The Heartbeats of Christian Boltanski

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Christian Boltanski (b. France 1944), sculptor, photographer, painter and film-maker, has arrived in Israel. Well, perhaps not in the usual sense, since he is represented here only by a recording of his heart beats. These form the central happening in his installation, newly opened at the Gutman Museum, Neve Tsedek.

Heartbeats, partial view of installation Photo Credit: Marc Damage

A pitch-black gallery and an empty space illuminated every few seconds by light from a naked bulb synchronized to Boltanski’s heartbeats. Affixed to the walls are black Perspex squares of different sizes forming a portrait gallery empty of faces.  Screened in one corner, fading one into the other, are shadowy transparencies of Boltanski’s face as it aged from 6 to 60.

This is a powerful work, its sounds and sights remaining in the memory long after I exited the building. It seems that Boltanski’s journey through time, from life and living to death and nothingness has also become mine.

In recent years this artist has been working on an offbeat project that might be described as Audio- Cryogenics. He is recording the heartbeats, together with factual details, of thousands of people which will be preserved in an archive in Japan, on the Island of Ejima. There, visitors will be able to commemorate their loved ones through the sounds of their living, beating hearts.

Heartbeats, detail of installation, Photo Credit: Marc Damage

The HeartBeats installation was originally shown in Paris in 2008 at La Maison Rouge, a private museum for contemporary art exhibits. Clearly, it would have been more exciting if Boltanski had brought a new work for display in this country. But it must suffice to know that this work does contain all those elements that have characterized his art throughout the years.

The son of a Jewish father forced into hiding during the Nazi occupation of France, Boltanski persistently references the Holocaust whilst dealing with concepts of loss, death, memory and the passage of time – features inherent in the ‘heart’ of this present installation.

This exhibition, curated by Marie Shek, is open until October 13th 2012.

Nahum Gutman Museum, 21 Rokeach St.,Neve Tsedek. Tel: 03. 5161970

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