Exile Pavilion / Layover 02 / Marseille

Curator : Ariel Kyrou, Leila Voight, mounir fatmi 

August 24th, 2016 – August 28th, 2017

Are all contemporary artists exiles without knowing it? Aren’t the migrants who built cities and a new way of life from scratch, like recently in the so-called “jungle” of Calais, true artists themselves? Aren’t he rebel writer, the unconventional plastic artist, the building refugee, the free thinker and the volunteer citizen of the world all bearers of a different future, one that is no longer predatory but welcoming?

When in 2016 Mounir Fatmi, an artist from Morocco who considers himself an “immigrant worker”, decided to create the collective Pavilion of Exile project, he probably had these questions in mind. “From the necessity, the constant urgency to reflect upon exile emerged the Pavilion of Exile project, conceived as traveling project offering an alternative cartography, a free geography of temporary exhibits in the form of stopovers in a series of countries. The project addresses the question of exile as a new space to be reinvented, reconsidered and ultimately occupied. It aims to question in a both global and specific way the relations between the different forms of displacement, that of a migrant worker, an expatriate, a refugee or an exile due to war, natural catastrophes, economic struggle or political or racial persecutions.”

Invited by Leïla Voight for the closing of the a-part festival, the Marseille edition of the Pavilion of Exile will be held far “off” the Art-O-Rama contemporary art fair. From 24 to 27 August, the artists exiled there will include ORLAN, Gérard Fromanger, Philippe Cazal, Jean-Baptiste Audat, Eduardo Kac, Fabien Zocco, , Anita Pouchard-Serra, Guy Limone working with the actors of the PEROU (“Pôle d’exploration des ressources urbaines”) and from the fake news show Réinventer Calais, the photographers Laurent Malone and André Mérian, along with other witness-artists such as Isabelle Arvers, who transfigured the words of two migrants by twisting a video game. Two talks will also be held, about the notion of exile and art’s capacity to change the world.

The inverted exile

Who are the others? Such is the question asked by Mounir Fatmi to passers-by in his video The Latest In is a Stranger. As if echoing that same question posed by the writer Mohammed Dib to a few French philosophers, among which Jacques Derrida, at a time where there was no “jungle” in Calais. You cannot notice the absence of an unknown person, writes Philippe Cazal. There are no others. Because we all are the others of one another. That’s something that will never be understood by those Nations whose satisfied slumber is showcased by Jean-Baptiste Audat. The only bearable flags? The mutant ones on which the characters shown by ORLAN in ASYLUM – EXILE stand. Or perhaps the standard of the Refugee Nation, a contemporary version of the pirate flag, so that our alienated exiles become journeys that blow up our mental and physical borders, from the inside and the outside. Let’s laugh, with Untel, at the tourist in shirtsleeves who believes he is at home anywhere when all he sees is the varnish of the world. Guy Limone, creating with his thread a series of colorful migrant soldiers, and Pierre Desfons, transforming a mousepad into a prayer rug facing the black sun of the dismal disaster that is ISIS, also invert the notion of exile. Each in their own way, the artists of the Pavilion of Exile reinvent their own exile in a critical, twisted or exhilarating way, against the exile that is imposed upon us by those powers that torture, expatriate, starve, exploit and brainwash.

The school of exile

In the so-called Jungle of Calais, precarious dwellings, as these tents and cabins are designated, but also inns, churches and mosques, infirmaries, a theater and schools are built on sand. Afghans, Sudanese, Ethiopians, Iranians, Syrians, Egyptians and other migrants from Africa and everywhere else have sweated and danced in the wind there, with volunteers from Europe and elsewhere. Between January and November 2016, photographers Anita Pouchard Serra, Laurent Malonne and André Mérian were so much more than the witnesses of a desire, a joie de vivre anchored in the here and now, and eventually of the destruction by political stupidity of this “dream” of an international city. The photograph of the torn down sign indicating the “Secular school of the Path of the Dunes” symbolizes such destruction. It contrasts with the beauty of the story of that very school, told by Zimako and Marko in Isabelle Arvers’ machinima Heroic Makers vs Heroic Land, created with the video game Moviestorm and based on photographs and interviews. Is there a school of exile? Multiple schools, rather, most of the time metaphorical ones… Where beautiful characters can be found, such as those “rejects” from a camp in Tunisia filmed by Sophie Bachelier and Djibril Dialo… Where one learns to live in a mezzanine floor, like Younes Baba-Ali, between Marseille and Tangiers. Where one can also, thanks to another sound piece by Anna Raymondo and Younes Baba-Ali, experiment an internal exile in the dark, “to lose and perhaps find oneself”.

The transfigured exile

Up to what point can the notion of exile be reinvented? The feet by Mexican artist Beatriz Canfield, are they the bare extremities of anonymous migrants hung high? Or on the contrary, are they legs floating in zero gravity, transfiguring exile by ascending towards the sky? Is there a more absolute exile than that of astronauts in outer space? Interior Telescope was the first sculpture ever created in a space station. Eduardo Kac enabled French astronaut Thomas Pesquet to create it in space with paper and scissors, following a procedure tested at length on Earth. Another inconceivable metaphor of exile: Fabien Zocco’s installation juxtaposes the name of stars such as Aldebaran, Proxima or Vega, with the picture of a place bearing the same name taken from Google Street View. The dream of an exile to other galaxies ends up in a pathetic locality here on our planet. Unless it’s those mediocre territories that make us want to dream about stars? What these artists tell us, just like the migrants in Calais, is the urgency to transfigure things, to dream of exile rid of the clichés and constraints imposed by the powers that be.

Ariel Kyrou, 2017 Paris.

Participant artists :

André Mérian – France, Anita Pouchard-Serra – France/Argentine, Canfield Beatriz – Mexique, Eduardo Kac – Bresil, Fabien Zocco – France, Gérard Fromanger – France, Guy Limone – France, Isabelle Arvers – France, Jean-Baptiste Audat – France, Laurent Malone – France, mounir fatmi – Maroc, Orlan– France, Sebastien Thierry/Le PEROU – France, Phillip Cazal – France, Sophie Bachelier-Djibril Diallo – France/Burkina Faso, The Refugee Nation-Yara Said – Syrie, Untel – France, Younes Baba-Ali, Maroc, Anna Raimondo, Italie