Palais de Tokyo

Not exactly right to categorize this as ‘theatre,’ but since I’m interested in when and why this category is used, why not?  Palais de Tokyo is known as an artworld playground for a varied types of “relational” artwork, that is, work that tries to de-emphasize the object of art in favor of the social relation created by it (and, for some, the relation art needs in order to exist at all).   Such relational turns require different material infrastructures, and so the large planes, triply high walls, and hangar-like environment of Palais de Tokyo seems to have been enabling for many an experiment. Join that environment to a couple of cafés, some workshop spaces, a release from museum conventions of silence and uni-directional flow, and it turns out also to be a great place to bring the kids (another form of relationality enabled).  Mom, Jack, Daphne and I went there during the Toussaint vacation to experience Jeremy Deller’s “carte blanche” installation, D’une Révolution à L’Autre.  Deller is a British artist whose image, film, text, and performance work consistently addresses different facets of the labor movement and working-class culture in England, pushing a general interest in so-called vernacular art to a level of engagement that hopefully pushes beyond some of the more superficial attempts to unsettle “high” and “low.”  Deller’s most famous piece was a re-enactment of a 1984 miner’s strike that protested Thatcherian social policy.  D’une Révolution à L’Autre follows similar themes but expands to think about the relation between the labor movement and varieties of popular culture, ranging from parades, to pub rituals, to glam rock that surrounded and supported the late 20th century British labor movement.  Following the individuating conventions of visual art commissioning, “Jeremy Deller” received the carte blanche, though the singular name belies the collaborative nature of the exhibition.  In this case, it is the banners of Ed Hall that most actively take hold of the Palais de Tokyo’s behemoth of a space, suspended from its high ceilings to act as both provocation and documentation of a range of social movements, from school reform, to labor policy, to sex workers’ rights.  Around the sides of the walls, documentary video and photographs hang like postage stamps to highlight the homemade crafts and homegrown heros of local labor cultures that collect and rework popular images and populist artifacts.  We drifted between the work of Hall, Deller, and other exhibits from Russia and San Francisco that all hung together pretty precariously under the theme of “revolution” but that were interesting in an of themselves.  My personal favorite was probably a reproduction of an Everyband’s basement rehearsal studio, a gathering of instruments, images, and places to crash in more ways that one.  The cryptic reproduction captured the sense of both liminality and safety that permeates such studios, usually in the basement of a parents’ house, sequestered away but still near, a transitional space which many never want to leave, a place devoted exclusively to the risk and failure of rehearsal or, as the French say, la répétition.

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