On April 12-13, 2012, the Palais de Tokyo (re)opened to the public with a 30-hour, around-the-clock event that featured exhibitions, installations, performances and concerts by 50 artists. After ten months of renovation led by architects Anne Lacaton and Jean- Philippe Vassal, the Palais de Tokyo now occupies its entire 22,000 m2 building (approx. 236,800 sq. ft), making it Europe’s largest contemporary art center.
Even before you begin to try and understand Leandro Erlich’s sculptures and installations, you already begin to sense that something is different, downright uncanny.
All Parisians, little and big, want this picture where they pretend to climb up a building, tumble down the gray rooftop and hang off an iron balcony with their feet facing the sky and their head reaching for the ground. This partly explains the success of Argentine artist Leandro Erlich’s re-construction of Bâtiment at Centquatre, as part of its In_Perceptions collective exhibition, in September 2011. Originally created for Paris Nuit Blanche 2004, this monumental and vertiginous installation plays on the effects of a gigantic mirror which gives a truly exhilarating feeling of hanging off a four-story building, while safely lying on the ground.
The constructed building is typical Haussmann architecture with a stone faà§ade and wrought iron balconies that speaks to both Parisians and tourists — a real symbol of Paris. The building is horizontal, and the mirror offers the vertical sensation that invites visitors of all ages to “climb” without any effort and defy the laws of gravity. Children and adults marvel at their suspended mirrored images — and kids have to be constantly reminded to not climb onto the mirror itself. Like Alice in Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking Glass, who wouldn’t want to step through a mirror and enter into a fantasy world where climbing buildings is the norm? What a thrill!
Leandro Erlich has created a fun and interactive experience that is both individual and collective, real and unreal. Bâtiment is reinterpreted with each new visitor and is therefore constantly changing, a true living piece of artwork.
Bâtiment at Centquatre in Paris has been extended through August 4, 2012.