Reserves & Collections, an other Mucem
Fort Saint-Jean – Bâtiment Georges Henri Rivière |
From Friday 7 July 2017 to Friday 13 April 2018
Artists and researchers are presenting an unprecedented rousing of the Mucem’s collections
Following the residencies and preparatory workshops that began in 2015, artists and researchers are presenting an unprecedented rousing of the Mucem’s collections through Bilingual document: a dual exhibition presented at Fort Saint Jean until November 13th 2017, and at the Centre for Conservation and Resources until April 13th 2018, featuring a sound walk that links the two sites, as well as a book.
The Mucem houses in its reserves the collections from the former Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires, created in 1937 by Georges Henri Rivière. Artisanal or preindustrial vestiges of a bygone era, the objects assembled here are the bounty of methodical collections conducted during field surveys, enriched by objects acquired since the opening of the museum. The question of the dual nature of the object, split between popular art and scientific discourse, was at the heart of Rivière’s project. But what about these collections now dormant in the Mucem’s reserves? An uneasy feeling seizes visitors at the sight of these curious and sometimes obsolete time capsules. While a few objects may be called upon for a specific exhibition, how can we mobiliser the collection in a more general way within the framework of a museum of civilisation? How can we activate a document, even make it perform, by reflecting its bilingual nature: an object with an aesthetic or poetic status, while also testifying to its ethnographic value? Could art be, paradoxically, the way of reviving these trophies?
With the artists Yto Barrada, Omar Berrada & M'Barek Bouhchichi, Érik Bullot, Uriel Orlow and Abril Padilla.
General curator: Sabrina Grassi and Erik Bullot, guest curator
Assistant curator: Jean-Roch Bouiller, Conservator of Contemporary Art at the Mucem
Exhibition space design: Olivier Bedu, Struc’ Archi
With the support of Cercle entreprises Les amis du Mucem and the foundation Pro Helvetia
Bilingual French-English catalogue co-edited with Manuella Editions
Interview with Sabrina Grassi and Érik Bullot, exhibition curators
What is this « bilingual document » that gave the project its title ?
Sabrina Grassi : The expression « bilingual document », penned by Freud, describes the manner in which the same psychological content can be expressed in two types of neuroses. This expression seems to describe in a striking manner the ambivalent nature of the objects in the collections of the Mucem, at once the findings of ethnographic investigations and poetic fetishes.
Érik Bullot : We wanted to explore the collections by observing the acquisition protocols, the classification principles and methods, the singular histories of the objects, in short to examine the aetiology of the collections, hence the use of an analytical metaphor.
You have chosen artists with a wide range of practices : plastic artists, a filmmaker, a writer, a sound artist … A way of approaching the collection in all its diversity ?
ÉB : This variety of approaches is the result of selecting artists interested in museographic and ethnographic questions, intrigued by the genealogical problems of the constitution of collections. Hence the choice of a composer like Abril Padilla who explores the sound qualities of objects, or visual artists like Yto Barrada and Uriel Orlow who question the status of objects within museums. Thus the presence of a writer and translator like Omar Berrada or the artist M’barek Bouhchichi. It is indeed a principle of translation in general.
This exhibition is the culmination of a process lasting several years. How did the artist’s work proceed ?
SG : This exhibition is part of a framework of art studies that consists, not of proposing aesthetic sublimations or simple misappropriations of objects, but of questioning the collections through their histories, methods and symptoms. As a result, the artists came for residencies to work on the collections, in dialogue with the Mucem’s teams. The preparatory workshops enabled them to confront, with other researchers in social sciences, the issues of the exhibition.
Today the project is recreated through a two-part exhibition : concretely, what will we see ?
SG : The Georges Henri Rivière Building at Fort Saint-Jean is to be linked to the exhibition space at the Centre for Conservation and Resources (CCR) to establish a direct connection between the museum and its collections. The artists will present, from the holdings they have selected in the collections, filmic works, sound pieces, installations, similar to investigations or fiction, facing at times the objects on display in showcases. These works represent research that has been conducted far from the reserves, in the Archives Nationales at Pierrefitte, at the Maison Centrale de Poissy (prison) where photographic collections are digitised or even in Morrocco… But the exhibition is also embodied in the programme of events, especially by a sound walk through the urban landscape, and the publication of a book of research by Manuella Éditions, which documents this preliminary investigation.
Érik Bullot, you are participating in this exhibition as co-commissioner, but also as an artist. Can you tell us in more about this experience ?
ÉB : In questioning the frontiers and translation, it seemed pertinent that one of us, a filmmaker, particularly interested in the challenges of translation, be involved on both sides of the demarcation line through creating films for the exhibition, questioning as well our own curatorial position. But this was also the case with Omar Berrada who doubled his participation by inviting an artist, M’barek Bouhchichi, to create a joint work.
Rewind & Play, an aural experience for smartphones
For the exhibition, artist Abril Padilla carried out extensive research into objects in the Mucem’s collections that were able to « make a sound » or « be played ». RW & PLAY is a radiophonic composition for listening to with headphones: an aural experience of the city, from the museum object to the storerooms, from the Fort Saint-Jean to the Centre de Conservation et de Ressources.