magicians pocket. Based on this sequence, I elaborated a continuation of the exhibition cycle started at the Palais de Tokyo. But it must manifest itself elsewhere: Objects never appear and reappear in the same place. The program that unfolded at the Palais de Tokyo will thus continue in another manner, in a different place, under different conditions. In the end, I constructed chapter by chapter a story of presentation, transformation, and disappearance, in order to arrive at a reappearance that will take place elsewhere.
Ck

When you discuss the program, you list off questions. Does this narrative function through relaying questions?
MOW

I begin with questions; I proceed with questions; I finish with questions. But the goal does not lie in the questionseach time its about activating a mode of perception.
Ck

The program is then a sort of narrative, constituted of and completed by the exhibitions, which envelops the art center and imprints it with its rhythms
MOW

The concept of the program stems naturally from our thoughts on the absence of fixed points. If we say that an exhibition is defined by a composition of artworks, well, what would be a composition of exhibitions? A program, of course. And if we can see that the exhibition has been for decades a genuine medium, we must also consider the program as a medium in its own right. To move beyond the notion of the exhibition as fixed point or event, it is necessary to integrate it into a whole system that goes beyond it. The Palais de Tokyo has thus become a laboratory for the definition and development of the program as a medium, understood as a tool of reflection, knowledge and perspective, not only of the works and exhibitions, 7 but also of the program itself. I was fortunate that the space of the Palais de Tokyo itself was large enough to allow multiple exhibitions to unfold simultaneously, which made it possible to schedule rich combinations. Three sessions per year; each lasting three months, were structured according to four different

pective, non seulement des uvres et des expositions, mais galement du programme lui-mme. Au Palais de Tokyo, jai eu la chance de disposer dun espace assez grand pour proposer plusieurs expositions simultanment, ouvrant le programme de riches combinatoires. Trois sessions par anne, chaque session de trois mois se structurant selon quatre rythmes diffrents: il y a des expositions qui durent la dure totale de la session, des expositions de six semaines, des expositions dun mois et des confrences ou performances dun soir. Le programme gnre ainsi un systme narratif et comme dans tout rcit, les arcs varient en longueur, en rythme et en intensit. Tout concourt intgrer luvre dart et lexposition dans un systme o ce que lon pourrait appeler la tentation du point fixe est annihil. Cette construction sest faite de manire intuitive, au fil des rencontres avec les artistes, au cours du programme. Il ny avait pas, au dpart, de plan prtabli, chapitre aprs chapitre. Je ne connaissais pas lhistoire. Elle sest crite au fur et mesure et sa cohrence sapprcie rtrospectivement. Ck Si on devait qualifier la structure du programme, il me semble quon pourrait souligner ses dimensions cosmiques MOW Un programme ne se construit pas en rseau ferm. Chaque session dessine en quelque sorte des cercles concentriques qui conduisent dautres aventures, aimantent dautres lments, dautres rflexions. Chacune gravite en effet comme un ensemble de plantes autour de Cinq milliards dannes. Cet ensemble intgre galement un certain nombre de satellites, comme Hotel Everland12 (le projet dhtel sur le toit du btiment, conu par Lang & Baumann), Nomiya (le restaurant conu par Laurent Grasso), les Chalets de Tokyo (le programme international du Palais de Tokyo), les Chteaux de Tokyo (ses universits dt), les quatorze numros du magazine Palais, les cinq volumes Du yodel la physique quantique, sans oublier les Modules, un programme de deux trois expositions mensuelles consacres aux artistes mergents. Si on traduit froidement ces cinq annes de programme en chiffres, on peut compter dix-neuf sessions, cent quatre-vingt-douze expositions, six cent cinquante-trois artistes exposs et sept cent soixante-quatre vnements pour un million et cent dix mille visiteurs. Ck Quelle est, justement, la place du visiteur dans ce programme? MOW Une session en amne une autre et il faut que le spectateur se dise, partir de ce quil voit, de ce quil entend et de ce quil lit: Je comprends mieux ce qui sest pass dans la session prcdente. Je peux imaginer ce qui va se passer dans la suivante. Le visiteur doit tre intgr dans une histoire en train de scrire, il doit percevoir les indices qui se dvoilent dexpositions en expositions, de sessions en sessions, et comme dans un bon film suspense, imaginer des potentialits multiples comme autant de rponses au bout de sa langue. Car ce ne sont pas les rponses qui importent, mais la dynamique qui rsulte dune qute sans cesse relance. Ck Revenons sur les expositions. Jai le sentiment que certains modles dexposition ne correspondent en rien ce que tu essaies de faire. Lexposition thmatique, par exemple, qui met luvre en position dillustration dun discours et nous renvoie ses capacits de reprsentation. Ton intrt pour limplmentation se double ncessairement dun souci de lespace

