The Chanel Pavilion Of Contemporary Art, Seriously or whatever it's called gives you all of its formal secrets before you get it. It's swoopy. It's modular fiberglass. It's Chanel! It's hard to miss that on the outside, but the utopian aspirations are given a distinct flavor. There are creepy helpers scurrying around in their black coats and black ball caps: they only look like jackbooted fascists in a retro-sci-fi movie, even though they say they're just taking tickets. It's helpful to write about this project in three parts:
Architecture: Zaha designed a swoopy container. It's interesting, but the swoops get old fast, and the construction is still very Early-Swoop-Technology: some great fiberglass panel stuff but all the connections are held together by schmutz. And a few well placed screws where things didn't quite work out. All the ceilings are made with a terribly cheap looking stretched tent fabric material. Things that art containers need, like lighting, are relegated to black painted openings between stretch fabrics. Often the unpainted 2x4 wood blocking under the track lighting is visible. Gorgeous. But the ambition is incessant, which is why we love Zaha, and you have no choice but to accept it (otherwise just go find a rock in the park to sit on). Check out the excellent slideshow at Curbed.
Art: With few exceptions, highly derivative or too understated to stand against/work with The Container. For some reason they all have Chanel as their theme. It's meant to be a theme that ties them all together. It's not a very good idea. However there is a powerful slideshow by our favorite bondage photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, and some very disturbing photographs by David Levinthal. And a piece by Leandro Erlich called Le Trottoir (The Sidewalk) that one needs to experience for something like 50 minutes, not the 5 minutes they give you before you're shuttled away.
Narration: The Container cocoons you in many ways, notably by covering your ears with headsets and an MP3 player that you cannot touch without screwing everything up. They let you know. And so you are torn from your companions and given a decent soundtrack and narration by Jeanne Moreau (who we love). At first I thought it was Zaha. Easy mistake to make: the narration script is hilariously pretentious. The problem is that the art isn't really sequenced the way the continuous soundtrack and narration suggest, it's just a bunch of separate pieces (that vaguely relate to the space and Chanel, yes) and someone has put cinematic schmutz in the gaps between them. We applaud the idea of seeing what is mostly New Media Art this way, but it's light years behind interactive media as accessible as Call Of Duty 4. It's a way of seeing art that is under explored. The Container poses the problem, but the results are mixed.
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