French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot exhibits in Shanghai

By Chen Shasha Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/3 18:58:40


How would it feel to walk through an ancient mountain riverbed, become immersed in the dark mist while listening to birdsong resonate through space? French artist Céleste ­Boursier-Mougenot leads the audience into an atmosphere of humanity, nature and music for a new exhibition at Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum.

Titled Sonsara, it is Boursier-Mougenot's first solo exhibition in China. The name comes from two words: "Son," a French word referring to the auditory effect that can be sensed through the ear, and ­"Samsara," meaning the cycle of human life.

By guiding the audience on an immersive art journey, the exhibition inspires humans to think about the relationship between people and artificial nature.

Boursier-Mougenot is famous for creating an ecological system in a particular venue using nature and the advanced technologies. The six installations, made from both modern and organic articles, have transformed the museum into a complete ecosystem.

As a pretext of the exhibition, an installation named Choreography is made up of pebbles of different sizes which scatter randomly on an escalator at the entrance. Walking on the escalator is like wandering through an ancient riverbed meandering quietly through a mountain. It links the outside world to interior space.

Reaching to the top of the mountain, we come to a space called Brume not unlike a deep and serene cave where sounds loom around in a dense mist. Projectors presents the images of the next installation, From Hear to Ear, making the two scenes intertwine with each other.

The next level

Over 160 zebra finches are the stars of the next scene. Musical instruments, amplifiers, effectors, nesting, sands and plants form a natural habitat in which birds, fly, hop or perch on instruments, playing a live performance for the audience.

Scanner presents the undetectable sounds generated by airflow and location changes. Several helium balloons, with wireless microphones tied to them, float in wind created by electric fans. The speakers play sounds recorded by microphones in real time.

Clinamen takes the sensory experience of music to another level. Two hundred porcelain bowls of various sizes float in the water. The bowls wander around as the water moves. Clear and euphonic ringing comes along as they meet each other.

The images of Clinamen are projected in Plex where the bowls moves in a more abstract way with bass of the real-time scene resonated in the space.

When discussing his understanding about the relationship between humans and artificial nature, Boursier-Mougenot believes one has to have empathy about everything around us.

"I think in my case, it is like having empathy about everything surrounding me and the world," he said. "For me, the box, the birds and myself are all materials. Sometimes I am used by materials that I transfer into a piece of art. I think it is not the science that demonstrates life. Life exists while science has not yet finish discovering it thoroughly. An artist is somebody who has the intuition to feel empathy."

He contends that music is a medium which can transfer energy spontaneously like a transmission cable.

"What interests me most is music without intention. What I intend to make is a piece of music without any intention or academic composition. I am only a translator and processor who transcribes music which is invisible," he added.

Boursier-Mougenot said he won't control those elements. The whole scene is "presenting a free will and the unpredictable." "It is a process which could evolve beyond my imaginations and explore all the possibilities. I give the guitars to the birds because they create effects which always surprise me a lot. But in the end, I am able to get such a result: The time, the past and the future, are compatible, just like our life."

Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum was used as the French pavilion during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

"I walked all over the places in the pavilion, and felt it like a womb in which I could be integrated and do something within a certain period. Then I started thinking about the intentions of people who invite me to arrange the exhibition and whether they are going to follow my thoughts," he said, adding that those who have a real love for art or who believe in the true value of art shall follow the path of the artist.

He said he is glad to meet Sun Qidong, the curator of the exhibition. "It is lonely for an artist to arrange a real exhibition on his own. He needs someone to talk with. Sun is the one who can talk with me," he said. "We invited each other to our homes. Our houses are telling our stories."

Axel Cruau, Consul General of France in Shanghai, said during the opening speech that he hopes the exhibit will enhance cultural exchanges and the relationship between China and France.

Date: September 1 to November 12, 2017

Venue: Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum


Address: 1929 Shibo Avenue, Pudong New area

Admission: 50 yuan

Call 021-61052121 for more details



Art works displayed at Sonsara Photos: Chen Shasha/GT


A poster of the exhibition Photo: Courtesy of Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum



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