Christian Boltanski at Museum of Modern Art, Bologna

Christian Boltanski has launched a city-wide project dedicated to Bologna, centered at the city’s Museum of Modern Art. The French author, sculptor, photographer, painter, and film– and installation–maker has assembled the array under the title Anime. Di luogo in luogo.

The project, curated by Danilo Eccher, runs until December through a path marked by various interventions and different locations in Bologna, which presents Boltanski’s work in all its expressive dimensions.

Anime is composed of several complementary “moments” around Bologna in which the interaction between contemporary art and the rhythm of day-to-day urban life develops around the themes of memory and the passing of time. Though commissioned for the 10th anniversary of MAMBO, Boltanski’s thematic concept for Anime is an unsolved aviation disaster: the case of Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870, which has come to be known as the “Ustica massacre.”

On 27 June 1980, an aerolinee Itavia DC-9 took off from Bologna carrying 77 passengers and four crew members. Bound for Palermo in Sicily, the plane flew for 51 minutes before disappearing from radar screens. A few hours later, wreckage from the DC-9 was spotted in the Tyrrhenian Sea near the island of Ustica. All 81 people onboard had died. Almost 40 years later, there is still no conclusive cause for the crash.

The nature of commemorating violent death and the workings of memory are a central theme of Boltanski’s work, and the installations around the city as well as in the museum itself are partly a retrospective themselves. The 25 works, including installations and videos, also examine the museum’s role in conservation and heritage.

Self-taught (he stopped attending school at the age of 12), Boltanski began painting in 1958 but first came to public attention in the late 1960s with short avant-garde films and with the publication of notebooks in which he came to terms with his childhood. Boltanski grew up in Paris in the aftermath of World War II. The combination in Boltanski’s works of speculative evidence of his and other people’s existence has remained central to his art throughout his career. In the 1970s he experimented inventively with the production of objects made of clay and from unusual materials such as sugar and gauze dressings. These works included disjointed flashbacks that again blurred reality and fiction.

In a few installations, Boltanski used portrait photographs of Jewish schoolchildren taken in Vienna in 1931; for many viewers these serve as a forceful reminder of the Holocaust. More generally, the works suggest sites of recall and remembrance, functioning like populist altars or monuments that are open to the viewer’s own projections and stories about mortality and history.

The Musuem of Modern Art Bologna is a logical as well as timely site for Boltanski’s work, operating a bit out of the mainstream of contemporary art’s bleeding edge. Its permanent collection includes offbeat works, many from the 20th and 21st centuries by Matej Kren, Sarah Morris, and others.

Reference: Andreas Franzke and Jean Robertson. “Boltanski, Christian.“ Grove art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.  .

Christian Boltanski, Monument, 1986. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Nr. 88.52.A-KK.

Christian Boltanski, What They Remember, Sculpture and Installations, 1995.  Exhibited at Eldridge Street Synagogue New York, New York. Photo: Dorothy Zeidman. © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Christian Boltanski, Anime. Di luogo in luogo, 2017. Photo: Bologna Today.

Sarah Morris, Taurus, 2009. MAMbo, Bologna, 4.02 x 31.18 m

Matej Kren. Scanner, 2010. MAMbo, Bologna.

Wayne Thiebaud , Four Cupcakes, 1971. (Bologna Museum of Modern Art / Morandi Museum).

Further Reading: Catherine Grenier, Christian Boltanski, and Luc Sante. The Possible Life of Christian Boltanski. MFA Publications: Boston, 2009. 

Catherine Grenier and Daniel Mendelsohn. Christian Boltanski. Flammarion Contemporary: New York, 2010.

Posted by Jean Marie Carey 

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