Author: Joseph Nechvatal --- Date: 04/19/96 --- Copyright: ThingReviews NYC

'by night'
Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain
261 Boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris
February 2 - May 19th

In 'by night', the sleepy hours between sunset and dawn are explored through the art of 80 artists ranging from Lewis Carol , Victor Hugo, Brassi, Henri Michaux, Felician Ropes, Weegee up to Bill Viola, Larry Clark, Nan Goldin and Christian Boltanski. This wide range of artistic expressions and personalities works rather well in creating a sense of sleeplessness within the realm of dreamy flickering lights.

The convergence of the principles of artificial light, the rich potential of dream states, the functional ability to simulate drunken perception, and the lapsing efficacy of passive energy is implicated throughout this exhibit. The dream here has outdistanced the "normal" and now encompasses virtually every moment of our perceptions with unreachable presumptions. "by night" to me suggests that the fashionability of the link between darkness and imagination, darkness and desire, darkness and the body, and darkness and liberation from reality, reside in the night's newly computer mediated form. Instead of a simplistic connection between style and illusion, "by night" could have done more to draw on the euphoria of digital make-believe with its timeless passion and sleepless obsession. Immersive dark environments feedback to our hearts many powerful possibility.

For the arts, access to a darkness that wholly engages the participant, could be a conclusive blow to the frayed tradition of the photographic and hand made image. The image of the night may never sleep so soundly again as in this show. The array of ideas about the night presented here are striking though. Indeed it could be said that the show touts the immateriality of the wee hours itself by suggesting how quickly ideas of night life in the 20th century have affected sleep patterns. The challenge of the new computer era, with its round the clock time zone, puts forth within this social abstraction what I think can be seen as a shift away from a more sensual and aesthetic definition of what darkness once was for and towards a new American style anti-subjectivity. Our new sense of eternal light places a certain type of human experience at the center of a cone of light, there by illuminating a darkness previously hidden : human power.

If the exhibit seems to hope that darkness still offers us creativity and intercourse, it must also be prepared to admit that these notions are not the privilege of art. Creativity and darkness are merging everywhere. Whether it is in the warehouses of Nintendo, Silicon Graphics, SONY, etc. - it is less a matter of incubus than an issue of amplification.

The concerns for the dispersal of dark knowledge do not yet seem to overwhelm our concerns with immediate monetary reward however. Darkness, after all, is not continuously gay.

joseph nechvatal

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