Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s current solo exhibition at the Centre Pompidou expands the idea of retrospective. She adds an outlook into the future and connects different places and centuries. The result is a labyrinth of space and time consisting of autobiographic and historic reminiscences and will be on display until February 1, 2016. This is well worth visiting.
After the two well-known French artists Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe had been homaged in solo exhibitions in Paris in 2013/2014, the Centre Pompidou now shifts its focus to another French icon of both the ’90s and the present: Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. The French artist was born to a Spanish father and a German mother in Strasbourg in 1965. In the 1990s she began her career in film and soon extended her artistic activities to installations dealing with the problematic of space and time.
The current exhibition Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster: 1887 – 2058 at the Centre Pompidou departs from an artistic realization of an open timeline that extends from the year 1887 to 2058 and connects 30 of the artist’s works. This forward-looking retrospective leads to what Gonzalez-Foerster calls a “retrospective-prospective”, guiding the visitors through the heterogeneous labyrinth of rooms and displays of the Centre Pompidou’s South Gallery which is entirely clothed in glass. The “Chambres” designed by Gonzalez-Foerster are dedicated to specific eras, reminiscences from film or literature, or important personalities. This is the case of the inviting Brasilia Hall (1998/2000) which opens the exhibition with its green carpet in homage of the architects Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer. Both of them were representatives as well as protagonists of Brazilian modernism, which was also referred to as “tropical modernism”. Different from her “environments” (Gonzalez-Foerster talks about “environments” instead of “installations”) are the artist’s “attractions”, such as the Cosmodrome (2001), created in a collaboration with Swedish musician Jay-Jay Johanson. However, their work with sound and light, a “total environment” that refers to sensory outlooks and reminds us of exhibitions from the early 19th century, isn’t recommended for all visitors: the museum warns that the 10-minute tour of this work, in a dark, sand-covered room could potentially cause feelings of unease, especially among visitors with claustrophobic tendencies. Gonzalez-Foersters’ video work, Ann Lee in Anzen Zone (2000), a collaboration with Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno, doesn’t appear to be more reassuring. One year after Parreno and Huyghe acquired the rights to Japanese manga figure “Ann Lee”, they invited Gonzalez-Foerster to provide the figure’s empty shell with a personality and a biography. In her interpretation, Gonzalez-Foerster duplicated protagonist Ann Lee and has her exclaim apocalyptic warnings in both English and Japanese.
The exhibition’s complex and extensive parcour is more than just a juxtaposition of rooms. Instead, it confronts different centuries, climates, protagonists, landscapes, personal memories, and historic moments, shaping them into parallel worlds. These tend to speak of the relationship between the individual and his/her surroundings. The rooms often bear autobiographic connotations, and invite to stay, to leaf through some of the books, or to simply listen to the tropical rain, a “sound environment” designed in collaboration with Christophe van Huffel, that can be heard throughout the entire exhibition – even if outside the sun is shining on Place Georges Pompidou.