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The Importance of Magiciens de la Terre Exhibition

Discuss about the Artists and Collective Groups.

Magiciens de la terre was staged by the curator Jean Hubert Martin on 14 August, 1989 in Paris. The exhibition portrays the work of hundreds of artists and collective groups from all over the world to create a juxtaposition effect. It aimed to eradicate the culture of ethnocentrism from the minds of people that was prevailing at that time. The European people back then would undervalue the art work of people from other cultures and values and none of the art exhibition would deal with the subject. Jean Martin took up the subject and portrayed over a hundred of artists at an equal level where 50 percent of the artists were non western. The attempt was made through the artistic representation that people cannot be discriminated based on geographical regions and they also deserve to receive equal respect from the society (Rapko, 2014).

The curator chose to go for installation view for the exhibition in the gallery and selected the master work of Carl Beam and Richard Long. These works were chosen to signify the geographical regions across the world and renewed questions based on land and place and how the concept of art deals with the other geographical regions. The two works are being put together in a contrasting manner in order to make the audience think over the issues that have been prevailing in the society for such a long period. Richard’s long mud circle was made to hang near the Yuendumu community ground painting Yarla. Yarla is a traditional Australian piece of art that was made in the early centuries. The contrasting effect is created in order to showcase the issues that arise during the work. The exhibition also makes use of the Sarkis through showcases, screens, projections, reading tables and shelving (Friedel, 2016).

Apart from that, unlike the traditional exhibitions, this exhibition also displayed how the preparation of the exhibition was carried out through a number of videos which shows that the work was not just taken abruptly and every projection has a reason behind it to be showcased. The exhibition layout and structure was not like a traditional finished exhibition rather the curator made sure to make the exhibition movable as much as he could in order to shed some light on the practices which were deep rooted in the European culture. The exhibition comprised of a number of texts and images to display the views of European people over the non western world. The non western artists were represented on the stage with full respect and dignity equal to their western counterpart. This act demanded their equal rights in artistic world from the European people. The scenarios in the exhibition were staged in a manner so as to show case the inequities of the world. The 113 artist were staged along with their geographical locations, biographies and artistic works from over 50 countries across the world (Africanah.org, 2016).

The Curator Jean Hubert Martin and the Exhibition Layout

The exhibition is displayed in parts to give a contrasting view of the world through portraying different artists from the world. Every act has a message at the end for the audience to ponder upon. The artists are from different geographical location from all over the world such is Australia, Tibet, China and many more. The exhibition makes extensive use of videos, documentary, images etc to highlight the ethnocentric issue.

The exhibition starts with the Australian artists all together working on a painting on the ground. The artists talk to each other but their conversation which cannot be heard is not the focus here rather their art work ground painting is highlighted which is dreaming of rain. The scene depicts the hidden world of Dreamtime.

The next part opens with a Chinese guy who first washes newspapers in the washing machine to make a wall installation out of it. At first, he tries to connect himself with the Taoist’s philosophy prevailing in China which does not encourage questions. The inability to seek answer from the philosophy disconnects him from the Chinese culture and he finds himself between the western artists with whom he reconnects himself.

The third part shows some monks who are trying to create an art work with the use of dust and metal sticks. They work very hard to make the image and even start sweating in the process of making this complex art work. These people are actually working very hard and dealing with the complexities of the art work.

The next part shows the conversation between two women American Indian and African. The African woman asks some questions related to a blanket to the other woman and after hearing the answer the African woman is relieved. The next scene portrays a father and a daughter making a sand painting and the same lady who portrayed as an American woman in the earlier scene is also standing there and watching them. The man erases the painting after showing it to his wife. The scene symbolizes that deletion of something would lead to creation of some other new possibility. The scene leaves a very deep message for the audience to think upon.

The exhibition was under preparation for around four years with limited number of curators. The curators travelled across the globe for the exhibition to get themselves acquainted with the different socio culture and psychology of the people across the world. They travelled from North America to Australia, Japan, China, Tibet and other countries to explore the culture (Solal, 2016).

