What to See in Paris During FIAC

Ahead of the opening weekend of the fair, Wilson Tarbox gives his recommendations for the exhibitions not to miss

BY Wilson Tarbox in Critic's Guides | 21 OCT 21

Taysir Batniji, 'Quelques bribes arrachées au vide qui se creuse' (A Few Snatches Torn from the Widening Void), 2021, installation view, MAC VAL, Paris. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Éric Dupont, Paris; photograph: © Aurélien Mole 

Taysir Batniji


19 May 2021 – 9 January 2022

The conceptual work of Palestinian-French artist Taysir Batniji retraces his bureaucracy-filled journey from the Gaza Strip to Paris, exploring themes of displacement, erasure and loss. In the video installation Background Noise (2007), currently on view at MAC VAL, the artist films himself during an air-raid. Staring stoically into the camera as the walls around him shake from the force of nearby explosions, Batniji offers a glimpse of the untenability of daily life for Palestinians. Alongside this piece is another of the exhibition’s most moving works, the series ‘To my Brother’ (2012), which consists of 60 incisions into paper that trace the contours of photographs taken at the artist’s brother’s wedding. The drawings offer up ghostly likenesses of Batniji’s family and sibling, who was felled by an Israeli sniper’s bullet during the first Intifada in 1987, which, from a certain distance, begin to disappear like faded memories.

Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Rome 1er et 2 novembre 1975 (Rome, 1–2 November 1975), 2019-21, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Centre Pompidou; photograph: Bertrand Prévost

Prix Marcel Duchamp 2021

Centre Pompidou

6 October 2021 – 3 January 2022

Every year, the Centre Pompidou awards the Prix Marcel Duchamp to an artist at the forefront of the French art scene. The exhibition of the four finalists rarely fails to present a vibrant cross-section of young talent, and this year is no exception. Immersion is a recurring theme, whether it be in Julien Creuzet’s sculptural collages and video works that reference a corpus of decolonial artists and thinkers, from Jacques Coursil to Édouard Glissant; Julian Charrière’s cave-like sculpture, Weight of Shadows (2021), which attests to the destructive effects of fossil-fuel extraction; or Isabelle Cornaro’s glam postmodern, post-Memphis Group aesthetic. It is, however, winner Lili Reynaud Dewar who steals the show. Her four-screen video installation, Rome, 1er et 2 novembre 1975 (Rome, 1–2 November 1975, 2021), plays out the last moments of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s life. Nearly identical shots of actors of different genders and ethnicities switching seamlessly between French, Italian, English and Japanese flicker from one screen to another in a stirring statement on freedom, sameness and difference.

Émilie Brout and Maxime Marion, A Truly Shared Love, 2021, video still. Courtesy: the artists and 22,48 m2, Paris

Emilie Brout and Maxime Marion

22, 48

11 September 2021 – 23 October 2021

In their short film A Truly Shared Love (2021), Émilie Brout and Maxime Marion play a couple whose life together is as perfect as it is bland. Their moments of tranquil intimacy are mediated through their use of technology in highly designed spaces replete with creamy monochromes and subtle curves. At one point, for instance, Marion is seen scrolling aimlessly on his tablet through images of different coloured squares. This neutered, Ikea-catalogue aesthetic is suddenly broken at the film’s conclusion, as the slick patina gives way to a jerky end-credit sequence that feels oddly amateurish. In the gallery’s back room, the duo presents a group exhibition of friends and artists involved in the making of the film, which includes bizarro versions of props used within the production, such as a needlepoint representation of a pool cleaner (Marie Schmitt, Victor, 2021) and the same lamp as seen in one scene, but now broken (Julie Vayssière, Lampe [Lamp] 2021). These items violently interrupt the hypnotic rhythm of the film, surging forth like repressed acknowledgements that the promises of glamour and comfort they depict – the same material luxuries that are hurled at us on social media and in advertising – are, in fact, masks hiding our emptiness and fractured social bonds.

Mark Dion, The Extinction Cabinet, 2021, various sculptures in resin and plaster, wood cabinet, 2.4 × 3.1 m. Courtesy: the artist and In Situ - Fabienne Leclerc, Paris; photograph: © Aurélien Mole 

Mark Dion

In Situ – Fabienne Leclerc

10 July 2021 – 27 November 2021

In Mark Dion’s latest exhibition, ‘Retour à l’école’ (Back to School), at In Situ – Fabienne Leclerc, the traditional relationship between the visual arts and the natural sciences, with its emphasis on Enlightenment values of close observation and rational thinking, is turned on its head. Comprised of an installation that is part natural history museum and part turn-of-the-century, petit-bourgeois living room, the exhibition ironically points to how the technological optimism of the burgeoning industrial age ultimately resulted in a destructive and unsustainable environmental impact. A dark humour permeates the work: multiple diagrams of animals – such as Misadventures of a 21st Century Naturalist (2017) and Environmental Redemption (2014) – have their body parts labelled after zodiac signs and modern artists or movements rather than any specific physiological element. This break with logical, scientific thought is the artist’s response to an age in which society’s relationship to the environment has become, to quote Dion in the exhibition literature, ‘suicidal’.

Cate Giordano, The Final Wife, 2021, video still (Julianna Schley playing Janet Reno). Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris

Cate Giordano

Galerie Christophe Gaillard

9 October 2021 – 6 November 2021

Cate Giordano’s dual installations, Rome (2018–21) and The Final Wife (2021), present a series of videos or slide projections alongside figurative sculptures made from crudely stitched fabric and paper-mâché ranging in size from that of a small toy to life-sized. The latter installation, shown in the gallery’s main space, offers a fictionalized retelling of the 1993 Waco siege with an imagined romance between cult leader David Koresh (played by the artist herself) and Attorney General Janet Reno (played by Julianna Schley). The assembled works have the amateurish feel of a middle-school play but, for all of their awkward innocence, they also present rather disturbing representations of violence. One sculpture, David (2021), for instance, confronts visitors with a gun as they enter the gallery. There is an uncanniness, too, between these physical representations in the three-dimensional space of the gallery and the two-dimensional portrayals by real-life actors in the accompanying videos. It is like being transported to an unsettling childhood fantasy.

Thumbnail: Émilie Brout and Maxime Marion, A Truly Shared Love, 2021, video still. Courtesy: the artists and 22,48 m2, Paris.

Main Image: Cate Giordano, The Final Wife (detail), 2021, exhibition view, Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris. 

Wilson is an art historian, journalist and critic based in Paris.