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At the Palais de Tokyo, Anne Imohf summons an army of shadows


Make a body; common body. The pandemic has deprived us of those moments of grace where everything is played out, from the intimate to the political. This is the strength of the performance orchestrated by Anne Imhof at the Palais de Tokyo, until October 24: we are together, finally. We fall together, we get up together. Performers and spectators, a crowd is at work, which moves in its movements, its attentions to others, its silences. Even if the feeling of infinite solitude invades him during this strange ceremony which alternates violence and tenderness, crash and violins, pogo and albatross waltzes.

Since her Golden Lion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, each of the German visual artist’s performances has made an event: they are rare, and full of a disturbing anger that echoes contemporary unease. From the Hamburger Bahnhof to the Tate Modern, bodies inhabit each of his projects. Launched last Thursday, its staging invades every corner of its “Still lifes” exhibition, open in spring: four hours of increasing intensity. “A procession, which takes us into the bowels of the palace”, she sums up. “In my eyes, it is like an immense Stations of the Cross, with its moments of communion, flagellation, purification, says Vittoria Matarrese, curator of the exhibition who orchestrated everything alongside Emma Lavigne, president on departure. Like the exhibition, it is a space between life and death, darkness and light. “

Glass maze

It all started on the forecourt, in a ballet of motorcycles. Closed faces, emaciated silhouettes, a small group of performers escape their din and rush into the art center. “Like wandering souls crossing the Styx”, interpreter Vittoria Matarrese. A young man full of grace takes them along, carrying a loudspeaker from which harpsichord music blows. It is an army of shadows, but without weapon or breastplate: in hoodie, T-shirt and baggy, a helpless youth. At their head, Eliza Douglas. She also a painter and a model, she is much more than the artist’s muse: she carries performance on her shoulders, taking on a thousand roles, from costume design to music composition. From scene to scene, her deep voice becomes twilight, nightfall, electric dawn, and tries to resist the chaos.

Suddenly the group fled. But soon he collapsed: everyone was walking down a long corridor of smoked glass on their knees. With each movement, the crowd follows them, it will never let go. Almost disturbing diligence, sheepfold: blend in with the pack, or follow a guide? Cry for those who are on the ground, or contemplate them while rejoicing in standing? Dotted with Christian references, haunted by the disasters of the 20th centurye century, from fascism to the nuclear threat, performance imposes choices on us at every step.

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