tempos: the shows that lasted for the duration of the session, shows that lasted six weeks or only a month, and conferences and performances on a single evening. In this way, the program generates a narrative system, and like in all narratives, the arcs vary in length, rhythm and intensity. It all converges to integrate the work of art and the exhibition into a system where what one could call the temptation of the fixed point is done away with. This construction was done intuitively, through meeting with the artists, as the program unfolded. At the beginning, there was no pre-established plan structured chapter after chapter. I didnt know the story. It was written as we went along and its coherence can be appreciated in retrospect.
Ck

If you had to qualify the structure of the program, it seems to me that you could underline its cosmic dimensions
MOW

A program isnt built in a closed network. In a way, each session draws concentric circles that lead to other adventures, attracting other elements, other considerations. Indeed, each one gravitates like a group of planets around Five Billion Years. This group also integrates a certain number of satellites, like Hotel Everland12 (the hotel project located on the roof of the building, designed by Lang & Baumann), Nomiya (the restaurant devised by Laurent Grasso), the Chalets de Tokyo (the Palais de Tokyos inter8 national program), the Chteaux de Tokyo (its summer universities), the fourteen issues of the magazine Palais, the five volumes of From Yodeling to Quantum Physics. We must not forget the Modules, a program of two or three monthly exhibitions dedicated to emerging artists. Just listing these five program years in plain numbers, we can count 19 sessions, 192 exhibitions, 653 exhibited artists and 764 events for 1,110,000 visitors.
Ck

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What precisely is the place of the visitor in this program?


MOW

Each session leads to the next. We hoped that a visitor might think, based on what he sees, hears and reads: Now Im better able to understand what took place in the previous session; I can now imagine what will happen in the next. The visitor must be integrated into the story as it is being written, he must perceive the clues that unveil themselves from exhibition to exhibition and session to session, and, like in a good suspense film, imagine the multiple endings like so many questions hovering on the tip of the tongue. For its not the answers that matter, but the dynamic that results from an endlessly relaunched investigation.
Ck

Lets return to the exhibitions. I have the feeling that certain exhibition models do not correspond at all to what you are trying to do. The thematic exhibition, for example, that uses the artwork to illustrate a discourse and highlights its functions of representation. Your interest in implementation is necessarily coupled with a concern about the physical space, architectural and atmospheric qualities of a place, its lighting, passage, points of viewBut even further, if everything needs to function in the space and even in space, then its the space that needs to be energized, through the play of distance and attraction between the works.

