• (first published on artlifemagazine.com)

Out of Paris: The MAC/VAL with Ange Leccia and Dominique Blais


(Paris.) Given the current state of international trademark legislation, it may be surprising that the MacVal has not yet been sued by a certain Fast Food multinational. If you know a lawyer looking for a job, please don't tell him of the opportunity.

MAC/VAL stands for Musée d'Art Contemporain du Val de Marne (in case the Vallée de la Loire opens a museum one day, they'll have to be creative). Basically, it's an avant-garde museum for art made in France, located in the village of Vitry-sur-Seine, in the southern part of the ghetto banlieue that encircles all the capital except from the snobby west. To get here you'll need to take a metro line to the last stop, then change for a bus. Or start with the RER C (suburban train, currently out of order inside the city limits), and continue with another bus. In any case don't do as I have done: don't walk from the train station to the MAC/VAL, not in the heat of summer. A good reason to travel to Vitry-sur-Seine just now, are two temporary exhibitions, well say: temporary installations, from Ange Leccia (Logical Song) and Dominique Blais (Les Grandes Verres).

It has already been mentioned in Artlife Magazine, how hard it has become to ascribe the proper sex to an artist's name. Regarding Ange Lecchia, the writer of these lines was completely sure to be dealing with a woman, and these videos projected on six walls in the middle of a vast exhibition space just had to be feminist in some way or another. However, I learned Ange is a man. What could wrongly be perceived as self portraits in different roles are in fact women to his taste, smiling or singing, or moving their head to and fro to the sound of an Eighties pop soundtrack (the selection ranges from Supertramp to Elton John. To push the torture even further, the sound system is not really adapted to high frequencies. And there are a lot.). The pleasant images are interrupted by war bombardments in black and white, natural disasters and a burning coastline; the music changes pace accordingly. Beauty and violence, war and peace? There is nothing happening, except the poetry of sound and vision (that song misses!), and all these scenes are probably a bit too long, but still: the visitors stays until the 30-odd minutes are over, then wonders where the time has gone. It's art.

There are many noteworthy works in MAC/VAL's permanent collection, but here it shall suffice to mention only a few: Anri Sala demonstrates why the he is even more famous for arty video clips than Ange Leccia. With The Clash, he stays in the 80s, using a sample from... yes: The Clash (he actually used it in more than one work). "Should I stay or should I go" - the question gets answered with a visit to the historic recording studio; modernity is short-lived. Another video, and another highlight, waits with Eric Duyckaerts. The Belgian artist takes on the role of a professional intellectual and holds his lecture with the all-so typical diction, countenance, and gesticulation. This makes one of the funniest artworks ever - from time to time it has to be permitted to laugh in a museum. And far from simple egghead bashing, Duyckaerts reveals the social rules of conduct, the unconscious codes and self-conscious demeanor of an elitist class. Claude Lévêque for his part makes us see dead houses. Datapanik summons the ghosts with most basic means: Holed bed sheets, light bulbs and fans in a dark room create the dreamy illusion of abandoned(?) skyscrapers swaying in the wind. Peaceful cloud castles as silent witnesses of human life. Just around the corner, there is Shilpa Gupta with Don't Worry, You too Will Be a Star, the words written in little neon stars on a wall. In a flash of genius, the museum installed it next to the emergency exit.

An unannounced micro exhibition (or is it a pop up store from a Parisian gallery?) brings Presence Panchounette and works like Smell is a Form You don't See: a scent dispenser (not working) attached to a flower.

Finally the second temporary installation: Les Grandes Verres by Dominique Blais. A Duchampian title (Le grand verre, 1923) that suits the work more or less. The installation "happens" in several steps: First there is darkness, with a closed greenhouse next to a row of empty chairs. Blue light falls out, to throw the shadows of robotic floodlights against a wall. The cabin gets fully illuminated, and we distinguish another chair inside. As you have undoubtedly realised yourself, this is questioning the relations and contradictions of architecture, light and time. Sometimes the writing of a press release seems to involve more creativity than the artwork itself.

Be that as it may, the MAC/VAL is such a cozy place, dedicated to contemporary art not necessarily made by international market superstars, and it surely has a good sense of humor. Go there, that's an order.

Ange Leccia: Logical Song, 15 June-22 September;

Dominique Blais: Les Grands Verres", 15 June-27 October;

and the Permanent Collection, all at MAC/VAL




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