Inside the new exhibition L’Année dernière à Malmaison at /SAC Malmaison

L’Année dernière à Malmaison is the exhibition that had its opening last Saturday, on 21st of May, at /SAC Malmaison. Artists from all over Europe, whose works are presented in the exhibition, along with the two curators, many of their friends, as well as other art lovers, gathered in the space for the evening to celebrate the work that’s been put into the making of the show. Propagarta was there to take a first look at the artworks and to grasp the idea behind the show’s elaborate story.

The curators, Alex Radu and Thomas Zitzwitz put together a group show for which they have selected artists of very different manners and from various artistic backgrounds to fill up the space of Malmaison’s chambers and hallways. The result of this surprising mixture of artworks is, in fact, quite reflective of the exhibition’s main theme: the intricate spider’s web created by moments in time: moments of the past that meet the present through memory, moments of the present that overlap with the future through feelings and experience. “Art has the power to make you re-encounter everything that you have ever lived. The viewer actually sees the artwork in front of them through lenses made up of all of their past experiences: where they’ve been, who they’ve met, what they’ve felt and what they’ve made others feel”, Alex Radu told us. By putting together different artworks, coming from different perspectives of course, made up of different textures, colours, sizes and intentions, all of them chosen in order to tickle the idea of memory and its actual everyday presence, the viewer is bound to find themselves sewing invisible imaginary wires between one piece and the other, creating their own cloth of impressions.

The artists that take part in this show are Olivia Berckemeyer, Louisa Clement, Dumitru Gorzo, Gregor Hildebrandt, Adelina Ivan, Alicja Kwade, Haleh Redjaian, Henning Strassburger, Mircea Suciu, Philip Topovolac, Ambra Viviani and Thomas Zitzwitz, who co-curated the exhibition. The nets and connections that the exhibition challenges you to create are not just made up purely for the concept itself, they are inspired by real connections: those between the curators and the artists and between the artists themselves. The show is built upon long lasting friendships, one important example being the friendship between Alex Radu and Thomas Zitzwitz, who met each other several years ago in Berlin and decided to co-curate this summer the exhibition at Malmaison, to bring together artists that they are close to as well as admirers of. Thomas told us that both of them invited artists. He explained that most of the artists did not know each other before the opening of the exhibition, while others did, this also being true for the curators, who were more familiar with some works than others. When asked about the process of choosing the artists and putting together their artworks, Thomas told us that it was a rather natural operation: one name led to another and one artwork related to another, just like thoughts and memories and experiences intertwine in the exhibition’s main theme. Therefore, the process led to the result as much as it was an inspiration for it.

The title of the exhibition, L’Année dernière à Malmaison, a mystery to most, is explained quite straightforward in the presentation text: “The title of the exhibition, references a film by Alain Resnais, which carries almost the same title, the only difference being that the location in Resnais’ case is Marienbad. While Resnais alludes to the famous Czech spa where Goethe wrote his Marienbader Elegie and Richard Wagner began work on Lohengrin and Meistersinger, Malmaison actually refers to a building in Bucharest. Originally built as a cavalry barrack in 1844, it was aptly known as Riders Barracks. When Napoleon III later sent troops to train the Romanian army, it was renamed in gratitude. Malmaison is the name of the castle, which Josephine, the wife of Napoleon I, had bought as a love nest for the two of them. Napoleon wrote her countless love letters to that address. In one of them addressed her as Mio Dolce amor.” Malmaison, the building, just had to be referenced in the exhibition, because it is very much part of it as its troubled and quite long history is very much part of the present. The chambers in which men trained, slept, danced or were incarcerated in are contemporary with us, just like the war evoked by the ammunition pictured in Louisa Clement’s work is contemporary to people living in Berlin today. And just like Gorzo’s beast that we were afraid of as a child lives within us everyday of our lives. We have engulfed the past, either personal or general, and artwork is here to make us feel the parts that we have incorporated but actually never quite forgotten.

The exhibition is open to the public at /SAC Malmaison until the 24th of July. It is a generous invitation to proceed to a journey through personal moments in time that open a dialogue with the artworks and the collective memory, or the other way around. A text full of words is never enough to cover the experience of an exhibition and photographs do not capture the labyrinth of connections one can create when coming face to face with the art and when smelling the air of a place. It is an idea that we should take with us to every museum or gallery we go to, but it is also an idea worth exploring (in-depth) at the exhibition at Malmaison.

Mircea Suciu, The Fish You Cannot Cheat

Henning Strassburger, P.O.V.

Thomas Zitzwitz, Untitled

Haleh Redjaian, Convergence

Olivia Berckemeyer, Frozen Blue Ship

Olivia Berckemeyer, Berliner Fenster

Louisa Clement, DT2

Ambra Viviani, Prendo Appunti

Ambra Viviani, Prendo Appunti

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