the palais de tokyo, a center for contemporary creation

the palais de tokyo, a center for contemporary creation

le palais de tokyo, un centre POUR LA CRATION CONTEMPORAINE

le palais de tokyo, un centre POUR LA CRATION CONTEMPORAINE

physique, des qualits architecturales et atmosphriques dun lieu, de sa lumire, de ses circulations, de ses points de vue Mais plus loin, si tout doit fonctionner dans lespace et mme en espace, alors, cest lespace qui doit tre mis sous tension, travers le jeu de lespacement et de lattraction entre les uvres.
MOW Je suis devenu de plus en plus conscient, au fil des annes, de la particularit du mdium exposition. Un film, un livre, une pice de thtre nous imposent dtre en face ou autour du mdium. Lexposition est le seul mdium qui se traverse physiquement. En se dplaant, notre corps sactive dans un systme de correspondances physiques avec les uvres. Il faut un certain temps pour marcher dune uvre lautre, et ce temps est particulier chaque visiteur: il dpend de son tat physique et psychologique. Jai t de plus en plus sensible un second point en dveloppant ma pratique de curateur et en discutant avec des artistes, notamment Ceal Floyer: lespace ngatif de luvre. En tant que curateur, videmment, je suis intress par les uvres. Toute exposition est compose duvres. Pourtant, ce ne sont pas les uvres qui occupent le plus de volume, mais lespace entre les uvres. Et si la tche du curateur tait justement la gestion de cet espace ngatif? Puisque cest aprs tout cet espace que traverse le visiteur, puisque ses alles et venues entre les uvres dessinent une chorgraphie chaque fois renouvele. Lexposition est reue et comprise prioritairement avec le corps, dans une faon de se mouvoir dans lespace, dans une manire de dcouvrir et de rflchir avec son corps. Ck Quelle est ta mthode pour construire une exposition? MOW Pour moi, les uvres et lespace qui les accueillent dictent leurs lois. Au dbut, deux ou trois uvres simposent dans lespace et fonctionnent comme des sortes dchangeurs autour desquels lexposition va sarticuler. Le lien entre chaque uvre est primordial: il dtermine la couleur, lnergie, la dynamique de lexposition. On ne doit jamais laisser se dvelopper limpression quune exposition est au service dune histoire prcise ou, pire, dune thorie quelconque. Jessaie de construire des expositions qui ne puissent pas se dcliner dans un catalogue. Dans la mesure o lexposition est lmanation dun lieu prcis, je nai jamais fait circuler dexpositions: celles que jai ralises au CAN Neuchtel ne ressemblaient en rien celles que jai faites au Swiss Institute de New York, et le programme du Swiss Institute ne partageait que peu de choses avec celui que jai pu mener au Palais de Tokyo Il mest impossible de connatre le rsultat dune exposition avant de voir quels liens chaque uvre va tisser avec son voisinage. Ce dernier point est lorigine de certains problmes mdiatiques Je peux bien crire quelque chose dans un communiqu de presse pour contenter les journalistes, mais cela ne correspond jamais lexposition. Lexposition, je ne la vois vraiment quune fois les uvres leur place et je ne la comprends vraiment que deux semaines aprs le vernissage Idalement, je devrais pouvoir crire un communiqu de presse aprs coup. Ck Jaimerais tinterroger sur un point qui renvoie ta formation acadmique, tes tudes de philosophie et plus prcisment encore la philosophie analytique: luvre dart et lexprience esthtique sont dtermines spatialement, mais aussi par des conditions de lecture et dinterprtation. Comment lexposition peut-elle aussi djouer ces conditions?

MOW

I have become more and more aware, over the years, of the particularity of the exhibition medium. A film, a book, or a play force us to face the medium or to be around it. The exhibition is the only medium that you can physically move through. By moving, our body enters into a system of physical correspondences with the works. It takes a certain amount of time to walk from one work to the next, and this time is particular to each visitor: it depends on his or her physical and psychological state. I became more and more sensitive to a second point in developing my practice as curator and in talking with artists, especially Ceal Floyer: that is, the negative space of the artwork. Of course, as curator, I am interested in the works. All exhibitions are made up of works. Nevertheless, its not the works that fill the most volume, but the space between the works. And what if the task of the curator was precisely the management of this negative space? After all, this is the space that visitors walk through, their comings and goings between the works creating a new choreography each time. The exhibition is received and understood with the body most of all, in the way it moves in the space, in its manner of discovering and reflecting with the body.
Ck

What is your method for constructing an exhibition?


