Théâtre d’ombre, 1989
Memory and transience are Christian Boltanski’s big themes. When will we have stopped existing? When will we no longer be remembered? For decades he queried the correlation between life and death like no other artist in the international context – the disappearance of the individual and the desperate efforts of the human to ensure they do not forget and are not forgotten.
Christian Boltanski’s Installation “Théâtre d’ombres” belongs in the series of his shadow plays, which he has been presenting since 1984 in different forms and dimensions. With simple means Boltanski places the observer in an oscillating mood between merriment and melancholy. As so often in his installations, we find ourselves in a theatre again, in which we ourselves are part of the treatment. The moveable metal plate figures generate a tumultuous mesh of shadow shapes, which grow bigger and smaller and appear to dance through the entire room. The result is an ephemeral spectacle that reminds us of the tradition of the medieval dances of death. Boltanski describes his fascination with shadows in an interview with Doris von Drathen: “Shadows can disappear from one minute to another. As soon as the spotlights or the candles go out, all is gone. The shadow is fragile, it is intangible.”
(1) Christian Boltanski in: Doris von Drathen, “Der Clown als schlechter Prediger” (the clown as bad preacher). Conversation with Christian Boltanski. Paris, in December 1990, in: Exhib. cat. Christian Boltanski. Stock, publ. by Uwe M. Schneede, exhib. cat. Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg 1991, p. 53–77, here p. 75.
With the friendly support of Galerie Kewenig, Berlin, and the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Dr. Holger Broeker.