The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, MARCO, presents Christian Boltanski. Animitas exhibition which brings together representative works of the French artist that evoke places of spiritual worship and confront the viewer with the risks of not exercising the ability to remember and with the certainty that life will inevitably exhausted.

In his work, Christian Boltanski (Paris, 1944) has rearticulated the notion of sanctuary in the form of installations imbued with great power. In the piece Animitas, 2014, the artist broadcasts in real time a video of five-hundred small bells in the Atacama Desert in Chile, which produce a magical sound as they collectively sway in the wind.

For him, this installation portrays the souls of five hundred people, while depicting a kind of map of the sky as well. The work, ultimately, also represents a landscape. Boltanski has used the form of the memorial to scrutinize mechanisms available in the contemporary world to conserve or retain people’s identities.

The work’s title derives from the Latin word for soul, anima, of which animitas is a Spanish appropriation that means “little souls.” The animita is a kind of structure built by roads and highways in memoriam to people who have died in car accidents (while they are common throughout Latin America, they are known by this name in Chile specifically). Photographs and personal belongings of the deceased tend to accompany the animitas, and these memorials are often invested with people’s hopes for miracles.

Portraits are present in many of Christian Boltanski’s art projects and installations, for example the seriesLumières and Monument, where photography is used as the medium that allegedly depicts reality and turns it inside out in order to transform it into a mechanism that emphasizes the emptiness of identity. It confronts viewers with the photographic format’s lack of credibility, and forces viewers to intuit where the actual information about the lives of these people might truly reside.

Also, the artist has always questioned photography and divested it of its archival value. He has also undermined its contribution to historical memory and to specific recollections, given that photography has not been able to preserve the identity of the subjects it has captured on photosensitive surfaces. For Boltanski, memory is elsewhere, in a being that changes over time and that inevitably exhausts itself.

The artist dismantles the materialist notion that many people have about history and sets up new ways to approach it. In his works, materials lack value and only have a practical function, just like the spaces where they are shown. The important thing for him is the effect they cause.

Old tin boxes, cables, lightbulbs and clothes are some of the elements that make up his installations.

The durability of certain materials that very effectively evoke the passage of time allows Boltanski to simultaneously establish a difference and an analogy between synaptic (organic) memory and the memory that is implicit in objects’ forms. Remains of the past, the residue of distant lives, render the persistence of materials evident, even though these also disappear in time.

Christian Boltanski. Animitas exhibition will remain open to the public from Friday, January 22 to Sunday, June 5, 2016.

© MUSEO DE ARTE CONTEMPORÁNEO DE MONTERREY, 2016 | Zuazua y Jardón S/N, Centro. Monterrey, N.L. Mexico, 64000 | Ph. +52 (81) 8262.4500

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