Saturday, February 28, 2015

Takis. Champs Magnétiques @ Palais de Tokyo

Takis, Télépeintures, installation view
There are few artists working today whose work continues to surprise and delight its audiences. When I say “surprise,” I do not refer to works that shock or engage their audience in some kind of intellectual dialogue on morality, politics and culture. I mean surprise in the most joyful of ways. And what makes Takis’ works resonate long after we have left the Palais de Tokyo is that they continue to reveal their invisible layers of enchantment. For works that present as clinical and scientific and mathematically, rationally structured, Tarkis' installations, sculptures and environments are remarkably human and playful. That’s what makes them exciting.

Takis, Signaux, et Peintures
Vue de l'Exposition
As I thought about the works after I had left the museum, every thought I had turned into its opposite over time. For example, in works that claim to be concerned with questions of invisibility, these works are extremely visual. I watched visitors sitting in the environment created inside the Palais de Tokyo listening to the sound installation, Sculptures Musicales. Inevitably, they (and I) couldn’t resist the temptation to walk up to the white panels on which a needle is pulled to a wire by a magnet behind the panel, to see how it works. Thus we all looked for a visual explanation to a sonic performance. Or alternatively, in the Télépeintures magnets deform the solid coloured canvas behind which they are hidden when they attract metal cones supported at a distance on the ceiling. The strange shaped canvases are infinitely fascinating because although we cannot see how the attraction is created, we understand that it is, and thus, we continue to investigate through vision what we cannot see.  

Takis, Gong
All of Takis’ works on display here sit at the crossroads between science and art, rationality and creativity. Again, in the case of the Telepeintures, we begin by looking for the physics of these strange sculptures, and yet, we find elements held in place by magnetic elements, that lead to a discourse on gravitation, orientation, a discourse that tells of our invisible and inexplicable attraction to each other, our limitation as humans. Another discourse hidden from the eye, one that becomes very obvious very quickly is that of the relationship between people, its inexplicability: the force field that surrounds or attracts two people, a person to a thing is never visible, not something we can figure out, it’s just there, and it is irresistible, timeless.
Takis, Magnetic Sheet, 1971
In another example in which nails are available for the visitor to throw against a metal sheet with magnets placed strategically at certain points behind the sheet, appears, at first sight to be a discourse on some kind of scientific logic about what makes nails stick to a metal sheet. But then, in time, we recognize the piece as a conceptual reflection on our experience, it becomes a discourse of aggression towards the museum. Or perhaps visitors understand the piece as I did when I was reminded of the side show when we shoot the ducks or try to get the balls into the clown’s mouth. We have to aim right to get the nails to stick to the metal at the point where the magnet is, and it’s so difficult to win. When all the nails fall into the gutter below the sheet, we understand that attraction is never a guarantee.
Takis, Sculpture Musicale, 1977
 While magnets are the primary medium in Tarkis’ extensive artistic vocabulary, in some pieces the magnetic force is supplied by the earth’s gravity. When his works respond to this magical, inexplicable, invisible force, confusion is created. In his panels of dials and signals as well as the Giacometti-like Signaux, the scientific, engineering invention goes awry, the needles nervously fluctuate, as they are pulled in all different directions. When any kind of technology takes over in Takis’ world, it inevitably fails to measure, to direct, to orient.

For Takis, the invisible energy that creates the rhythms and resonance of a gong as it hits a cymbal, the arrows that kill St Sebastian, or the erotic desire that propels sexuality and sexual intercourse, are all driven by the same invisible force. All of the signs, signals, whether they be philosophical, astronomical, physical, mythical, are organized by invisible energies that we can never fully comprehend. And even if we do, they are likely confuse so that comprehension is only ever fleeting.

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