I last visited the Conciergerie to learn more about the demise of Marie Antoinette, so yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to find its stunning medieval “Hall of Men-at-Arms” transformed into a contemporary forest. It seems most fitting that fifty artists’ interpretations of the animal experience now reside in Paris’s most noteworthy prison.
Bêtes Off displays a broad range of artistic media focused on a singular topic. The exhibit brochure classifies the works around three concepts: The Animal as “Other,” Becoming Animal, and Living Together; but as the title infers, can words adequately describe these beasts, the artist’s production or the viewer’s reaction?
As I meandered through constructed allées, I encountered hulking creatures made with wood, resin, fur, clay and plastic. Several video installations met me along the path while others required entry into a dedicated dark space. Some works spoke with human voices and others projected the animal’s sound.
Beside Markus Hansen’s inviting hut covered in luxurious feathers hung Claire Morgan’s arresting owl with wings spanned and ensnared in luminous thread. The sole “living” work by Erik Nussbicker buzzed – filled with flies trapped in a muslin twisted tower.
After an hour of exploring and experiencing a range of emotions, I felt invigorated thanks to these artists who present some serious play with our other side.
Bêtes Off is on view through March 11, 2012. Located at Conciergerie, 2 Boulevard du Palais, Ile de la Cite, Paris 75001.
Susan Lyons is a Paris contributor to The Seen.