Daniel Buren: Master Artist Of Open Spaces Takes On The Grand Palais

Established in 2007, the Monumenta series challenges an artist to occupy the vast open space of the Grand Palais of Paris. French artist Daniel Buren has a colorful response.

Laurent Wolf

PARIS – The Grand Palais is an enormous enclosed space, 13,500 square meters (145,000 square feet) without a single obstacle on the floor, covered by a dome 35 meters (115 feet) high.

What was originally meant to be a temporary building, built for the Universal Exposition of 1900, has become an architectural fixture in the French capital. It has been used for horse shows, auto shows, congresses, fashion shows, concerts, dance, and art exhibits. And since 2007, there has been Monumenta: a carte blanche given to an artist to occupy the vast nave under the changing Parisian sky. After Anselm Kiefer, Richard Serra in 2008, Christian Boltanski in 2010 and Anish Kapoor last year, it's time for Daniel Buren to take on the challenge.

And indeed it's a challenge! Daniel Buren says that the Grand Palais is "huge public square." This public square is covered with a glass roof and its architecture is a performance. Monumenta is an exhibition like no other. Should the artist converse with the architecture, overcome it or discreetly slide into it?

Anselm Kiefer took a very traditional approach, valuable more for the pieces than for the use of space. After him, Richard Serra set up huge steel plates confronting the sky; Boltanski created a mind-blowing clothes cemetery with a crane manipulating a pile of garments, and Anish Kapoor shaped an enormous creature, frightening on the outside and welcoming inside. Each one of them turned the challenge into a conversation between the work and the Grand Palais.

In France, Daniel Buren is one of the few artists who has already faced such spaces, either in institutions like New York's Guggenheim or the Centre Pompidou in Paris, or during international exhibitions like the Skulptur Projekte of Münster. Intervention in public spaces is Buren's trademark, which he calls "in situ" pieces. Monumenta thus seemed to be just for him.

Loved and reviled

As one of the most popular – and unpopular – contemporary French artists, Buren's intervention was highly anticipated. It must be noted that he gained this dual standing thanks to his "Deux Plateaux," known by the nickname of "Buren's columns," built 26 years ago in the courtyard of the venerable Palais Royal.

The artist entitled his exhibition Excentrique(s) (eccentric), without any explanation, maybe because the confrontation with the Grand Palais is such a puzzle. He wanted above all to take advantage of the building construction, made of circles, giving birth to two rectangles which come together under a circular dome. And the result is some 100 circles, covered with colored film – blue, yellow, red, green – and fixed on 1,300 metal legs above the visitors' heads, amplifying the extent of the nave. The system is interrupted just under the dome and can be watched through big circular mirrors.

The exhibition is also eccentric because Buren succeeded in changing the way people can circulate in the Grand Palais, whose entrance is located at the level of the dome. The artist wanted the visitors to cross the nave from north to south to discover the system midway through.

At 74, Daniel Buren is perhaps the singular specialist at playing with exceptional spaces. He always succeeds in revealing the shape and function of the locations, both in his "in situ" pieces, only meant to be seen in one place, and in his "situated" pieces – that can be transformed, depending on the place. For Monumenta, Buren remains simple, effective and a little frosty by dint of deliberate intelligence and the rigor in his choices.

Fortunately, there's also the sound. Because Excentrique(s) is not only a visual exhibition. The work is accompanied by loudspeakers placed in the nave, broadcasting 37 voices giving the name of the colors in 37 different languages. The loudspeakers seem to whisper intermittently in your ear, as if a confidant suddenly appeared behind your back. It is a touch of poetry to the mechanical precision.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Groume

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Iran To Offer Master's And PhD In Morality Enforcement

For those aiming to serve the Islamic Republic of Iran as experts to train the public morality agents, there are now courses to obtain the "proper" training.

Properly dressed in the holy city of Qom.

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

A woman in Tehran walks past a mural of an Iranian flag

The traffic police chief recently said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes

Rouzbeh Fouladi/ZUMA

New academic discipline

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

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