Palais de Tokyo is a contemporary and modern art museum unlike any other in Paris. Located on Avenue de New York (known until 1945 as Avenue de Tokyo – hence the name), the Palais as we now have it was created in 2002. However, the building itself has housed a host of different art institutions since its construction during the International Exhibition of Arts and Technology in 1937. What really sets apart the Palais de Tokyo, a self proclaimed ‘anti-museum,’ from others in Paris is the freedom it gives its contributors to completely redesign entire rooms and areas of the extensive 22,000 m² concrete space. This lack of restrictions gives artists the ability to create an atmosphere which give guests the feeling that they have been transported into an entirely new and interesting environment as they walk among different works.
Acquaalta truly exemplifies everything that makes the museum unique. Upon entering the exhibit, guests are invited to climb aboard one of many small boats and row themselves past a series of images in a section of the Palais which has been flooded with water. The artist has said about the work that ‘it is good to worry the visitor sometimes.’ He accomplishes this by having the lights lowered almost to the point of complete darkness. Guests will notice a loud, monotonous humming sound throughout the exhibit reminiscent of David Lynch’s Eraserhead, which deliberately induces feelings of unease. Guests will also find a large heap of rigid and uneven cushioned blocks somewhat resembling a collapsed building upon which they can lie down and bask in the strangeness of the exhibit.
With complete immersion into such an eerie yet tactile environment, this exhibit combines all the things that make Palais de Tokyo such a unique and unusual museum and pushes them to the next level. Guests will instantly feel the unease intended by the artist coming both directly from the unsteady rocking of the coffin-shaped boats, which are intended to be rowed standing up, and indirectly from the dark and mysterious surroundings. However, the effect is one of pleasurable excitement rather than actual fear, and the sheer novelty of rowing the boats indoors makes it great fun.
The artist was born in Nice in 1961 but currently lives and works in Sète, a small commune located just south west of Montpellier. He is recognized internationally as both an artist and a music composer, and often creates music to accompany his exhibits. He has displayed his works all over the globe in cities such as London, Berlin, Melbourne and São Paulo, and was the first French prize-winner of the International Studio Program at MoMA in New York City.
Acquaalta is a work unlike any other you will see this summer. It is also just one of five amazing exhibits which the Palais has running until September 13th, 2015.
Palais de Tokyo, 13 Avenue du Président Wilson, Paris, France,
By Mark Byrne