ArToll: Exhibition by visiting students from the School of Fine Arts in Versailles

Huijun Yang: "tears"
Xiaochuan Wang: "Heine, me". Courtesy of Mike Browne
On the way to the exhibition by visiting art students of the Ecole des Beaux Arts I saw lots of applied art on the streets of the inviting German community. It's election time and visual artists and writers show their creativity on billboards, advertising candidates.
After such an encounter, it was refreshing to meet real artists and see the result of a one week workshop at ArToll's. The exhibition's title was: “Au pays de Herr Joseph Beuys. Contexte(s)”. ArToll is situated on the compounds of a large 100 year old clinic with buildings spreading over 80 hectares, partly still in use as such.

From the works of the 16 artists I try to highlight 4.

Xiaochuan Wang shows us drawings of the face of the German poet Heinrich Heine. The whole installation is called: "Heine, moi" (Heine, me). Lines of Heine's poems and their translations into Chinese figure as elements in the artist's drawings, pointing to the fragmentary and only fleeting success of trying to live in two cultures, for which Heine gives us a tragic example. Nowadays a widespread human condition and the source of many personal and societal problems.

Yanne Kintgen's "Ailleurs" (elsewhere) shows us a picture an elderly man in a pensive mood. The face of the same person is shown on the opposite wall, but the portrait is spread over various prints of two slightly different postures. Again we have fragments and a sense of falling apart, a time when wholesomeness leaves us, beyond repair.

Seungkyun Noh's "Archives" displays many transparent pictures of artifacts, like old hospital beds, taken in the clinic's history museum. Spread over a glass table they are not very intelligible, especially as a mirror under the table doubles the slides. Yet, looking at this mirror from an angle, the black and white pictures are seen against the white ceiling and become readable. The artist has found a gratifying way of turning a puzzle of only fragmentary readable information into clear vision, making whole what looked scattered.

Nilda Isabel Madariaga Osorio‘s installation “Autarcie?” was also inspired by the history of the clinic, originally a place where patients with all sorts of disabilities worked on clinic owned farms to sustain the community. Hence, the title „self-sufficient“. The island character of the compounds shielded the vulnerable from a hostile world, but this cloak of charity turned into a cover for atrocities in fascist times. The question mark behind the word „autarcie“ speaks volumes. Entering the ceiling high cloak, with its smooth skin and soft inside cover, one is sealed off from the environment. After a short moment of bliss, one feels that a prolonged stay might not be healthy. Nilda Isabel also refers to events in her own native country Chile, where crimes were committed in a German colony during the fascist Pinochet regime.

Finally, we visit the installation of Huijun Yang, titled "Larmes" (tears), an artificial eye from which tears drop. Tears may be shed for joy or sadness, but in the context of the above mentioned works of art a certain feeling of sadness prevails. The liberating power of crying however was mentioned by Saint Augustine of Hippo, who after the death of his mother Monica felt into a deep depression because he could not express his sadness, but was finally saved by music which set his tears free. This unique installation will set free different thoughts and emotions in different people, but all will admire the ingenuity of this pretty device.
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