Diderot once announced, rather famously, that “one must ruin a palace to make it an object of interest.” We’re pretty sure that French multimedia artist Cyprien Gaillard, whose work centers on abandoned and decrepit architectural structures, would agree.
This week, the 30-year-old artist, who won last year’s prestigious Marcel Duchamp Prize, unveiled his latest exhibition, UR, at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The new series examines weather-beaten landscapes and shabby buildings, and is interested in the demolition and renewal of urban edifices.
At the entrance to UR, visitors are met with two massive plaques onto which are scrawled the show’s eponymous initials, which refer to both the Detroit-based techno-activist label, Underground Resistance, and Urban Renewal, a 19th-century land redevelopment program. One of the show’s stronger pieces, “Geographical Analogies,” is a collection of Polaroids placed inside wooden frames and artfully arranged into diamond shapes. Gaillard uses juxtaposition to establish similarities despite the obvious differences in the architecture found across various countries. The pyramids of Egypt have been positioned, for example, opposite a Glaswegian cemetery, which itself is next to France’s Nanterre and the ancient ruins of Masada. Whether he’s excavating a German World War II bunker on the coast of Holland (“Dunepark, La Haye,” 2009) or filming the destruction of a failed housing project in Scotland (“Pruitt Igoe Falls,” 2008), Gaillard unearths the beauty in destruction. Beautiful and damned, indeed.
Cyprien Gaillard’s UR is on display at the Centre Pompidou from September 21 until January 9.