Musée National du Mali

Commissaire / Curator : Yves Chatap

It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Tu m’aimes is inspired by the celebrated 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Irish author Oscar Wilde. The exhibition examines the image’s function as a reflection of the body, its accomplishments and feelings. Wilde tells the story of a character bestowed with exceptional beauty who becomes conscious of its ephemeral nature through art.

Since its advent, photography has been a means for exploring the body as both a canvas for technical experimentation and a temple for renewed forms of aestheticism. The body is not merely a fact unto itself, but rather a space of diverse mutations. By breaking free of traditional codes, artists tackle notions of human representation, replacing them with geometric, deformed or disfigured images, a practice that is present in the work of French artist ORLAN, infamous for her extreme deliberations on the subjective body. What emerges is a symbolic body or a body as a gambit of consumerism.

How to differentiate between one representation of the human body marked by derision or vulgarity and another that, despite its subversive aspects, does not lose sight of a human ethic ? This question places the body into the relationship between the artist and their work, as well as between the observer and the model. Anja Ronacher, by playing on the tensions between the visible and the ineffable, evokes the language of an impassive body immerged into silence. The body is transformed and revealed through social or intimate expressions. It quickly manifests the feelings that course through it. To this end, Elise Vandewalle films the efforts of an Apollo who becomes lost in a repetitive dance, all while accentuating the suffering that results from physical constraints. Meanwhile, Nyadzombe Nyampenza uses her perspective to subtly suggest the multiple metamorphoses of the self-image in an exercise that oscillates between attraction and repulsion, life and death. John Coplans questions the recurring covetousness toward other bodies that are more desirable, more handsome and more powerful. The corporal fragmentation used by the artist fore- shadows deterioration, the search for existentialism.

Often, we look upon the photographs that have accumulated in boxes or on hard drives with a certain melancholy. What can these images tell us about the diverse imprints of time ? Joël Andrianomearisoa’s installation forms a temple destined to welcome these sorts of photographic documents, which he uses to share his nostalgic memories. Like an incantation, all of the elements that comprise this piece evoke Dorian’s secret room, a place where the admiration of and the desire for beauty are the basis of a perpetual search for one’s true self. The image offers a reading to be interpreted, affirming a belonging or a heritage.

Tu m’aimes is a plurality of accounts appraising the different temporalities of a paradoxical body. These multiple visions explore the narrative value of body imagery. They form a composition that at times appears futile, that can only be read through the desire and rejection of the observer.

Institut Français
Ministère de la Culture de l’Artisanat et du Tourisme du Mali