Dangerous Minds pal Michael Kurcfeld interviewed French artist Christian Boltanski in Paris recently and unwittingly became grist for the artist’s mill, but I’ll let Michael explain:
It’s not every day that a journalist becomes part of a work of art. In a stroke of autobiographical fervor a few years ago Christian Boltanski had sold the rights to his daily life to a wealthy collector, who installed 24/7 live cameras all over his studio at the southern edge of Paris. These tapes become part of a massive unfolding record entitled simply The Life of C.B. Enter one unsuspecting American journalist prepared to shoot an interview there… A French TV crew had just been chastised by the artist for trying to glamorize him with their multi-camera shoot, and he was in ill temper before we began. But he soon became both reflective and jolly, his rueful sense of humor occasionally igniting like a firecracker.
Boltanski is acknowledged to be France’s most important living artist. His dark and prodigious body of work is esteemed by critics and crowds alike, and it seemed high time, at 66, that he represented France at the Venice Biennale. For the task of filling the French pavilion this year, he created an overwhelming jungle-gym of metal pipe and literally streaming video (whizzing through the vast structure as a giant ribbon of black-and-white frames). The images are of day-old infants, photos cut from Polish newspapers that announce births routinely. Every 10 minutes or so, a bell rings and the frames halt, randomly focusing on a single baby. It’s a loud, visceral and claustrophobic encounter with Boltanski’s most recent meditation on long-time fascinations: chance and identity. Chance is both scary and exhilarating.
He’s created a colossal machine that’s a demonic hybrid of printing press and film projector. As architecture, it made me think of Piranesi, a kind of enveloping prison. It exalts the mechanical, by alluding to the Industrial Age, and satirizes it with a whiff of Chaplin’s Modern Times. Chance is interactive: In the chamber just beyond the main hall is a screen that visitors can control with a big button at the entry. Faces sliced into three segments jumpcut at high speed, such that the recombinant photos whirl like a giant slot machine. Or cards being shuffled. Games of chance. Winning and losing. But the work never veers far from the assertion that we all lose in the end… Is Boltanski a pessimist? He’ll say not really, that in fact he’s happier than ever knowing that the world will go on without him. Nor is he a fatalist. To him, nothing is written so fate is an illusion.
Read—and see—more at Huffington Post