November 2007, Ugo Rondinone @ the Palais de Tokyo

November 2007, Ugo Rondinone @ the Palais de Tokyo
Ronald Bladen THE THIRD MIND, Carte Blanche Ugo Rondinone / Palais de Tokyo, photo : Marc Domage.

The Third Mind- Carte Blanche Ugo Rondinone at the Palais de Tokyo

Like a volume out of the Choose Your Own Adventure gamebook series, this new group show featuring 31 different artists thrills, shocks, surprises and disgusts by turns, and requires the participation of a third mind– you, dear viewer, in order to fully realize itself. Although this may be asking a lot, one generally knows what to expect from the Palais de Tokyo, whose director Marc-Olivier Wahler keeps his finger pressed closely to the ever-quickening pulse of the art world, and, not to worry- plenty of clues have been left behind by guest artist-curator, Rondinone. Are you ready?

Chapter One- The Entryway

Straight ahead we have a catastrophe- Sarah Lucas's smashed-up Renault, surrounded by a halo of glass shards threatening to lodge themselves into your impeccably cared-for skin and into the soles of your chic shoes. The perpetrator, long gone, has left no other trace than some black-and-white photos of a parking garage on the surrounding walls. A hulking black sculpture looms portentously in the background. Who (died, was injured?), what (homage to Barthes?), where (Britain, France?), when (the 60's?), why (why not?), how (car crash or vandal)? We will never know.
To the right we see a wall of Warhol-esque tags reminding us of the title of the show, “The Third Mind,” which was taken from the name of a book written (but never published) by one of the Beat scene's most lauded anti-heroes, William Burroughs. Here we can sense the impending arrival of a Warhol piece or two, and are not disappointed when a nest of the pop star's filmed portraits greet us just after.
Which way will you choose?

If you chose the unknown, continue reading.

Chapter Two- Deeper inside the Third Mind

Here we engage ourselves in an erratic whirlwind of historical events, moods and evocations. Cartoon-esque beings engage in erotic acts while prostitution and bestiality are hinted at in the often bichromatic paintings of Sue Williams. Our collective memory is called upon by Cady Noland's screenprints on aluminum, which contain news headlines starring assassins from various eras (John Wilkes Booth and Charles Manson), recalling the United State's bloody past. Afterward we are abandoned in a no-man's land of empty waiting rooms (Jean-Frédéric Schnyder) and Urs Fischer's studio sans artist, yet full of the residue of life. The impression is that we have missed something or someone- and that that missed opportunity is gone forever. The sensation is one of loss but also of hopefulness; what is left behind after everyone has moved on? Next, we develop amnesia as we are confronted with the equally creepy and elegant futuristic sculptures of Paul Thek, all neon with hidden compartments of gristle. Accompanying these relics are the work of Emma Kunz, a Swiss medium who during the 1960s produced colorful sketches resembling Spirograph drawings of extraordinary beauty. There are also plenty of obstacles, such as Laurie Parsons' pile of detritus- a work of found art by an ex-artist (Parsons now works with the mentally disturbed and has renounced her artist past). Discarded newspapers and trash rest upon a pile of wood, challenging the art establishment in a way that goes deeper when one considers the artist's life and subsequent rejection of her abandoned occupation.

Finally we are confronted with the work of Burroughs, who collaborated with Bryon Gysin in order to develop the concept of a third mind; or a new consciousness that can result from the alchemical experimentation of putting two points of view together. The two worked together using a process they called cut-up, where they took photographs and text from various places and reconstructed them to create a new meaning, one which reflected the chaotic society in which they lived.

The room functions as a bookend to our journey, bringing us back to the real world, but not exactly– the facts are once again manipulated and blurred to the point of, wait this is the real world– ours. Frenetic and sometimes treacherous, profound or nonsensical, it all depends on how you choose to construct your reality, dear viewer.
whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.

Cynthia Valdez, WM Paris

Cynthia Valdez is a writer in Paris.

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