Paris: Summer Exhibitions at Palais de Tokyo

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Ok Contemporary Art then, it’s been a long time.

As such this is not a critique of the art on show at the Palais de Tokyo and definitely not of the artists. This is more a critique of my personal experience, coming as a virtual outsider to an art show, and how it all comes flooding back to me.


Pretty much the first thing I did once I decided not to make videogames anymore is to wax nostalgic for the art world. I don’t know why. Do I need a reason? Before videogames I guess I was a net artist. But before that I was an aspirational contemporary artist like so many art school graduates. I never had time to take it seriously as a career choice, I graduated in 1993 and in 1994 discovered the Internet and that was that. All my plans got changed.
I do feel curious to go back to see whats up out there in the galleries in the exhibition spaces.

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A friend of mine invited me to the opening of the summer exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo, I said “yes.” Later I said “What was I thinking.” After my long-time love affair with Ye Olde Art of the Masters this was like ice water in the face. In and of itself, an interesting sensation… but unpleasant. And let’s throw in that I know they are being unpleasant ‘on purpose.’

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Serious questions. Why the spectacle? Why the festival soundscapes everywhere? Why the long queue, and take off your shoes, and get into a boat? Why the open bar next to the exit of a room full of smoke and projections? Why the mannequins hanging like so many witches in caves on a horror ride? But I don’t want to ask too many questions. That’s what got me into trouble in videogames. I’ll just accept things for what they are and not for all the questions with no answer. I don’t want answers anyway, do I? I will just say that it was fascinating how the only way you could tell the humans from the mannequins was that the humans were the ones on their cell phones. The performers only differ from the audience in that one wears more make-up than the other. But no one bats an eye at a pregnant belly painted with a target anymore. And water bongs? Shocking? You’ll not lead me to ecstasy unless you fill it up-light it up, my friend.

I’m appreciative of that ability that contemporary art has to look _awesome_ in photos.
And the way that NO ONE in video art projections EVER looks happy. They are traumatized, mysteriously angst ridden, or blank, forever.

I admired the deftness with which one artist drew a Rubens crucifixion in soot burned on the inside of a wine glass. Using the old masters to make your work look better, that I can relate to. I admired the ironic way a jacket made of bees wings hung as if floating in mid-air. I admired the wings made of wax, the crown of thorns made of glass. I admired a series of lovely watercolors of iris flowers. But the best of show went to A projected bank of elevators. Everyone kept trying to figure out if the projected control panel was hooked to sensors that would actually make the doors open. Yes, in the view of my videogame maker mind, this made sense. “Now,” I thought, “I ride to the top.”

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I used to admire videogames for their relative freedom, back when I believed a videogame could be anything. But now, I more admire the freedom of contemporary artists to do all of these things… and mean it.

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