MOW

188

For me, the works and the space that houses them impose their laws. At the start, two or three works impose themselves in the space and function as kinds of junctures, around which the exhibition develops. The link between each work is fundamental: it determines the color, the energy, the dynamics of the exhibition. One must never give the impression that an exhibition serves to illustrate a given story or, worse, some theory. I try to construct exhibitions that cant be transcribed in a cat9 alogue. Insofar as the exhibition is the emanation of a precise place, I have never exported exhibitions: the ones that I created at the CAN in Neuchtel did not at all resemble those that I did at the Swiss Institute of New York, and the program of the Swiss Institute has very little in common with the one Ive headed at the Palais de TokyoIts impossible for me to know the result of an exhibition before seeing the connections each work weaves with its neighbors. This last point is the source of some problems with the mediaI can easily write something in a press release to satisfy the journalists, but it will never truly reflect the exhibition. I only really see the exhibition once the works are in place, and I dont really understand it until two weeks after the openingIdeally, Id be able to write a press release after the fact.
Ck

Id like to ask you about a point that goes back to your academic education, your studies in philosophy and, to be more precise, analytic philosophy: The artwork and the aesthetic experience are determined spatially but also by the conditions of reception and interpretation. How can the exhibition also evade these conditions?
MOw

The question of language is essential. To someone who tells me, I dont understand anything in this exhibition, I would answer, jovi-

MOW La question du langage est essentielle. quelquun qui vient me dire Je ne comprends rien cette exposition, je rponds, trs enjou, que cest tout fait normal. Premirement, il faut toujours se demander avec quel langage on parle. Il est intressant de constater, ce titre, quon a rarement adress cette question au monde de lart. Pour expliquer quelque chose, dans ce monde, on a toujours recours au spcialiste, lhistorien et au critique dart, qui viennent chacun avec leur bagage intellectuel et linguistique expliquer ce qui est en jeu. Or, un penseur comme John Searle, qui a beaucoup rflchi sur la signification de linstitution dans sa forme conomique, politique, artistique ou autre et dans ce sens le monde de lart constitue bel et bien une institution , a tabli avec justesse que toute institution se dfinit par son langage. John Searle pose une question essentielle: peut-on parler dune institution en utilisant un langage qui a t dvelopp par cette institution? Peut-on parler du muse avec le langage dfini par ceuxl mme qui soccupent du muse? On sait que dans les sciences, ce problme a t rsolu depuis longtemps. Pour parler dune science, il faut dvelopper un langage qui nest pas format par son domaine de connaissance. En art, on le voit bien, le langage quon utilise est totalement format de lintrieur. Pour paraphraser le philosophe John Welchman, au lieu danalyser les uvres en prsupposant le langage, nous ferions mieux danalyser le rle du langage dans la constitution des uvres. Do cette ide, au Palais de Tokyo, de parler de tout sauf de lart contemporain. Je me suis attel cette tche en pointant, en dehors du monde de lart, dans divers domaines de connaissance, des faons de faire, des faons de voir, des grilles de lecture qui permettent dexpliciter ce que lart met en jeu. On parlera donc dart contemporain par la marge. Ck Les lieux sont dtermins par leurs conditions matrielles et historiques, mais ils sont aussi dfinis par des conditions idologiques et thoriques. Pour ce qui te concerne, tu as dvelopp au fil du temps un certain nombre dides qui tont aid penser les uvres dart, leurs proprits, leurs qualits, et ont orient ta rflexion concernant lexposition et ses espaces. Tu voques souvent le coefficient schizophrnique de luvre dart. De quoi sagit-il? MOW Un centre dart, en tant quoutil au service de visiteurs, devrait tre un lieu o se dveloppe une vritable hygine de lesprit. Une hygine de lesprit, cest une faon de voir et daborder notre monde: et lart propose des moyens privilgis pour y parvenir. La notion de quotient schizophrnique dune uvre dart appartiendrait plutt la pataphysique. Elle sexplique ainsi. Pour quune uvre dart existe au niveau ontologique, la multiplication des interprtations est ncessaire. Il faut dabord se rappeler du caractre transitif de luvre, et lui faire confiance, cest--dire accepter quelle soit une chose autonome, une sorte de bote noire qui garde son autonomie quelle que soit linterprtation quon lui assigne. Luvre dart a tout gagner recevoir un maximum dinterprtations. Mais plus elle se prte une multiplicit dinterprtations, plus son quotient schizophrnique est lev; et plus celuici est lev, plus luvre dart gagne en densit, en efficacit, en cohrence, sans perdre toutefois son autonomie. Multiplier ainsi les couches dinterprtations dune uvre engage le pas-

