Since it opened in 2013 I have been granted the privilege to attend each of Ora-Ito’s MaMo art exhibition. An outdoor space on the rooftop of the Cité Radieuse by architect Le Corbusier, in Marseille, Marseille Modulor hence nicknamed MaMo, is a contemporary art institution that celebrates some of the most achieved artists in the world. Each year the guest is commissionned to envision an on site experience including large scale pieces since the size of the rooftop is large enough to show it. I love land art and although you may consider that the Cité Radieuse being made of concrete from bottom to top there is no way to see any link with that kind of expression, I do. Every installations in this location have been a demonstration that land art doesn’t necessarily involves some grass around your sculpture or some direct contact with any kind of material natural elements. Le vent des Forêts festival and Chateau Lacoste are more than okay but a rooftop proves to be a must too ! Daniel Buren and Dan Graham specifically redefined what can be called land art here at the MaMo with their work as it convey this pure feeling of breathing and making sense only as it enters in contact with other kind of natural elements such as the sea, the clouds in the sky and the air itself. Each piece by Dan Graham, or pavillions as he likes to call them, are entrusted with a mission to enhance or highlight the beauty and the way we actually see or observe things that surround us. From people around us to urban equipments, fabrics and materials, and particularly when some extra films are added to them : changing light, evolving and eroding materials, wind or water impact on things, etc. ‘Observatory / playground’ by Dan Graham is all at the same time a ‘children friendly installation‘ says Graham and ‘an look-out post, a 360°opened promontory nested between the sea and the mountains‘ says Ito.
As we walked around the rooftop, its Artistic Director and initiator Ora-Ito commentated the making of the two pavillions that were made exclusively by Dan Graham for the MaMo.
Architects from Toyo Ito to Rem Koolhaas have been under the influence of Kazuo Shinohara shool and Dan Graham is but no exception. So although his works is often reffered to the artists he dwelled with at the time he was a gallerist back in the New York of Sol LeWitt, Carl André, Donald Judd or Dan Flavin, the most obvious reference in these new pieces are more architectural. Legendary architect Shinohara on top.
Business Madame : Ito please introduce us to the art work you commissionned Dan Graham with.
Ora-Ito : This year we produced two pavilions. They are also to be shown during the FIAC Paris, as part of the Hors les Murs, on the Place Vendôme. But the piece will be totally different, one of a kind as it evolves in a context that is by no means similar to here. Dan Graham says that each piece has no importance or essence if shown independently or with no context. Shadows are intrinsecally part of each piece as they provoke scales variations. Depending on the external elements I may appear super tall today whereas yesterday I seemed to be as short as a kid. There is no end to what one may see in it and through it !
BM : Why and how did you made the decision to work with Dan Graham ?
OI : The encounter with Dan Graham have been amazing. At the time of the Daniel Buren show, I somehow ‘bumped’ into Marian Goodman. I told her about my admiration for this artist whose work she represents. She was really receptive to my desire to invite him here at MaMo. I have made it a goal to find the right ‘écriture’ or language for this place. The inaugural exhibition with Xavier Veilhan and his Architectone serie stood for open mindness. Then Daniel Buren’s art work symbolized a certain level of emancipation as he felt confident enough with the architecture of Le Corbusier to play with it. He deconstructed it through the reflections of his mirrors. Now the location has reached a kind of maturity and is autonomous enough as to dictate its own creative directions.
Dan Graham : “I was raised in New York by my mother, an educational psychologist. Childhood, observation, cityscape … it is all related. Observation coming first.”
BM : Yes and this when Dan Graham enters into action ! Who chose the what was the best location on the rooftop for the pavilions ?
OI : The floor did. It just happened to be like that as there was no other options due to some safety and security restrictions. And these two ‘boots’ are the best as they offer a perfec view on the sea and the mountains on the opposite side.
BM : Of course your pavilions are in direct relation with your previous work but tell us about the making and the influences that are infused in it.
Dan Graham : Corporate buildings architecture reflects somehow more what is happening outside than the activity going on inside. I am very much an observer hence the use of glass although massive and heavy because of the scale. But these materials are the same that are used in real buildings. it is german made. It is strong and resilient. I also like the fact that you don’t know where to draw the line : behind or outside the windows and the mirrored glasses. Especially looking back at the same corporate building I was referring to at the beginning. Its is all based on the idea of a game. I have put a lot of my childhood memory and experiences into it also. I had a telescope when I was 13 and I would peer into the lens to observe the stars and heavens. To observe and to play, it all comes in the same direction to me !
BM : How does it translate into your pavilions ?
DG : What you are going to see is going to be different depending on the weather, the clouds, the surroundings … And even according to who you are and where do you stand : a little boy may see a Superman as he watch his reflection because of the concave glass whereas a fat woman may see a slim version of her due to the convex shaped glass. My new work is a playground for children as much as a beautiful experience for their parents !
Dan Graham : “I have quoted Shinohara very often. A master whose work has been copied by other architects. It really influenced me as well. His structures are distorted. His architecture was like patterns applied on more patterns. It then creates various effects.”
BM : So is it only about wandering around on the rooftop ?
DH : Not at all even if I love this idea of simplicity and the fact that Ito wants to keep MaMo accessible to all kind of publics including youngsters. I was raised in New York by my mother, an educational psychologist. Childhood, observation, cityscape … it is all related. Observation coming first. With the support of the two architects I work with, I often organize ‘Architecture Tours’ in the U.S and in Europe. Observation is a must, it is mandatory to me.
BM : Your pavilions are definitely much the work of an architect above anything else …
DG : I have quoted Shinohara very often. A master whose work has been copied by other architects. It really influenced me as well. His structures are distorted. His architecture was like patterns applied on more patterns. It then creates various effects. These distortions in addition to other layers such as a reflective surface are of great interest to me. All my work is about time. Time is a layer in itself. Ito commissionned me on waves. So it works as a wave or as a paper screen which I love as it is friendly with children. And I like the constrast of this optical effect. French philosopher Michel Foucault used to talk about ‘heterotypes’ or ‘places in a city which are ‘different’ and which create a meaningful interruption in the continuum of everyday space…’ As something that gives pleasures but equally alienating and especially corporate buildings. My work is designed to be playful.
Observatory / Playground. Dan Graham – MaMo Audi talents awards. 14 June – 20 September 2015, Marseille, France. mamo.fr
Copyrights Portrait picture of Dan Graham ©Sébastien Véronese, Other views ©Andrée Fraiderik-Vertino