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HAPPENINGText: Ilaria Peretti

The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations in Marseille (MuCEM), designed by the architect Rudy Ricciotti on the seafront near Fort St. Jean, a 17th century fortress, is one of the main projects in the panorama of the current architectural and cultural renaissance of the city, the second largest in France in terms of population. The MuCEM is the first national museum to be included in the decentralisation laws of the new spatial planning policy and to be located outside the Parisian territory. We can say that the example of MuCEM demonstrates the adherence to remove the patina of nostalgic conservatism that a certain ideology had applied to traditional folklore and ethnography. Institutions such as MuCEM are in fact witnesses to the development of the new need of “making of geography” beyond “making of history”.

View of the installation “Accumulation – Searching for the Destination” of Chiharu Shiota, 2014-2019 © Julie Cohen

Until May 4, 2020, the MuCEM presents “Voyage Voyages“, an exhibition curated by Christine Poullain and Pierre-Nicolas Bounakoff. The introduction of the catalogue begins with these few lines:
 “Whatever the reasons, the desire to discover, the search for an elsewhere, exile or wandering, travel has always been a source of inspiration, exchange and influence for artists…”. The concept of the exhibition is based on this reflection and brings together a selection of works from the end of the 19th century to the present day.

Thought in a thematic rather than chronological order, “Voyage Voyages” remains faithful to the MuCEM tradition of exhibition proposals. The exhibition is organized in eight thematic sections titled: In a suitcase; On the other bank; The crowded planet; On the road; Maps and traces; Sea and Sun; Exile; Matisse. Each room presents works that reflect these categories from a formal, experiential or content-related point of view.

The exhibition opens with a touching sound installation made by the documentarist Pascal Messaoudi, who recorded the voices of people from Marseille expressing their thoughts and feelings about journey. Among those voices, it is particularly moving to hear the prisoners of Les Baumettes (a male penitentiary centre in Marseille) evoking their inner journey, the only escape they can make.

Paul Klee “Before the gates of Kairouan”, 1914. Watercolor pencil and cardboard, 135 x 220 mm. Moderna Museet, Stockholm © Moderna Museet / Stockholm

The journey is experienced through the object “suitcase”, from “La Boîte-en-valise” of Marcel Duchamp to Chiharu Shiota‘s poetic installation “Accumulation – Searching for the Destination”, which invests half of a room in all its height. Here, a huge amount of empty suitcases hangs together like a regular, endless movement of a wave, questioning the material and psychic memory.
 The journey is a source of renovation, as it has been in the lines and in the conception of form and colour of artists such as Albert Marquet, Vassily Kandinsky, Paul Gaugin or Paul Klee. Other artists through paintings, sculptures, installations, drawings, photographs and videos treat the notion in a more roundabout way, while stressing how travel overturns the artistic vision.

View of “Hot Spot” of Mona Hatoum, Scenography of Studio Matters, 2018 © Julie Cohen

The artists Leila Alaoui and Zineb Sedira speak on behalf of all those who are constantly confronted and rejected by the materiality of borders. The video “The Mapping Journey Project” (2008-2011) of the artist Bouchra Khalili shows a hand holding a marker and drawing the complex roads of people forced to cross borders illegally. The red neon installation “Hot Spot” (2018) of Mona Hatoum shows the entire globe as a danger zone, continually violated by conflicts and disorders.

Despite the presence of works related to exile and migration, the exhibition focuses more on reverie than to reflection, to the journey of pleasure and discovery, to tourism (as in Martin Parr‘s photos), to travel as an imagination (as in “The Cockpit” of Richard Baquié, 1986). Some aspects are though overlooked or poorly investigate. However, the exhibition surely stresses and shows the determining character of exploration, movement and travel in the practices of artists.

Voyage Voyages
Date: January 22nd – May 4th, 2020
Opening Hours: 11:00 – 19:00
Closed on Tuesday 

Place: MuCEM

Address: 1 Espl. J4, 13002 Marseille, France

Admissions: 9,50€ / 5€

*This exhibition is temporary closed because of Covid-19.

Text: Ilaria Peretti

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