The state of things

From: Wednesday, 02 February 2005

To: Sunday, 22 May 2005

Place: North Gallery

The State of things proposes an examination of the development of international contemporary art from the early Sixties

Through a selection from the collections of seventeen FRAC (Fonds Régionaux d'Art Contemporain) in France, The State of things proposes an examination of the development of international contemporary art from the early Sixties (the moment when everyday objects became a part of the discourse of art) to the present-day. Thus, the status of the "object" in art is proposed and analysed in all its forms and states, through a number of different artistic movements.

Based on this analytical method, which is a kind of cross section, the objects are gradually transformed, before our eyes, into reflections of the contemporary vision. Sometimes, they speak to us of the experience of the immediate environment, or claim their own individuality as well as that of their creators, or cause us to reflect on the function and on the effects of the consumer society; or pose questions such as the futility of the work of art, or the frontiers between art and design; or become metaphors, symbols, traces of its immediate past, of its origins. In short, they offer a way to a better understanding of contemporary art.

The main protagonist of The State of Things is the object. The object in all its states, from its enthroning in the art of the Sixties with Pop Art and the new realists, to the present day. With Marcel Duchamp and his Boîte en valise as master of ceremonies, a work that reproduces 83 pieces in miniature of the artist, inventor of the ready-made, who as early as 1917, had raised a urinal to the category of “work of art” including an exhibition entitled Fontaine (Fountain). An object of daily use, which, taken out of context by the artist and placed on a pedestal, is now considered to be an artistic object. The result went well beyond provocation and established the basis - still in force today - of a new concept of the artist and of his work, according to which ideas are above manufactured objects.

Forty years of accumulated, compressed, invented, recovered, manufactured and decomposed objects, all the stages that artists have imagined. Day-to-day objects diverted from their normal function by Fluxus and provided with memory by Boltanski; objects discarded after use by the consumer society and reinvented by the "New English sculpture"; objects diverted from their normal function by Bertrand Lavier and John Armleder; inventoried objects by Claude Closky; deployed objects by Christian Marclay; accumulated objects by Daniel Firman; extolled objects by Patrick Tosani; objects from ephemeral encounters orchestrated by Gabriel Orozco; and all the other Utopian objects, machine objects, display case objects, cynical objects... A vast panorama of what has been achieved in art since art became contemporary through exhibitions that over the years, pass on quickly from the thing to the object, from the object to the product; a ceaseless to-ing and fro-ing from one to the other, between irony and cynicism, criticism and demonstration, response and aesthetic fascination.

The incorporation of the object into the work of art, the artistic object and its functionality, art and the consumer society; these and many more issues are tackled in The State of Things, a sample of the particular voyage of objects through the history of contemporary art and its creators.

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