The Artists and Collective Groups Featured in the Exhibition

The curator chose the installation mode of presenting unlike the traditional exhibitions, because he wanted to have a direct connection with the audience through the show. He did not want the audience to see the immovable objects through the finished objects which gives the feeling that they have been abruptly taken from their original context and the audience does not even get to know the real motive behind the scene. The installation approach gives the audience a different perspective of thinking by engaging it through different acts and scenes. The audience gets to understand the real essence of the different acts that the curator wants to portray.

Since the light and technology was not even a close match that of today’s, still the curator made use of best of the technologies that were prevailing at that time. The extensive use of projectors to show the videos demonstrate that the best technologies were chose of that time. The screens were used for the reflection part. Then there was use of reading tables and shelves for the exhibition. The light technology used in the traditional art works of Richard Long ‘Red Earth Circle’ and Yuendumu, an Australian aboriginal community, is mesmerizing and demonstrates the excellent work of the curator.

The work displayed by the curator is an excellent presentation of revolutionary art, which has become a global turn phenomenon in the history of the world. Around 300,000 visitors visited the exhibition and were amazed to see the art work by the curator. Though there was intensive criticism for the art exhibition by many critics for the theme being used. The work was criticized for hurting the religious sentiments of a number of people over the world (Modern, 2014). Though the curator clarified that the essence was to give the non western artist the respect they deserve and to not to focus on the mini details of the work and overlook them.

Overall, the exhibition was an excellent effort by the curator through the extensive use of films, reference documents, notes and notebooks, films, catalogues and books, which shaped the concept of events. The visitors were enlightened by the field trips, the contact with the artists, the staging and the work of institutions.

References

Rapko, J. (18 May 2014). The Design Isn’t Firm; Or, Why Do Curators Talk Like That?.NYAQ/LXAQ/SFAQ: International Art and Culture. Available at: https://sfaq.us/2015/05/the-design-isnt-firm-or-why-do-curators-talk-like-that/ [Accessed 12 December 2016].

Friedel, J. (12 August 2016). Magiciens de la Terre. Contemporary and Platform for International art from African perspectives. Available at: https://www.contemporaryand.com/magazines/magiciens-de-la-terre/ [Accessed 12 December 2016].

Africanah.org. (2 July 2014). Magiciens de la Terre, a look back at a legendary exhibition. Africanah.org.  Available at: https://africanah.org/magiciens-de-la-terre/ [Accessed 12 December 2016].

Solal, A.C. Revisiting Magiciens de la terre. Stedelijk Studies. Available at: https://www.stedelijkstudies.com/journal/revisiting-magiciens-de-la-terre/ [Accessed 12 December 2016].

Steeds, L. (2013). Making Art Global (Part 2) ‘Magiciens de la terre’ 1989. London: Afterall Books.

Modern, T. (18 March 2014). In 1989 The Ambitious Exhibition ‘Magiciens De La Terre’ opened in Paris, presenting the work of over one hundred artists, half of whom were described as non-western. Biennial Foundation. Available at: https://www.biennialfoundation.org/2014/03/in-1989-the-ambitious-exhibition-magiciens-de-la-terre-opened-in-paris-presenting-the-work-of-over-one-hundred-artists-half-of-whom-were-described-as-non-western/ [Accessed 12 December 2016].

Modern, T. Magiciens De La Terre: Reconsidered. Tate. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/magiciens-de-la-terre-reconsidered [Accessed 13 December 2016].

Former West. Magiciens De La Terre Jean-Hubert Martin Editions du Centre Pompidou 1989 ISBN 102858504989. Former West. Available at: https://www.formerwest.org/ResearchLibrary/MagiciensdelaTerre [Accessed 13 December 2016].

Critique d’art. From Magiciens de la Terre to the Globalization of the Art World: Going Back to a Historic Exhibition. Critique d’art. Available at: https://critiquedart.revues.org/8308?lang=en Accessed 13 December 2016].

JStor. Bilderstreit' and 'Magiciens de la Terre. Paris and Cologne. JStor. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/884068?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents Accessed 13 December 2016].

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