Paris : Conversation Adrian Paci, Marta Gili & Marie Fraser - Museum "Jeu de Paume"

25 February-12 May - 1 Place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris

Friday 1 March 2013 by en

The work of Adrian Paci (born in 1969 in Albania) underlines one of the parodoxes of human intelligence, which consists of becoming aware of reality through irreality. Often inspired by subjects close to him, stories arising from his everyday life, Adrian Paci lets them slide poetically towards a fiction, which in its turn creates one or more wider realities. The exhibition at the Jeu de Paume gathers extremely diverse works (videos, installations, paintings, photographs and sculptures) made since 1997 and shows the numerous interconnections that operate between these different media and means of expression.

Marta Gili

— I remember that the first piece of yours I saw was the video Albanian Stories, where your daughter tells a story about animals, war and exile. I think this very intimate encounter between you, your child and the spectator is a good example of how personal moments can become universal issues. From Albanian Stories to your latest piece, The Column, it seems to me that a poetic transformation remains the ba sis of the project, but in the latter case the tension goes from global to local, creating a kind of parody of return. Could you talk about the idea of homecoming, in relation specifically to The Column and to your work in general ?

Adrian Paci

— Yes, Albanian Stories was my first video and a crucial moment in my work, because it was then that I switched from being an artist who invents forms and shapes (at that time I was doing a type of abstract painting) to being an artist who pays attention and becomes a witness to something he has encountered and discovered to have great potential. The relation with this material begins with the closeness, the intimacy and the particularity of the meeting and opens towards wider dimensions that the material itself generates. My function as an artist is to highlight these potentialities without forcing them. Even The Column, the new project that I am working on right now, came out of a story I heard from a friend of mine, a restorer, who needed a new marble sculpture for a castle he was restoring. Somebody told him that it could be done in China, because they have good marble, good craftsmen, cheap labour, and they can be quick because they can actually do the work while the marble is being transported by boat. I found it terrific.

It sounded so weird, simultaneously sick and fabulous, something mythological and at the same time in keeping with the capitalistic logic of profit - merging the time of production with the time of transport. I started checking up on the real possibility of this kind of production. What I discovered was that they do exist, these “factory boats” that transform raw materials during transport into goods for the market. But I didn’t find out if these “factory boats” also produce marble sculptures. In the meantime, the image of a marble sculpture being carved on the ocean started working strongly in my head, and I decided to make it happen.

Now, as we speak, a marble block has left the quarry and is being transformed into a column, carved on a boat in the middle of the ocean by a group of five Chinese craftsmen. In a different way from Albanian Stories, there is in this project a coexistence of something conflictual and something fabulous, something real and something fictional. In both cases there is a storytelling structure, and the chronicle of real facts mixes with legend and fairytale.

Of course, one of the elements that I found stimulating with The Column was the production of a classical Western column model by a group of Asian workers on a voyage towards Europe. As you said, it is in a sense, for the column, a kind of “homecoming.” Elaborating a bit more on the idea of homecoming in my work, I can say that it is never simply a question of nostalgia for your childhood house or for your family. To come back to [...] the “themes” of my work: is “homecoming” or ”home” one of my themes? Yes, it is. Two of my works are very explicitly titled Home to Go and Back Home.

But “home,” as I’ve said, is not only the house, the roof, the family - it’s also a state of stability, connection, affection and identification with something. Homecoming does not, for me, evoke the question of emigration but a more profound question of searching for a lost stability. In a context of powerful transformation and change, we need to develop strategies of survival and continuity, and the idea of homecoming is part of these strategies. But in a wider sense I would say that “home” is something that you always miss. The experience of emigration maybe gives this existential question a more concrete form, and the figure of the emigrant can be seen as an explicit example of a more universal state of being. […]

Marta Gili

— Ceremonies and rituals are also very present in your work. I’m wondering if you think they are in a way connected with the idea of surviving or conjuring fears, collectively and individually. One of your latest videos, The Encounter, is possibly a good example, but also maybe Per Speculum or Last Gestures.

Adrian Paci — Well, the function of rituals is to mark the passage from one status to another, creating a fictional moment that helps us to face the harshness of reality. The rite has a collective aspect, but it is addressed to the individual. It is connected with tradition, but accompanies moments of major change and renewal. Of course, contemporary society is less interested in the use of rituals. In fact, capitalism aims to convince us that the only possible ritual for today is consuming. I am interested in rituals, and this is reflected in my work, but I operate in a way that problematizes them. As an artist you can’t produce a ritual, you can only reactivate moments or alter focus via gestures that offer another perspective on rites that are already familiar.

Marie Fraser — Your response is quite complex. On the one hand, you seem to have an almost nostalgic interest in ritual, as a lost collective experience - in your critique of consumerism, for example. On the other hand, you have a critical approach to the idea of ritual through your effort to problematize it. Do you think that this dual aspect corresponds structurally to the collective/individual theme that runs through your work ?

Adrian Paci

— You’re right, this duality is present in my work in a structural way. But maybe instead of “nostalgia” and “critique,” I would prefer to talk about affection and distance. I feel involved in the subjects I work with, but the sense of this involvement is not just to affirm my closeness to them. I use this proximity to enter into the hidden “folds” of my subjects, which are often marked by tensions and gaps that create a kind of vibration and open onto unexpected and wider dimensions. To see these gaps and tensions you need to combine your affection with the distance that gives you the space to develop a critical point of view. This critique is never cynical, and is not conducted from the safe position of an outsider who sees something wrong and declares it. As I said at the beginning, it’s more a kind of wondering generated by the contradictions of the realities towards which I feel a sense of belonging and affection.

* The quotes are taken from the text by Marie Fraser and Marta Gili « An interview with Adrian Paci », in the catalogue of the exhibition Transit, co-published by Mousse (Milan), Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art and the Jeu de Paume (pages 30 to 34).

More information on this website :
- Paris : Adrian PACI "Lives in Transit", February 26–May 12, 2013

Jeu de Paume Address : 1 Place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris

+33 (0)1 47 03 12 50

Opening hours :
- Tuesday (late-night): 11 am–9 pm
- Wednesday to Sunday: 11 am–7 pm
- Closed Monday, December 25 and January 1st

Admission : General admission €8.50 / Reduced rate €5.50

Free admission: Satellite program; Mardis Jeunes (the last Tuesday of the month, 5 pm to 9 pm for students and under-26s)

Tickets can be booked online via the Jeu de Paume website, with the Fnac and Digitick.


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