The Palais de Tokyo presents an esoteric underbelly

Julie Solovyena on “Cold Sun”, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, until 20 May

Joachim Koester, Reptile Brain Reptile Body its your Animal3, 16mm film, 2012

Soleil Froid

The Palais de Tokyo presents an esoteric underbelly

“Cold Sun”, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, until 20 May

When the Palais de Tokyo re-opened last April after a massive renovation and extension, its ambitions flew high. It would set off on a mission to present challenging, experimental and forward-thinking art.

The Palais, the former 1937 World Fair building, has also been a cinema, an archive and a squat. Its previously sealed basement has been opened, galleries stretch up and beyond, left and right, stairs run off like M.C. Escher’s labyrinthine visions. The building definitely poses new challenges of verticals and horizontals, with the exposed concrete structural skeleton weighing on the visitor. The structure overwhelms in a cold and shattering way. The “Soleil Froid” / “Cold Sun” of the new programming season is its very presence.

Passing under the heaviness of Peter Buggenhout’s sculpture – it hangs prominently over one of the main staircases and mimics the elemental makeup of the building itself – you descend into the cavernous basement. The galleries here are an underbelly populated by distinct species of art. Hicham Berrada, Pierre Paulin, Lars Morell, and Clémence Seilles are creatures of the new order. Berrada creates magical landscapes by amplifying chemical interactions in a beaker. Beautifully multi-coloured landscapes recall surfaces of distant planets, of fantastical worlds of science fiction and alchemy. His Présage installations, 2013, and Arche de Miller, 2011-12, curio-boxes or aquaria represent artifacts of a chemical theatre that has taken place elsewhere. These landscapes of microscopic interaction engage the visitor with subtle lighting, glistening surfaces, unfamiliar textures and scintillating colours of resin still-lifes.

Paulin’s work is about the process of evolving mediatisation of the current information age. The subtle objects he creates from CDs, PDFs, digital and analog camera equipment, computer screens, posters and books play on the power of memory to generate connections between the function of an item and its potential to be a vessel for immaterial messages.

Even deeper down the spiraling stairs is a solo exhibition of works by Joachim Koester, whose practice examines modes of reaching the subconscious, such as Haitian rituals, esoteric seances, yoga, hallucination-inducing substances like Peyote, and tantric philosophy. The work that emerges is extremely sensual, physical, but also cerebral. It depicts bodies moving on a different plane of being – fluid, seamless, engrossed – prototypes of a world beyond rational understanding. The air down here is eerie, cold and damp; such lighting as there is is not intended to show the way or make texts legible. One is submerged in Koester’s unconscious. Each step makes one more alert, more wary, yet curious for more.

Julie Solovyeva is a PhD candidate at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, where she is focusing on performance and movement-based art practices.

Published Wed, 08 May 2013 00:55:00 GMT

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