ally, that that is completely normal. First, we must always ask ourselves with which language we are speaking. It is interesting to notice that weve rarely asked this question in the art world. In this world, in order to obtain an explanation of something, we have always turned to the art historian and the art critic, who arrive with their intellectual and linguistic baggage in tow to explain what is at stake. But a philosopher like John Searle, who examined the significance of the institutionin its economic, artistic, and political aspects, among others (and in this sense, the art world well and truly constitutes an institution)came to the conclu10 sion that every institution defines itself through its language. John Searle asks an essential question: it is possible to talk about an institution by using a vocabulary that was developed by the institution itself? Can we speak about the museum in a language that was formulated by those working within the museum? We know that in the sciences, this problem was resolved long ago. In order to speak about a science, we had to develop a language that wasnt coined within that field of knowledge itself. In art, it is clear that the language we use has been completely defined from the inside. To paraphrase the philosopher John Welchman, instead of using a preestablished vocabulary to analyze works of art, we would be better off analyzing the role of language in the creation of artworks. Hence, this idea, at the Palais de Tokyo, of discussing everything except contemporary art. I accomplished this by pointing to various fields outside the world of art, towards different ways of doing, seeing, and reading that might allow us to see what art puts into motion. So well discuss contemporary art via its margins.
Ck

189

Places are characterized by their material and historical conditions, but they are also defined by ideological and theoretical conditions. You have developed, over time, a certain number of ideas that have helped you to think about artworks, their properties, their qualities, and that have oriented your thinking about the exhibition and its spaces. You often refer to the schizophrenic coefficient of the work of art. What is that about?
MOW

An art center, as a tool at the disposal of its visitors, should be a place where a true hygiene of the spirit is developed. A hygiene of the spirit is a way to see and address our world, and art offers privileged ways of getting there. The notion of a schizophrenic quotient of a work of art belongs to the realm of pataphysics. It can be explained thusly: for a work of art to exist on an ontological level, it must lend itself to a multiplicity of interpretations. It is necessary first of all to remember the transitive character of the work, and trust in it: accept that it is an autonomous thing, a kind of black box that keeps its autonomy no matter what inter11 pretation is assigned to it. An artwork has everything to gain from having multiple interpretations. The more ways in which it can be interpreted, the higher its schizophrenic quotient. The higher the schizophrenic quotient, the more the artwork gains in density, efficiency and coherencewithout, of course, losing

the palais de tokyo, a center for contemporary creation

the palais de tokyo, a center for contemporary creation

le palais de tokyo, un centre POUR LA CRATION CONTEMPORAINE

190

sage dune logique slective une logique additionnelle. Dans la logique slective, cest ou bien cette interprtation, ou bien celleci, ou bien celle-l. Cest blanc ou noir, alors que les sciences nous ont montr depuis longtemps quil ny a pas ncessairement une seule explication valable un problme juste ou fausse , mais une pluralit dexplications plus ou moins utiles selon les circonstances: il y a donc cette rponse et cette rponse et encore cette rponse. Cette logique additionnelle implique, notamment, la ngation du principe du tiers exclu. Un mathmaticien peut dvelopper ses rflexions en fonction de lutilit des rponses. Les artistes aussi, dune certaine manire. Mais le monde de lart fonctionne toujours avec des modes de pense qui dcoulent de notre ducation et sont bass sur une stricte logique slective. Je pense que lart, abord selon la logique mise en jeu par le quotient schizophrnique, peut efficacement affter notre regard pour aborder la ralit. Il participe alors dune construction de la connaissance et non dune explication des choses. Ck Ce coefficient schizophrnique de luvre dart peut-il stendre au centre dart, ds lors compris comme une sorte dincubateur? MOW Si lon est sensible ce quotient schizophrnique de luvre, on va regarder toute lexposition en y prtant attention. Idalement, il faudrait que chaque visite dune mme exposition soit toujours diffrente. En ce sens, lexposition de Michel Blazy tait assez exemplaire: les uvres sy dveloppaient organiquement, les bactries se multipliaient, lexposition tait soumise la pourriture et au desschement. Ck Dans quelle mesure tes expositions entretiennent-elles un rapport la science-fiction? MOW La science-fiction aborde un problme ontologique qui ma beaucoup influenc. Lorsquon est face deux lments identiques, comment les diffrencier? Prenons le cas de Blade Runner et de ses fameux rplicants qui ne sont pas proprement parler des extraterrestres, mais plutt des robots androdes bnficiant de fonctions biologiques identiques celles des humains. Le rle des blade-runners est de dmasquer ces rplicants. Leur problme est dordre visuel: vue dil, il ny a aucune diffrence entre eux et un tre humain. On ne dispose donc pas de critre objectif pour les dmasquer, mais dun test, dit test de Voight-Kampf, qui est plutt de type psychologique: on demande au sujet de parler de son enfance, de son pass, etc. Un blade-runner dmasque donc un rplicant sur un pur jeu de langage: par exemple si ce dernier ne parvient pas choisir entre deux termes pour nommer une tortue. En art, on est toujours confront un mme type de problme lorsquil sagit de dfinir de faon prcise le passage dun objet ordinaire un objet esthtique. On a beaucoup de critres, on a beaucoup de conditions, mais on ne parvient pas quelque chose de trs clair. La solution est peut-tre contenue dans cette formule dOlivier Mosset, qui ma dit un jour: Si on arrive voir une uvre comme une uvre, alors, le monde peut rester ce quil est.

