Michel Houellebecq – Rester vivant

Art, Contemporary art
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Michel Houellebecq – Rester vivant
© Palais de Tokyo

The controversial author unhinges gallery-goers with an incoherent collection of odd and self-absorbed artworks.

Renowned French author, filmmaker, poet and widely regarded egotist Michel Houellebecq is the undisputed star of this year’s summer season at the Palais de Tokyo. To the dismay of his many naysayers and the delight of his equally numerous admirers, Houellebecq’s been given free rein to curate his own section of the contemporary art gallery’s walls, and the end product is as roundly baffling and oblique as you might expect.

Is the brightly lit room at the end of a long dark tunnel an allegory for the Renaissance? Does the carpet made out of souvenir placemats comment on the ultimate futility of going on holiday, a fleeting distraction from the cruelness of everyday reality? And how the heck can you explain the skull that’s cushioned in a tomb of coke cans and etched with the epitaph ‘Michel Houellebecq, 1958-2037’? Don’t even get us started on the brothel-like room filled with photos of scantily dressed young women, or the bizarre memorial to Clément, his pet corgi.

It’s truly difficult to make sense of any of the works on display, as Houellebecq seems to have done his utmost to make everything here appear as incomprehensible to the general punter as possible. But when it comes down to it, his works come across as simply chaotic and un-thought-through, just as much as they are confusing. Essentially, we can see through the artist’s gambit. Of course we go to galleries to be shocked, moved and even disquieted by the work on display, but this is a frenzied ego-trip, pure and simple.  

TRANSLATION: FLORA HUDSON

By: Clotilde Gaillard

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