An Inner Odyssey at the Palais de Tokyo

“Step Back” … “Too Close” … “Don’t Touch”—all are familiar phrases barked at museum and gallery guests who transgress the invisible boundary between personal space and that of the artwork on display. From a young age we’re taught we can look but not touch, that we must maintain our own sphere of existence separate and distinct from an artwork, a notion which is turned on its head in the immersive, awe- (and sometimes anxiety-) inspiring exhibition, “Inside.”  

With two floors of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris completely reimagined by the installations of nearly 30 artists/collectives, “Inside” alters the typical museum-going experience. The exhibition seeks to “metamorphose” the museum, as the press release states, turning the gallery space into “an organism” to be mined from the inside-out. 

Some installations strive to evoke interiority by figuratively conjuring emotions like fear and anxiety; others do so literally through architecture. Playing with the expectations of interior and exterior space, the visitor approaches Stéphane Thidet’s cabin replica expecting a safe haven (implied by the title, Le Refuge), only to discover, perplexingly, it is pouring rain within the structure. Conversely, Exorcise Me (2013) by Sookoon Ang locks the visitor within a four-sided, four-channel video installation, subjecting her to an inescapable stream of images showing adolescent girls, their faces painted heavily with goth makeup. A feeling of claustrophobia is engendered visually and spatially in Ang’s work, as well as by dran’s austere, graffiti-covered staircase Be Careful Not to Fall. But it is also manifested in the absence of sight by Bruce Nauman in the sound installation Get Out of my Mind, Get Out of This Room. 

Other artists devise uneasy, tactile interventions, playing games with the visitor’s “don’t touch” interior monologue. Notably, the exhibition’s gateway installation, Tape Paris by Numen/For Use, was fashioned entirely out of Scotch tape—over 27 miles worth! The serpentine installation cascades midair across the entrance hall, allowing those outside the structure to watch as the more fearless visitors dubiously crawl through the hollowed, pliant interior (it can hold five adults at a time). And while some will choose to circumvent the precarious course through Tape Paris, Peter Buggenhout’s Hold On (2014) does not allow such a choice: the work, which looks like a structure swept up by a tornado then violently dropped back to earth, forces visitors across an unstable, yet carefully positioned path littered with inorganic and natural debris.  

Curated by Jean de Loisy, Daria de Beauvais, and Katell Jaffrès, “Inside” is a multi-sensory adventure charting a vast, complex array of human emotions. 

Liz Luna 

Inside” is on view at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris through January 11, 2015.

Explore the Palais de Tokyo on Artsy.

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