Angelika Markul, Terre de Départ

photography Aryanà Francesca Urbani

coordination Claudia Vitarelli

5 April 2014

Palais de Tokyo presents a solo exhibition by multimedia artist Angelika Markul. Preoccupied by concepts of memory, time, and human nature, the Polish artist displays a series of large-scale installations, interacting with one another to create a seemingly immersive environment.

The title of the exhibition refers to a belief held by Chilean Native Americans, for whom the planet Earth is only a transit zone, a "land of departure" for men ultimately heading to the stars.

We spoke with Sandra Hegedus Mulliez, founder of SAM Art Projects, the non-profit foundation who sponsored Markul's artistic project presented in Terre de Départ.

SAM Art Projects has helped in furthering the career of many young artists. How important is the role of patrons for young or emerging artists in today's context?

The role of patrons has always been important since the beginning of art. It is thanks to them—members of the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie and the church—that we have art to see in museums today.

Patrons should support the art of our time. Being a patron is like being a facilitator, who makes sure things happen. I am an aid, I help the artist cross the river before he can grow wings and fly on his own. It’s an immense satisfaction. We have to work today to leave a trace of our passage for generations to come.

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Why do you think it’s important to highlight a cultural exchange of the arts for developing countries?

It is not that easy for artists of a certain axis to have visibility in places like Europe or the US. Some of the artists I bring over are very confirmed in their areas but totally unknown here. SAM Art Projects works closely with Parisian institutions, especially Palais de Tokyo, in order to make known to a wider public the work of artists selected by our committee.

We support the artists directly. The objective is to uphold the reputation of our artists by promoting their recognition by art professionals, giving more visibility to their work at national and international level.

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How does the interaction between French art and art from southern or developing countries benefit from one another?

I strongly believe that these exchanges bring a lot to all the ones involved. I have noticed how all the artists who came to us have developed solid ties with France, and with the people they met. A lot comes out of it: projects, friendships…

When choosing artists for the SAM Art Projects’ prizes and residencies, what characteristics do you look for?

Artists and projects are selected by a scientific committee composed of eight renowned personalities from the world of art, elected every three years. 

The annual prize is open to all artists that are 25 years old and up, who’ve lived in France for at least two years, and have a contract with a European gallery. The project has to be realized in a country outside Europe and North America. The call for proposals opens in June and ends in September, and the winner is announced in December. The artist is then awarded a monetary prize to realize the work, which will be exhibited at Palais de Tokyo accompanied by a catalogue.

SAM Art Projects also finances and manages two artist residencies in Paris per year. The recipients are chosen by a rotating committee, and get to exhibit their work at Palais de Tokyo at the end of the residency.

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Angelika Markul, winner of the SAM Art Projects prize in 2012, is currently showing at Palais de Tokyo. Markul’s current exhibition displays the forces of natural and industrial catastrophes—such as Fukushima, Chernobyl, Bagdad—and focuses on the themes of time, memory, man, and nature. How important is it for art to address challenging historical moments or current events, especially on an international scale?

The artists’ eyes see things we do not see. They give us a very intense point of view on our times. It is this vision that will stay as a testimony of our current times in the future.

Bambi in Chernobyl, a work featured in the exhibition, is the artwork created by Markul that won the SAM Art Prize in 2012. What aspect of this work stood out to you?

Looking at it, I felt as if I were in Pompeii—a catastrophe that emptied a town of its life and its inhabitants. Life stopped. 

The video installation Bambi à Tchernobyl takes us inside ourselves, as if we were endlessly swallowing all our inner shadows and deepening their impenetrable density. Contaminated nature, the Chernobyl site filmed in winter by the artist, becomes the focus of a gradual but helpless reclaiming process. In a sense, the work involves an exploration of consciousness on the ruined terrain of its own suppressed anxieties. 

The focus here is not the 1986 disaster itself, but the way it speaks to us of the bleakest chasms of industrial society, which the viewer can recognize in the innermost reaches of his own body and consciousness. 

The artist has reverted to the status of a visionary demiurge, producing catastrophic situations where we are all invited to formulate our own hypothesis.

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Terre de Départ is on view through May 12, 2014.

Palais de Tokyo is located at 13, Avenue du Président Wilson, Paris.

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