On 4 June, in the Jardines del Castillo, the French Pavilion will inaugurate the work of an artist who has explored the relationship between art and history through archive: Christian Boltanski. The reason for the profound connection between this artist and politics is biographical: Boltanski was born in a family marked by the holocaust in 1944 (Paris), just before the end of the Second World War. He was self educated, and began to paint when he was very young, as early as 1958. In an interview he once said that between 1969 and 1971 he had dedicated himself to reconstructing his childhood using photographs.
He became known towards the end of the 60s for his avant-garde short films and then later for his films and sculptures, although what brought him most fame were his installations, thanks to his use of archives as a device for preserving historical memory that should never be lost. In the 70s he also dedicated himself to reconstructing objects that had belonged to him between 1948 and 1954.
His installations develop the theme of absence and Boltanski makes it clear that every absence is the scar of an earlier presence, of something that has disappeared (or, in this case, that has been made to disappear) and left behind a vacuum, a hollow space full of marks, traces and signs which must be recovered in order to reconstruct what was almost erased from history. But, what is an archive? An archive consists of a gathering of what remains, of those traces that can help us rebuild the lost narratives, as photographs, used clothing or objects and documentation can be. Each one is, and represents, a mark of an absence.
It is interesting to note with this artist how reality and the will to preserve the history of forgetting are continually mixed with fiction. There is a degree of intervention in the reality of the events described, so that without subverting said events, Boltanski opens an important reflection about the nature of history: each event, seen from the perspective of Boltanski, becomes narration, and each narration is something independent from the way things have happened, since the spectator-narrator work of reconstruction can in no way be objective. It could be said that an installation that is comprised of a series of objects cannot be an interpretation in itself, yet the selection itself defines what we can or cannot see. In this sense, each time we see an image we might think that all that is not shown in it is being hidden from us.
Boltanski will represent France in the 54th Venice Biennale with the work entitled “Chance”, in which he will address the theme of chance: its power and unfathomable laws. For the duration of the Biennale you can access a version of the piece at: www.boltanski-chance.com
If you are passionate about art and history then we recommend you rent apartments in Venice and go and enjoy “Chance” at the Venice Biennale.
Translated by: Ben Palmer