Cracking the celluloid ceiling, one day at a time.
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Dynamo opened just over a month ago at the Grand Palais in Paris. Covering over 3500m², this exhibition explores the use of light, space and perspective in modern art; Julio Le Parc, Anish Kapoor, Ann Veronica Janssens and Marcel Duchamp are just four of the 150 featured artists.
Canvas prints and paintings, sculptures, machinery, gadgets, mirrors and lights all jostle for attention as you make your way through room after room and dip into alcove upon alcove. At the start, you are surrounded by the works of contemporary artists, and steadily retrace a timeline back to the genre’s pioneers in 1913. Art critic Valérie Duponchelle has likened Dynamo to a “kinetic ballet”. I assume she was thinking of Vaslav Nijinsky’s The Right of Spring, and not just any old Coppelia: this exhibition is eclectic, hallucinatory, enlightening and outright whacky. Its real gems are the interactive features. Peer into a kaleidoscopic abyss mere minutes after inching through a pitch-black ‘labyrinth’ randomly illuminated by flashes of neon light. Watch yourself in a chamber filled with spinning mirror strips appear and disappear like a writhing ghost. Walk through a ‘force-field’ of bouncing, blue rubber strings and observe two, perfectly positioned electric fans keep loops of billowing ribbon suspended against a wall. I left with a buzzing brain and aching eyes after three hours of processing perspectives and shapes I would be hard pressed to dream up.
My one quibble with this show is the scenography. Until I reached the fourth or fifth room, I found myself struggling to gauge Dynamo‘s intended effect. A large poster by the entrance encourages all visitors to take photos and videos, to interract as much as possible with the art and to spread the word online. That’s all well and good, but at the start, visitors’ expressions were more photo-worthy than the exhibition itself. The arrangement of contemporary art is abrupt, sparse, illogical… It gives no hint at the true wonders to come or the fun that visitors are about to have. A clinical, white-washed room with scuffed skirting boards and a couple of neon light sculptures does not – cannot – instantly impress. I felt a little sorry for the artists featuring earlier on. Quite a few people stared at their works in bewilderment, crumpled an exhibition leaflet nervously in one hand and staggered on in the hope that the next room would be more interesting. It’s a real shame, because as you move back in time, so to speak, Dynamo offers better cohesion, and the exhibition spaces are used far more effectively. For an art show promising spectacular visual and spatial displays, it takes a little time to warm up. However, the wait is more than worth it. Dynamo is essentially a vast, visual playground for young and old. If you’re going to be in Paris this spring or summer, make sure to set aside some time for it.
Grand Palais, avenue du Général Eisenhower, Paris: Dynamo exhibition on until 22 July 2013
– All photographs my own –