A medieval monastery located a stone's throw away from the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, Le Collège des Bernardins, is a beautifully renovated Cistercian monument dating from 1248 that once served as an intellectual center where monks, teachers, and students lived and worked. Today it stands as a Catholic institution regularly featuring contemporary art exhibitions and conferences, while conducting research on religion and the arts.
It is in this setting that French contemporary artist, Michel Blazy, presents a tongue-in-cheek contrast of an installation of ephemeral nature, a work that is impossible to preserve, in a revered site of admirable architectural and historical conservation.
Greeted with a sensation of grandeur amidst tall, stoic, vaulted archways and gothic pillars made of pale stone, Blazy's work generates intrigue in the material presented. Strangely meditative, the mystery of the installation and the purity of the foreign material opens discussion to qualities unlike the artist's previous, more provocative work.
Upon close inspection, the material is understood to be none other than large frothy sheets of foam. The wide, airy strips appear more convincing as long tongues of cloud as they emerge from a planter-like structure. A muffled buzzing sound of a generator whirs in the background. As they grow in length, the strips curl into themselves, allowing them to hang languidly off the structure and eventually fall to a delicate heap on the ground. Sometimes a piece of the wisp will drop, breaking the pristine shape and falling into a tangled pile of collapsed sheets.
Michel Blazy is no stranger to the qualities of foam. In 2007, his exhibition "Foam Fountain" at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris featured giant, fat jets of foam oozing out of open rubbish bins and toppling onto the ground. His work has been made popular through use of other unusual materials such as decaying food, plants, insects, and household items including orange peels, noodles, chocolate pudding, ants, cheese pizza, and shaving cream, creating works showcasing almost repulsive, ugly aspects of its perishable life span and questioning the brief and transformative qualities of organic matter. These issues are often portrayed with a certain distinguishable Blazy characteristic of ironical humor and lightness.
Perhaps the use of a product of mass consumption such as detergent indicates a subtle metaphor for the trajectory of our planet's decaying state and the effect of neglecting environmental concerns.
"Bouquet Final" by Michel Blazy at Le Collège des Bernardins, 20 rue de Poissy - 75005 Paris (+33 01 53 10 74 44), runs until 15 July. Open Mon to Sat, 10am-6pm; Sundays and public holidays 2pm-6pm. Free admission.