Just when we start to despair that Art has lost its way (especially in old bastions like Paris), we see intriguing exhibitions like this one: Dionysiac: Art in Flux curated by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, February 16th to May 9th, 2005. We also remain encouraged by wonderful efforts like the Arts for Social Change, an on-going program hosted by the Pioneers of Change network to vibrant places like Brazil and South Africa where the role of art has made a difference. While the POC program was naturally and necessarily born at the periphery -- far removed from the mainstream, hegemonic artistic establishment in the West -- this particular exhibition is firmly in the center (and at "the" centre P) which makes this an interesting development and possibly indicative of a new mood. We'll see...
From the promo text for Dionysiac:
"A novel group exhibition, DIONYSIAC is a "reflection" exhibition, rather than a thematic display. It presents a state of mind that is shared by all the artists and offers its own perspective towards contemporary creation. The artists include: JOHN BOCK, CHRISTOPH BUCHEL, MAURIZIO CATTELAN, MALACHI FARRELL, GELATIN, KENDELL GEERS, THOMAS HIRSCHHORN, FABRICE HYBER, RICHARD JACKSON, MARTIN KERSELS, PAUL MCCARTHY, JONATHAN MEESE, JASON RHOADES, KEITH TYSON.
DIONYSIAC attributes a special relationship to art and life. It is against resignation, which is expressed as much through anger as it is through pleasure received through destruction, [AMEN TO THAT!] through excitement of life and flux and through joy to the point of excess. In addition, there is an inclination for laughter, for irony and a form of subversion, in so far as it is still possible today. Music is also at the heart of the exhibition with a "sound room" created together with the artists.
The neologism, DIONYSIAC, has been invented by combining French and English. The newly coined word is derived from the adjective "dionysiaque", used by Friedrich Nietzsche in his book The Birth of Tragedy (1871). In using "dionysiaque", Nietzche was inspired by the Greek god Dionysos, god of both explosion and enthusiasm, the force of life and destruction, of all outbursts. [I wonder if Dionysos ever met Shiva? Now they would make a dynamic duo!] Nietzsche developed this aesthetic concept throughout his written work, leading to the notion of flux in excess, of which life is only a part. "
In April there will be a conference to explore the questions the exhibition raises, such as: "What is our "post-post modern" period, since 1989 made of? Is the Dionysiac a breath of fresh air? Is it simply yet another form of romanticism or does it define a new radicalism ? How can the artist define his practice today in terms of the overturning of values : is this overturning in itself desirable and possible today ? The DIONYSIAC exhibition believes that we are well and truly clear of romanticism and that hope can be found in the principles of flux and energy and in the principle of democracy."
We certainly hope so! I'll report on it when I see it, but consider this a flag for Spring-in-Paris goers. (Sorry Jamais, you'll miss it when you're here.) For other would be travelers, flights remain ridiculously cheap (average $300-500) until early March from the US, but then again, the rest won't be so reasonable, with yankee bucks being stretched in Euro-land.
(Thanks Napier for forwarding this.)
If you want conventional ideas of art challenged, James Hillman offers the widest range offered in his Beauty Without Nature: Refounding the City, a talk that is Dionysian to its very cores. His lifework has offered ways of moving in the world that demand thought and depth to surface. Online, the Amazons have it and they have swords.