Amalgam, the ideal island of Theaster Gates at the Palais de Tokyo
#PARISWith AMALGAM, Theaster Gates brings an ideal island back to life at the Palais de Tokyo and offers us a trip to Malaga.
The starting point of the exhibition is the story of Malaga, in the state of Maine, in the United States. In 1912, the Maine government expelled the poorest population from Malaga, a mixed interracial community of about forty-five people. These unfortunate individuals were forced to disperse, wander or be interned. The name Malaga became an insult, a stigmatization. The island has since remained uninhabited and nature has regained its rights.
Theaster Gates presents a project that explores the social histories of migration and race relations by using this specific episode of American history to address the broader issues of black slavery and imperial sexual domination and the resulting racial mixing.
The exhibition begins with a slate roof that rises from the ground, an image of a world buried under water. An installation that immediately sets the tone for this immersion. Then a bright marine buoy and a pontoon boat announce the arrival in Malaga, this island, the starting point of this AMALGAM.
Once docked on the island, indeed the exhibition continues at a level above the water, we are welcomed as in any tourist place by the tourist office. Signs, sculptures, objects already give an idea of what will become of the visit to this historic site. Some showcases showcase an archaeology of the island, a huge slate gives a historical chronology of slavery and the slave trade.
All the elements are in place to help us discover the history of Malaga through a journey that oscillates between historical reality and fiction, which begins with a dark door under the sound of Mahalia Jackson and invites us to truly enter this virtual museum. A video of more than 20 minutes, between reportage and experimental cinema, is an assemblage of photos, videos, film extracts, dance and song and addresses negritude. A montage and a narrative form with great dramatic force. In particular, we can see a man who felled a tree as the authorities worked hard to cut down all traces of this multiracial society, a true “heresy” in this period of segregation.
The journey continues and leads us to a forest in which the spirits of the island’s inhabitants still haunt the area. Moreover, is it a forest of spirits or a cemetery like the great Malagasy cemeteries with its mortuary totems? Anyway, Theaster Gates manages to revive these beings who succeeded in creating a world where the concept of races did not exist and tells us a story that is both magnificent and dramatic. Even if the doubt remains in him: “Nothing is pure in the end… Sea of wood, islands of debate. Can an exhibition begin to reverse the negative truths of a place’s history?” he confided in all humility to Jean de Loisy and Katell Jaffrès, curator of the exhibition.
AMALGAM by Theaster Gates
Until May 12, 2019
13 avenue du Président Wilson – 75116 Paris
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