its autonomy. Multiplying the levels of interpretation implies leaving behind selective logic in favor of additional logic. In selective logic, either this interpretation or that interpretation is valid. The situation is black or white. Meanwhile, the sciences have long shown that there isnt necessarily a single solution to a problemwhether it be true or falsebut instead a plurality of explanations that are more or less useful given the circumstances. There is one answer, then another answer, then yet another answer. This additional logic implies the acceptance of previously excluded answers. The mathematician can think in terms of an answers usefulness. Artists can do the same, in a certain way. But 12 the art world always operates according to ways of thinking that stem from our education and that are based on a strictly selective logic. I think that art, if it is approached according to the logic set in motion by the schizophrenic quotient, can efficiently sharpen the way in which we see and conceive reality. Thus it participates in a construction of knowledge rather than in the explanation of things.
Ck

Can this schizophrenic coefficient of the artwork be extended to the art center, henceforth understood as a sort of incubator?
MOW

If youre sensitive to the schizophrenic quotient of the work, you can take in the whole exhibition while specifically paying attention to it. Ideally, each visit to the same exhibition would always be different. In this sense, Michel Blazys exhibition was rather exemplary: the works developed organically, the bacteria multiplied, and the exhibition was subject to rot and desiccation.
Ck

To what extent do your exhibitions have a relationship to science fiction?


MOW

Science fiction creates an ontological problem that has heavily influenced me. When you are faced with two identical elements, how can you tell them apart? Take Blade Runner, for example, and its famous replicants. Technically, they arent aliens, but rather android robots with the same biological functions as humans. The role of the blade runner is to unmask these replicants. Their task has a visual nature: there are no visible differences between a replicant and a human. Given that they are no objective criteria that would allow the blade runners to unmask the replicants, they use the Voight-Kampf test, a psychological test: they ask the replicants to speak about their childhood or their past. The replicants then reveal themselves by making linguistic errors: for example, if they cant decide between two different terms that refer to a turtle. In art, we are confronted with a similar problem when we attempt to characterize the passage from an ordinary to an esthetic object. Perhaps the solution is contained within this phrase by Olivier Mosset, who once said to me: If we can see a work of art as a work of art, then the rest of the world can stay the way it is.
Translated by Caroline Burnett

the palais de tokyo, a center for contemporary creation

5 000 000 000 dannes PhiliPPe decraUzat, mark handforth, vincent l amoUroUx, gianni mot ti 14.09>31.12.2006
Photo : Marc Domage

5 000 000 000 dannes michel Bl azy, mark handforth, vincent l amoUroUx, l ang/BaUmann 14.09>31.12.2006
Photo : Marc Domage