It's More Fun To Compete - Museum of Contemporary Art, Marseilles
Marseille, a paragon of Southern France that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, is also a dominant hub for contemporary art. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Marseille rests in a residential neighborhood off the beaten path, but is well worth the seeking out. One of the museum's current exhibitions is It's More Fun To Compete, a show motivated by Marseille being declared "European Capital of Sport 2017". The city won this accolade by showing its fervor for prompting sports participation and events for its citizens. The exhibition incorporates works activated by various aspects of sport, such as competition, training, individuality, and business.
Leading off for this exhibition is a project created by young French fashion designer, Simon Porte Jacquemus, called Marseille je t'aime. The path into this project is lined by ersatz sunflowers arranged on the floor on either side of the first alabaster room. The silk florals lead to a pearly sphere and a bleached cube situated against one another on the far side of the room. These entities are referred to by the artist as "houses", which seem to be positioned in conflict with one another, potentially demonstrating a struggle of the old bumping against the new. A separate part of this project was a live performance human sculpture that took place on a mountain overlooking the city. Life-size images of the performance piece are shown from various angles to capture the human heap that Jacquemus created with Willi Dorner. The human heap represents a pile of clothing, which is the field in which Jacquemus primarily works. Small diagrams next to the large prints identify the performers as various garments, including "the sweater", "the mittens coat", "the mesh cut", "the pink shirt", and "the small button shoes". This project focuses on Jacquemus' regard for competitive human nature, particularly within industries, such as fashion.
One of the most compelling spaces in the exhibition elegantly merges Valerie Belin's Bodybuilders (1999) photographic series with Boris Chouvellon's The Small Illusion (2008-2011). Belin's images of the bodybuilders are black and white, largescale, and captivating. The figures are tanned and oiled to the point of looking metallic as they pose and stare intently at the camera. The figures are nearly bare, but for their bottoms, and their muscles are so bulging and contorted that they appear illusory. Sharing many physical characteristics with the figures on the walls, Chouvellon's towers of trophies in the center of the room are arranged precariously up to the ceiling. He has taken these commonplace honors out of their symbolic arrays, stripping them of their singular importance as they become a mass of light, colors, mirrors, and reflections. The piece itself nods at The Endless Column of Constantin Brancusi. The air between Belin's images and Chouvellon's sculptures shares an affinity for aesthetics and preservation. The images will exist much longer than the men that posed for them, and the trophies will exist much longer than the personal memories associated with them.
Another outstanding installation in this exhibition is Malachi Farrell's Hooliganisme (1997), which combines several aspects of sport, including business, spectators, the media, and franchises. On May 5, 1992, at the Arman Césari Stadium in Bastia, France, a terrace of spectators collapsed during a semifinal soccer game. Eighteen individuals were killed and hundreds of spectators were injured, but the unwavering media continued to film the event. This incident serves as Farrell's point of reference for this exhibition, which confronts the media in the form of a multi-headed monster that travels up and down a pole in the center of the exhibition. The floor is littered with fake dollar bills and beer cans, while cheering mechanical bleachers of bottles symbolize the spectators in a mechanized dance resembling a disjointed wave. In the middle of the ceiling, triggered clotheslines extend across the room transporting muddied spectator jerseys and pants, and then retracting across the same space. With the multi-headed beast giving a speech, the crowd rattling in the stands, and the clotheslines slinking overhead, a copper ball on a track moved forward and backward, eventually reaching a goal of the end of the room and causing the electronic ballet to reset. This installation represents many of the tenets of sport posed by the expansive exhibition, including the decisive sides of competition and cheer, and the volatile sides of media-control and greed.
It's More Fun To Compete is on view until January 14, 2018