how I would like myself to ‘be’
curator: marc donnadieu
The exhibition how I would like myself to ‘be’ is inspired by the polysemy of uses and meanings of the word “être” (‘to be’ in French): “to exist,” “to live,” all equally nominatives signifying “individual” or even “identity.” By engaging in a dialogue between works of brut art and contemporary art—especially those by performance artists from the 1960s-1980s—Marc Donnadieu, the curator of the exhibition, sheds light on how the diverse use of the photographic tool allows the world to see multiple, transient, or definitive existences and identities.
The photographs presented intentionally belong to artists consciously or unconsciously questioning their own masculinity and the polyphony of possibilities or impossibilities it encompasses. Consequently, each individual escapes their status as a “person” in order to “live in the image” what they could no longer “be in life,” thereby surpassing any political, social, or familial attempts at subjugation. Therefore, it’s no surprise that most of them blur themselves, gag themselves, suture themselves, mask themselves, cross-dress, transform themselves, duplicate themselves, or project themselves into “other” alterities—paradoxically, these gestures are more revealing of their profound beings. They seem to prefer affirming themselves through the eyes of the addressed gaze rather than the paths of spoken words, as if the silences of the image were more striking than spoken words. The invisibility of these “marginal” identities is countered by photographic projects “wholeheartedly” embodying manifestos of excess and boundarylessness.
An homage will be paid to the guiding figure in this field: Pierre Molinier. Immersing oneself in the works of Marcel Bascoulard, Anna et Bernhard Blume, Jorge Alberto Cadi, Luciano Castelli, José Manuel Egea, Le Fétichiste (anonyme), Michel Journiac, Henry Lewis, Tomasz Machciński, M A R S (Nathan Carter, Dan Estabrook & Mercedes Jelinek), MOHROR, Pierre Molinier, David Newman, Gaston Paris, Luboš Plný, Arnulf Rainer and Decebal Scriba thus involves deciphering life by distancing oneself from the world and expanding beyond oneself, then restoring this life by foregoing the world and (re)discovering oneself.
Moreover, when the artwork itself is a photographic self-portrait—or a “delegated portrait”—the situation becomes even more moving. On one hand, through the distanced or skewed mirror effect of one’s own reality inherent in any self-portrait; on the other hand, through the proof of this new identity that photography captures, develops, unveils, and sanctifies for eternity. To the extent that these “photographic beings” become more truthful—or more veracious—than life itself: the “self-being” in the image thus confronts the “non-being” of the real; the “word-being” to the “word-spoken”—or “cursed”—of existence.
Luboš Plný is one of the major figures in contemporary outsider art, whose international recognition was confirmed by his selection in the 57th Venice Biennale titled Viva Arte Viva (curated by Christine Macel) in 2017. As the first outsider artist acquired by the National Museum of Modern Art in 2013, he has enjoyed numerous institutional exhibitions in recent years. These include exhibitions at contemporary art museums in Kobe and Hiroshima, Japan, at the Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles, at the Kunsthalle in Dresden, and in his hometown of Prague. In 2017, the Dox Art Center dedicated a major solo exhibition to him, and in 2022, the Rudolfinum facilitated a dialogue between him and artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Barthélémy Toguo, and William Kentridge.
José Manuel Egea
Convinced of his magical ability to become a wolf, this young artist from Madrid is fascinated by the Kafkaesque metamorphosis found in the world of comics and mythology. As polymorphic as he is, his work consists of drawings, sculptures and performances, and urges us to accept our own repressed gifts for shape-shifting. Promoted by the gallery since 2016, he had a major show that same year by the Biennale de l’image possible in Liège, Belgium. In 2022, his work was featured in the exhibition Photo | Brut #2 at the Botanique in Brussels. His work is now part of several major European collections of contemporary art such as those of Antoine de Galbert, or Laurent Dumas.
Jorge Alberto Cadi
In the streets of Havana, everyone knows Jorge Alberto Cadi as « El Buzo » - the diver - because he’s constantly searching material for his works in the city’s abandoned objects. Boltanskian by his memorial use of photography, Warholian by his taste for stitching images together, Cadi always seeks to reveal what these photographs are hiding. Exhibited for the very first time in 2019 by the gallery, then in 2022 at Paris Photo, he was presented the same year in the 2nd part of Photo brut which, after the Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles, was hosted at the Centrale and the Botanique, in Brussels. His work is included in the collections of the Musée national d’Art moderne (Pompidou). In 2023, he was exhibited by Sophie Calle at the Musée Picasso.
This is the story of an anonymous photographic collection that surfaced from the secret depths to which it seemed doomed. Hundreds of amateur prints created over the course of a decade, between 1996 and 2006, that bear witness to the fetishistic habits of its author, manifested through pictures of legs covered with tights, taken either in the street or from a television screen. His practice evokes that of Miroslav Tichy, with the principal difference that our photographer sometimes becomes a subject himself. In both cases—as is often true with art brut—the burning questions of the construction to which our gaze proceeds and of the collective imagination’s infusion by such an individual[…]
At a very young age, Tomasz Machciński built an identity around an autograph, addressed to him by an actress he believed to be his mother. From this confusion, which lasted more than twenty years, a protean and personal mythology was born that reconstructs the artist. As the image of the Ovidian myth, or Gregor Samsa, Tomasz Machciński cannot be described. Indeed, his work consists of multiple self-portraits of as many different physiognomies. Exhibited in 2019 at the Rencontres de la Photographie, his works are already part of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and the Museum of Photography in Krakow (Poland). In 2023, he is exhibited at the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève in Chrysalides: le rêve du papillon.
catalog published on the occasion of the exhibition
how I would like myself to “be” curator: marc donnadieu
from february 8th to april 6th, 2024
preface by marc donnadieu