Dressed in Absence

This year’s Monumenta welcomes Christian Boltanski’s Personne, a memorial to everyone, anyone and no one. Boltanski fills the Grand Palais with a formal grid arrangement of clothes, concluded with a 50-tonne pile and the sound of 15,000 heartbeats.

An eery quality of rememberance and solitude that usually surrounds a visit to a cemetry lingers in the large hall, raising questions as to who these clothes once belonged to, where are they now and what happened to them.The grand scale in itself and absence of those under the clothes recall past moments of genocide and mass murder.

The mountain of clothes features a claw that swings down at various points throughout the day to grab a pile of clothes, only to effortlessly let them fall out of its grasp upon return to its stationary position. Boltanski speaks of how such a piece as the impassive hand of God, whose process of operation if only a matter of time.

The grid of clothing is accompanied by posts that house the sounds of heartbeats that echo throughout the entire hall, demanding in themselves reflection and withdrawal to a state of anxiety and seriosity. Such themes of death and the response Boltankski extrudes from his spectators an an ever occuring theme, evident in his own words in the following quote and a project that he is undertaking whereby his studio is under 24 hour surveillance to a mystery spectator in a cave in Tasmania.

I began to work as an artist when I began to be an adult, when I understood that my childhood was finished, and was dead. I think we all have somebody who is dead inside of us. A dead child. I remember the Little Christian that is dead inside me.

-Christian Boltanski


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