Christian Boltanski

1944 - 2021

Born in Paris (FR), lives in Malakoff, Paris (FR).

During WWII, Boltanski’s Catholic mother hid his father (to be) under the floorboards of her house. He himself was born on the same day that Paris was liberated. In his oeuvre since the mid-‘80s, the artist has referenced the horrible implications of this war (the Holocaust), but also draws more universal connections as well. It is not about showing his own grief but rather about making us aware of a far-off pain and an anonymous loss. He makes space-filling installations with titles like Monument, Archives or Reserve. Boltanski proceeds like a sociologist of memory, visualizing the dark side of history in a near-sacred manner. With everyday artifacts of ordinary people (like photographs, clothing, household goods), he reconstructs more a past than a history as such. The history that is usually dominated and overloaded by ‘great events’ that we are taught in school and which is chewed over by the media until we no longer feel connected to it. Boltanski fills in this history with a story on a human level. The artifacts and photographs of people he shows are without name. We ask ourselves who all these things belong to, what are the persons’ names. In this interplay of anonymity and individuality, absence and presence, memory and imagination, we come to the conclusion that all this stuff could be ours, the pictures could be of us.

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