30 Years of Chinese Photography (1930-1940). Mairie du Vle. 78 rue Bonaparte.
I had high hopes for this exhibit of thirty years of photography from China, held in the grand and gilt hall of one of Paris' town halls. What an opportunity. Unfortunately, the work was very disappointing. The subjects were interesting because they allowed me to see aspects of China that don't make it to Newsweek or Time. Portraits, landscapes, people at work, soldiers at war. students marching, athletes, and children; they offered a chance to glimpse thirty years in China that were fairly closed. However, that is about all they did. There was little creativity in any of the photographs after 1936, and the print quality often looked dangerously close to Xeroxes
Perhaps the romantic in me hoped to find the individual still alive, but if this exhibit is any indication, 1930-I960 were not building years for creative photography in China.
Mise en scene pour une Assomption: Etude documentaire no. 100 Orlan. Galerie Art Contemporain J. et J. Donguy. 57, rue de to Roquette.
"Mise en scene" is not meant to be translated in English, but suffice it to say that the artist is telling you that this was created, fabricated, produced to be documented, photographed, taped, whatever. This installation was and is memorable, especially in light of the overwhelming body of predictable work presented in the exhibits of the Month of Photography.
Orlan is one of Paris' premier performance artists, and in this installation she confronts us with ideas about the Assumption. The room had "altars" of varying sizes composed of various media. Orlan herself takes on the role of Mary draped in white or black and appears in photographs, videos, and holograms. A lyrical aria sung by a female soprano pervades the room, and Orlan's voluptuous figure clad in voluminous drapery and other dramatic touches overwhelm the viewer. What we have here is 1960s baroque: use everything available and make it dramatic. And I mean everything, even one of those jukebox contraptions you used to find at your booth at the cafe, with pages of hit tunes that were turned by an automatic arm. Instead of tunes, the pages contain photographs of "the Madonna" in various guises.
Orlan herself wandered into the gallery while I was there and it was a treat to hear her tell about how she put this installation together. One wonders what the men in the old folks home think when this presence sweeps in, dresses them in religious garb and photographs them to use as framing photographs on her altars.
Orlan has a definite flair for performance and though this exhibition /installation is not for everyone, it was a breath of fresh air to this tired gallery goer.