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Jessica Castex and Odile Burluraux, Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris

Jessica Castex is curator at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (MAMVP). Her projects are notably focused on emerging creation and prospection.

Odile Burluraux is curator at Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. She has organised a touring exhibition based on the video collection of the museum.

Jessica and Odile are curators for the Special Projects at Serendipity Arts Festival 2019.

The Art Issue: Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris will be exhibiting at SAF and in India for the first time. What is the project about?


Jessica Castex and Odile Burluraux: The show Virtuality as Reality will feature works from the video collection of the Musée d’Art moderne de Paris. On the one hand, we wanted to give an overview of this collection of contemporary art and through the collection to question the porosity of reality and virtuality today. The exhibition reflects on the idea of a virtuality that is increasingly permeating everyday life. Artists are questioning this virtualisation of human societies, which is creating new fields, transforming beings, daily lives and relationship to the world for better and also for worse. Their speculations and questions sketch scenarios that are sometimes exciting, sometimes worrying, which seem to alert us to the drifting of the connected human.

AI: Who are the artists that will be featured in your curation and why were they selected?


JC & OB: The artists featured in the show are: Ed Atkins, Benoît Broisat, Alain Della Negra et Kaori Kinoshita, DIS, Cao Fei, Camille Henrot, Kolkoz, Hayoun Kwon, Ryan Trecartin. They're all confirmed or emerging artists on the French and the international art scene, and they are part of the video collection of the museum. Some of them have been exhibited at the museum, in a solo or group show.


They all engage with multiple issues related to contemporary society, with a renewed vision of ecology or anthropology. We are interested in the way their works tackle this question of the porosity between the virtual and the real. For instance, Ed Atkins’ anxious video Happy Birthday!! (2014) plunge us into a black and white world won by transhumanism, as the artist’s avatar Max, bought in a digital image bank, wanders in a chaotic and technological universe. Alone in a world of images and numbers, his attempt to get closer to reality remains a failure.


We’ve been defending, showing their work, and collaborating with them for almost a couple of decades now. At the Musée d’art moderne de Paris, we regularly present their videos in the permanent collection floor. Recently it was Ed Atkins, Hayoun Kwon and Camille Henrot. In 2012, American artist Ryan Trecartin had a solo show. Also, our exhibition Co-Workers in 2015 encompassed a large number of video artists. We also organize exhibitions of our videos abroad; recently we showed the work by Hayoun Kwon 489 Years at Kosovo’s National Gallery in Pristina.


AI: How does your curation on virtuality align with SAF’s vision of promoting inclusivity in the arts and diluting regional borders?


JC & OB: The contamination of reality by the virtual deals with a globalized world. The artists we gather in the show propose a renewed and de-compartmentalized vision regarding history,  gender and people. Between documentary and fiction, Alain Della Negra & Kaori Kinoshita’s film “The Den” (2009), for instance, offers an immersion into a community named the “Furries”, in California (a Furry chooses a totem animal and adopts its features). While the video shows their environment and rites through testimonies, it questions the notions of identity and humanhood.


AI: What is the significance of the expression - 'Virtuality as Reality'?


JC & OB: Virtuality is not a recent expression. Aristotle (384–322 BCE) used the word’s ancestor the Greek word “dunaton” means “potential”, “what is possible” which was translated into Latin as “virtualis”. Virtuality thus refers originally to multiple scenarios. The age of the Internet confirms this principle of movement, of flow. Though we cannot reduce virtuality as an opposition to reality. These two states of presence hybridize and profoundly transform pre-existing models. The new interfaces (social networks, dating sites) of the 21st century are framing renewed relationships between people (friends, lovers), health, information, consumption, work. Virtuality questions the physical experience, perceptions, though it opens a new horizon of multiple identities, with no limit to gender, space, age, ethnicity, etc. By adopting these appearances, varied and simultaneous, the connected being is freed from traditional paradigms. Virtuality as Reality tries to address many of these questions, offering an anthropological and speculative approach to cybermodernity.


The fascination of the early years (Film de vacances, 2001, Kolkoz) gave way, in the middle of the decade, to a certain questioning (Cosplayers, Cao Fei, 2004; La Tanière, 2009, Alain Della Negra and Kaori Kinoshita). During the following decade artists assimilated the world’s virtualization and appropriated VR technologies (489 YEARS, Hayoun Kown, 2015), examining the adverse effects on the individual (Ed Atkins, Happy Birthday, 2014). The magnifying mirror of Ryan Trecartin’s films (I Be AREA, 2007) are turned onto societal decay, while Grosse fatigue (2013) by Camille Henrot expresses the ambivalence of everything carried by our screens, and the melancholy generated by the incapacity, and of the human brain, to absorb everything. Technological innovation is one of the constant factors transforming artistic practices. Changes to the status of the image – from representative to living – is now seen in virtual and augmented reality experiments, which artists are increasingly interested in, raising new questions about reality’s limits.


AI: Is there anything else our readers should know about the exhibition?


JC & OB: Most of the films presented are not digital works, but they do carry some analysis of new lifestyles conditioned by digital technology. Hayoun Kwon's work in Virtual Reality (VR) is in digital format, it is the first VR work that the museum has purchased. Artists have always included technological progress in their practice, just as photography in the 19th century, but creation quickly transcends simple technical issues.


We had a great time collaborating with the Serendipity Arts Festival team for this project. It is the first time the museum is invited to propose a project in India, and it is a real challenge, because we hope that our proposal will appeal to the Indian public. As curators, it is also an opportunity to meet Indian artists, artistic expressions presented at the Serendipity Festival and also a new public, and to understand better the culture of this part of India.

The exhibition Virtuality as Reality will be on view at Old GIM, Ribander from 15th-22nd December, 2019

This interview was conducted as a part of The Art Issue's media collaboration with the Serendipity Arts Festival, 2019

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