With each exhibition at the Acanthus Gallery we strive to offer a different experience to our audience. Since we began our story three years ago, we have wanted for every visitor to have a unique experience of that which is exhibited. We aim to offer a diverse programme and to enable the visitors discover different art sensibilities, stories, techniques and experiences. In the last three years we managed to show new works form many established Macedonian artists, but also, a number of young artists who are making their first steps in the artworld, wanting to show their work and get closer to the audiences. Continuing on this quest for something new, something different yet above all something of quality, we decided that cooperating with artists from abroad would give things a new direction. Having in mind that from the very start the gallery nurtured relations with the francophone community, the cooperation with the French artist Paul Gounon came as a coherent consequence of our work.
Reflecting upon this first international cooperation of ours, as well as on its outcome, I can say that it is especially dear to me for a number of reasons. The first reason is the very subject of the exhibition. As a Skopiote, I find it interesting that my city aroused interest with an author from a different country. Especially due to the fact that Skopje is not a city known as a prominent tourist destination that almost everyone wants to visit. The very idea that the author has decided to draw inspiration from our city, I found most interesting. What Mr. Gounon decided to take from our city and present in his work was yet another reason why this exhibition is so dear to me. In this regard, through his works he speaks, with no reservation, as an objective observer and a cosmopolitan critic of the artistic and aesthetic values carved in the present-day appearance of the city of Skopje. He does not glorify the city; he does not see it through the prism of exoticism that has too often been the trap for many a visitor of the Balkans. He criticizes it. However, his discourse is not cruel, nor is it supercilious. He speaks of the mistakes, he speaks of the funny and of the ugly but still manages to see the concealed beauty of the city, manages to recognize its history, and to see what many sightseers have failed, its hidden values.
Along these lines I must add the excellent feedback that the exhibition received from the audience having almost immediately recognized its concept and moral. The message was received as it was intended by the author, as a subjective commentary through the lens of an objective observer. Lastly, I would like to emphasize Mr. Gounon’s professionalism and his great commitment throughout the entire course of this collaboration. On the following pages you can see some extracts form this collaboration – the exhibition called ‘…at what cost?’
Bojan D. Georgievski
History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.
The history of a city is a provocation for artists. The artists, they enter a theatre where the scenes change in rhythm alongside the evolving socio-economic and political environment. Architecture is the most palpable subject of a city that determines its complete appearance, as the best eyewitness of cultural development, the aesthetical appeal and politics. ’If politics is occupying history,’ then meta-politics is ’occupying culture‘. (Guillaume Faye)
The experience of wandering through the city, meeting and conversing with various city- dwellers, the difference in their opinion observed, they all stimulate the new visiting artist, to be provoked and to transmit a new emotional approach to the building of a new work of art. The city’s history imposes itself upon the artist, provoking perpetual and everchanging thoughts, creating different and new unexpected pictures. ’History speaks to artists. It changes the artist’s thinking and is constantly reshaping it into different and unexpected images‘. (Anselm Kiefer)
Paul Gounon, a young French artist residing in Skopje for a month and a half building his exhibition project ‘…at what cost?’, committed himself completely, both theoretically and practically, to the research of the city’s development and its need to evolve its appearance throughout history. As he says so himself, the development of his own opinion and his artistic vison of the city–which is the starting point of this exhibition–is linked to his personal interest in history, culture and the city’s evolution until present day, including the controversial project ‘Skopje 2014’. He asks questions such as how do we remember and pass down the history that slowly fades, creating it anew from a sketch. At what sociological, political and cultural cost, or to what end? Through an ironic and absurd archaeology, which is his interest of research in relation to earlier works, he builds his attitude, creating his own artefacts as a response to the way history is remembered. The artist’s interaction with the content, the material, and the
form of an artwork is a complex debate. These structural materials cannot be regarded or understood in isolation form one another. The content is created through style and tradition, with the material being a new artefact and simultaneously new work of aesthetics. The material and the form build the content thus becoming the content themselves. Paul Gounon’s decision to use concrete as material thus interpreting the contemporary through its coarseness, becomes his concept of the unfinished form of the performance, creating cut-outs from history.
The approach which has been applied by this artist for some time now is based on his witty retelling of history from different locations in the world where he wanders and through his personal experiences. The intrigue he imposes on the audience through his carefully formed works makes him a contemporary critic and a rebel, ridiculing the need for unsubstantiated links to antiquity or to parts of history that cannot simply be recreated. He uses parts of archaeology, remnants of forms in the contemporary ‘archelogy’, reuses them or puts them in new contexts. Essentially, all earlier experiences, ideas and research stand before the conceptualization that follows.
He uses modern day materials to cast in concrete what he reconstructs from the artefacts of the past and present. Thus, he recreates the artefacts to better understand the essence of what remains from them and defines the city. With a witty approach Paul strips the artefacts bare, taking them out of context and creating them anew. All of this requires discipline, brute force, engagement and punctuality form the artist. ‘Each of us has his own rhythm of suffering ‘. (Roland Barthes)
The set of concrete lions guard the tradition. Parts cast in concrete create a simulation of fresco-fragments. A copy of a sculpture from antiquity cast in concrete is cut to pieces which are then joined together once again. He casts impressions of his own body. The handsome classical body od David in 3D print is in a contemporary material. The mental image of grouping these objects/sculptures in their rich symbolism suggests the idea of the artist’s reading of the city, his reading of the histories.
Through sculpture, photography and video, he communicates with the city and poses universally challenging questions about aesthetics and politics as powerful seductors.
Dijana Tomik Radevka