Nadar (1820–1910), caricaturist, journalist, and novelist, was a pioneer of photography, in particular aerial photography, who helped usher in a new era of perception. He took some of the earliest aerial photographs in 1858 above Petit-Bicêtre (now Petit-Clamart), near Paris. Yet it is his 1863 image of the inflating interior of Le Géant, his 60-meter-high hot air balloon, which resembled an aerial view of an unidentifiable space, that signals that what we seek might not be found externally but originate from the depths of within. Nadar’s enigmatic image-before-image charted out a yet-to-be-defined space of seeing before seeing, of being before being.
Like Nadar’s intimate view into the carrier of future, works of art are enablers of perception, conveyors of subjectivity, and compressors of time. They equip us with their strangeness these new ways of seeing and sensing. The artists in the exhibition entrench in the present moment, as a way to reach far into the span of time. They launch great distances, at once removed and inextricably linked to the self and the world. They search intensely in their peripheral visions, not to look away from their and our problems, but to pull the tendrils that could unravel or cinch our systems of knowledge. Just as Le Géant elevated Nadar to a new field of vision, the artists in the exhibition likewise propel us to new perspectives, rushing us headlong into the unknown: from weight to levity, from mental perception to physical manifestation, from the past to the imminent hallucinatory future. With the trust in time we adjust to new objects and new senses put forth by these artists; as in Nadar’s words: “In that very second, the slightest ray of light would dissipate the tenebrous depths and enable the eye to take measure of the darkest corners.”
In partnership with the K11 Art Foundation, Palais de Tokyo presents an exhibition conceived by Jo-ey Tang, curator of Palais de Tokyo, in consultation with Wang Chunchen, curator appointed by the K11 Art Foundation.
This exhibition inaugurates a three-year collaboration between the K11 Art Foundation and Palais de Tokyo, dedicated to the discovery of emerging art scenes in China and France, with a series of presentations in both countries. Founded by Adrian Cheng in 2010, the K11 Art Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that advances the development of Chinese contemporary art by providing the creative incubating platform to nurture artistic talents in Greater China and to facilitate their exposure on the international stage. Across Greater China, K11 Art Foundation’s initiatives include the K11 Art Village, which provides support for young artists who do not have the financial means to support their vocation. These young talents will also gain access to a wide range of nationwide and international resources, exhibition opportunities and academic exchanges, as well as the greater public and media exposure.
In 2014, Jo-ey Tang, thanks to the support of the K11 Art Foundation, made numerous trips to Greater China. There, he witnessed a new wave of artists negotiating over-production, monumentality, and rapid development of their surroundings. Embedding these challenges into their own systems of production, these artists abide by their own temporalities, turn internal investigation into the strangeness of material fact. They capture something ineffable: a spirit, an attitude, a sensitivity, and an individual mode of existence. With the support of the K11 Art Foundation and its appointed curator Wang Chunchen (Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing), “Inside China: L’intérieur du Géant” is the first chapter of this new journey; presenting five Chinese artists in dialogue with three French artists, including the 19th-century French photographer Nadar.