Mudam's winter lineup plays on fascinating contrasts
Kirchberg’s modern art museum (Mudam) has settled into a new set of exhibitions until spring next year and the themes see an interplay between individual works and the sonic dimensions of the museum itself.
Mudam’s current set of shows make for a comfortable space of rumination. Strange rumblings echo through the building where deconstructed pieces from the future (like Waters’ Witness and Garden of Resistance) meet more classical, 20th century art - as Face-à-Face so deftly pulls off. Tacita Dean’s more personal show on the top floor looms over the scene, and in the end Mudam has assembled a thought-provoking, but nevertheless enjoyable show capable of inducing dialogue and reconsiderations.
A delight for literature nerds, the first half of Tacita Dean’s exhibition is inspired by Dante Aleghieri’s Divine Comedy and its three central parts, Inferno, Paradiso, and Purgatorio. The themed pieces were originally used to set the stage for ‘The Dante Project’, a ballet which premiered at the Royal Opera House of London last year.
The pieces, which include jarring and ominous depictions of hell, an almost scarily abstract short film depicting heaven and photography eerily reminiscent of life on earth as purgatory, can nevertheless count towards the effort to keep Dante’s epic poem alive.
The second half is modelled around her short film One Hundred and Fifty Years of Painting which is complemented by a vast assortment of lithographic images depicting the sky of Los Angeles. The sense of brightness in this part of the museum, where the film’s dialogue leaks into a room full of blue skies, brings a sense of levity after her existentially heavy pieces inspired by the Divine Comedy.
A fascinating insight into Dean’s process and artistic vision really give an insight into her most recent work, inspiration and process. The fact her exhibition is on the second floor – above the other ones -- makes hers feel loftier in its depictions of heaven, clouds and blue skies - a fitting spatial metaphor.
What’s fascinating about the Face-à-Face exhibition is how it starkly juxtaposes more conventional pieces from the 1920s and 30s with contemporary pieces whose meanings aren’t so easily gleaned.
Gathering various pieces from different time periods in loose themes - rather than in opposition to each other - works wonders for this part of Mudam’s programme. Paintings by Otto Dix and Max Ernst cohabitate in the same space as avant-garde sculptures by Alexander Archipenko. The exhibition’s mission to highlight the avant-garde’s role, however alien and self-referential it may sometimes seem, really hits its mark and in the process may genuinely change some negative attitudes towards contemporary art’s most oblique impulses.
Tarek Atoui’s Waters’ Witness
Tarek Atoui’s Waters’ Witness, which debuted at Mudam just under a month ago, focuses on visitors’ sensory experience - although it wasn’t functioning properly when I visited. This was a shame since its central placement within the museum and its musical aspects would (ideally) have tied the Mudam’s new set of exhibitions together in its low-but-calming rumble.
As the exhibition meant to tie all the others together, Waters’ Witness occupies the central Grand Hall. A piece at crossroads - both between the other exhibitions and where art and music meet - Waters’ Witness is an eclectic collection of wires, rocks, wooden constructions and microphones.
But it’s somewhat hard to judge how Atoui’s piece would have tied Mudam’s themes together given that, according to staff, the piece wasn’t functioning properly. One could only imagine how the low rumbling would have sonically imbued the museum’s space with droning atmospherics with novel instruments made from disassembled machinery and geological debris.
Civic Floor and Garden of Resistance
Sung Tieu’s piece, highly critical of contemporary prison systems and complexes, leans indirect approaches to highlight the cramped interiority of modern prison cells and the inhumanism with which inmates are treated.
Their exhibition requires more physical and sensory investment, like craning your head to peer into the metallic structures representing prisons or walking on a white, foamy surface to read plaques detailing their construction. A stark show, Civic Floor might require long reflection and still leave questions unanswered given its highly technical presentation.
Garden of Resistance by Luxembourg’s Martine Feipel and Jean Bechameil gives Mudam’s inner atmosphere a much-needed homegrown feel. A vision of nature in the future, the pieces in the jardin des sculptures seem almost alien and produce sounds that are both soothing and eerily disquieting. Their presentation as moving metallic bits of nature posit the future as deeply strange yet unavoidable - a strong showing from the Grand Duchy amidst high quality exhibitions at Mudam.