French Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale
Artist: Céleste Boursier-Mougenot
Curator: Emma Lavigne
Commissioner: Institut français, with Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication
Venue: Pavilion at Giardini
In his 2010 installation at the Barbican in London, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot released a small flock of zebra finches into a gallery equipped with carefully tuned and amplified electric guitars. As the birds perched and preened, their movements created an unpredictable soundscape, enveloping guests as they walked through the semi-organic gallery ecosystem. Describing the installation, Boursier-Mougenot explained in an interview, “I am not using the birds, I am collaborating with them” in creating the dreamlike experience.
Boursier-Mougenot’s work frequently uses technological intervention to create multisensory environments, bringing the viewer into direct contact with an experiential world that the artist describes as a “phenomenon, like a living organism, indissociable from the conditions of its emergence and the circumstances of the present.” His project at the French Pavilion of this year’s Venice Biennale, titled “rêvolutions,” exists squarely in this tradition.
Visitors are guided into and through the space by three uncanny, quivering artificial trees, which form larger patterns of choreographed movement and generate their own droning sound. Design elements and furnishings within the pavilion offer variable reference points for spectators, and the structure itself is partially slathered in an artificial foam, designed for a previous series, that flows and expands in response to the sounds of the installation. Through this interplay between artifice and organic form, the pavilion is transformed into a surreal ecosystem of poetry and meditative experience.