July 25, 2021

The philosophical arts of Anne and Patrick Poirier in three exhibitions

Because they were boarders at the Villa Medici at the end of the 1960s, because their first works were about Greco-Roman Antiquity, its myths and its arts, Ostia Antica and the Domus Aurea of ​​Nero, Anne and Patrick Poirier were sided with classical archeology and the poetics of ruins, as if there was nothing else in their works and as if the reference to classical Antiquity was enough to locate them.

Their three current exhibitions, at the Château La Coste (in the Bouches-du-Rhône) and, in the Var, at the Thoronet abbey and the Muy estate, demonstrate how insufficient this definition is and how much they seize upon of current topics, not without violence most often. They also demonstrate the diversity of their modes of expression: in situ sculpture at La Coste, works on paper, on glass and with photography at Muy and, at Thoronet, the creation of environments and situations that engage, in addition sight, hearing, smell and walking. However different the places and their histories may be, these interventions are perfectly in place and take advantage of the peculiarities of the architectures, whether it is the Cistercian novel by Thoronet or the suave minimalism of Renzo Piano’s pavilion at La Coste.

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Image of the human mind

To enter it, which is half buried, you have to follow a long straight corridor between two concrete walls. This arrangement evokes a tumulus, under which a mausoleum would be buried. The Poiriers have placed their Mnémosyne from 1990, which, at first glance, appears to be the monumental model of an oval city, with a symmetrical and geometric plan, with quarters with orthogonal planes and taller structures, conical or in rings.

This way of understanding seems all the more justified since, at the margins of this work, smaller models are placed on plinths: hexagonal tower, round tower, terraces and hypogeums. Their walls seem to crumble and split. In the basin onto which the underground room opens, three other models of Aztec degree pyramids, these gilded, bathe their bases, as if they were about to be swallowed up. Ruins, then.

But the oval of Mnémosyne just as much calls for another interpretation: this diagram is that of the human brain, symmetrically divided, and ordered by the distribution of the different sensitive and mental functions. However, Mnemosyne, which gives its title to the work, daughter of Heaven and Earth and mother of the Muses, is, according to Greek mythology, goddess of memory and inventor of language. The absolutely white city imagined by the artists is therefore the image of the human spirit and, if there is ruin, it is less the one that destroys lighthouses and palaces than the even more powerful one that destroys thought and memory.

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