Childhood – Exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo

A Doll House, an artwork by the Japanese artist Amanouz Taturo greets us at the entrance of the museum inviting us to enter an otherworldly space. Like Cerberus, the house is a portal where the laws of our stiff and tragic sphere no longer have a say, and if we are to enter we have to play by the artists rules.

 

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Keita Miyazaki, Collisions of Species, 2017

 

Childhood. Another banana day for the dream fish, the latest exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, shows a compound of artists delving on the mysterious and always intriguing mind of the youngest. Childhood as it is perceived today by marketing companies and franchises like Disney is shown at the Palais de Tokyo through a wider and darker perspective. Sculptures like those made by the Japanese artist Keita Miyazaki are reminiscent of playground games and of children’s capacity to invent new worlds in the blink of an eye; his origami compositions and metallic pieces transgress and transform industrial objects into funny works of art. Other pieces such as Megan Rooney’s wall Back to Breath. Back to Wind evoke early stages of language where narratives are still to be formed. Childhood is again paralleled to experimentation and creativity – artists often seek children’s ability to innovate in their work as they are aware that this stage in life moulds the mind. Marvel and wonder are other feelings solicited in the exhibition with Takashi Kuribayashi’s Entrances, sculptures made of strips of one way mirrors. The installation is a threshold examining the boundaries between visible and invisible and it works as a metaphor to human stages of growth: from childhood to puberty and later adulthood.

 

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Takashi Kuribayashi, Entrances, 2018

 

But don’t let this first impression deceive you, pieces such as Philippe Grandrieux’s extract from his film Sombre confirms that what we’re about to see is far more complex than a seemingly harmless doll house. Rachel Rose’s Lake Valley, an animation film goes further and explores the separation between adulthood and childhood, the thin line marking the division is in reality blurry and not as delimited as one might think. Using different techniques such as collage and animation, the short film displays a space with worlds colliding in which it is difficult to determine what belongs to reality and what to fiction. During the whole video the spectator follows a creature – something resembling a fox, a dog and a rabbit simultaneously –  through a rabbit hole, the Alice in Wonderland analogy goes without saying. Far from our understanding – almost ethereal – childhood is represented in Rose’s work as an unknown territory, what is left of it are scattered pieces of fleeting memories that become more and more blurry as time goes by. The uncanny takes possession of some of the works presented at the exhibition, temporalities are blended together and our landmarks are completely eliminated. The piece Léviathan created conjointly by Clément Cogitore and Karen Grigorian, a huge sculpture of a monster’s tale spasming in a the dark, startles the spectator and recalls our childhood fears: irrational and out of proportion.

 

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Petrit Halilaj, Abetare, 2015

 

After some unsettling experiences in chambers and confined rooms – the stairs are particularly frightening – we arrive at an even more disturbing space with motionless creatures. A big room swamped with clowns in different positions mark the entrance to another realm, more obscure. Fear was already invoked but this time with Ugo Rondinone’s clowns it’s taken to a whole new level, a more primal one that has a feeling but words cannot describe. Here the clowns despite their flashy attire give a melancholic portrait of childhood and its intense emotions. Loss as part of this stage is also explored in other artworks like Good morning morning by Anna Hulacová where a sculptural group – a family – interacts in a closed environment – a kitchen. Faces are replaced by flowers and a disturbing scenario develops showing the emotional trauma caused in children in dysfunctional families. Other psychological wounds in the collective memory are displayed like in Petrit Halilaj’s installation Abetare of a classroom. The walls are pasted with the pages of a primer book written in Albanian, and the contingent room is full of metallic graffiti where inscriptions of public figures like Eminem or Messi can be found. During the 90’s the Albanian population was being oppressed by the Serbian government, here the artist alludes to the trauma and pain caused by persecution while at the same time pointing out pop culture and celebrities as a way to find humanity in the other.

 

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Anna Hulacová, Good morning morning, 2018

 

A perfect day for bananafish is a short story by the American writer J.D Salinger where a lugubrious soldier that just got back from World War II runs into a young girl. They speak together for a while about what happened the day before when he was playing the piano at the hotel’s bar, after this he decides to go back to the hotel to kill himself. The short story has different levels of understanding but it shows rather peculiarly the intricacies of human mind. Just like the short story, the exhibitions examines humanity and its foundations.

 

 

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