Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France

Posted on June 20, 2012 by


Today’s blog comes from Alex Gibson, founder of, here he reviews the exhibition Intense Proximity at the Palais de Tokyo gallery in Paris. At Artweeters you can find the best international fine arts news all in one place.

Intense Proximity is about ethnography. It includes over one hundred international artists and greatly expands the vision of the Palais de Tokyo’s past triennials, which only showed French artists up until now. This is a curious shift, and alongside the theme of ethnography it raises serious questions about race, colonialism and in Paris, Franco-centricism. It is a curious and critical way to turn a once local triennial into an international exposition. The exhibition begins conceptually with a set of famous French ethnographers and anthropologists field studies.

Installation view of the entrance to Intense Proximity

Most famous of all is anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss’s celebrated studies of Amazonian tribal cultures. His film documentation Mato Grasso Bresil (1937) reflects Strauss’s structuralist thinking informed by linguist Ferdinand de Saussurre. The artistic merit of this work, however, is only existent as a curatorial politic. The resulting presentation at Intense Proximity is a video of a tribal axe fight on an LCD TV at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The work was not produced for a contemporary art show, but is rather a readymade for the curator-as-author.

Claude Levi-Strauss  (Image taken from

Artist Joost Conijn from The Netherlands presents Siddieqa, Firdous, Soelayman, Moestafa, Hawwa et Dzoel-kifl (2004) a video that follows a group of homeless, parentless Muslim children living in trailers around the outskirts of Amsterdam. The work challenges ideals of childhood and European society. The children scavenge for food and one breaks a glass window with an axe. The work is powerful and done with a uncomfortable yet attractive humour, and in the context of European ethnography. It raises questions about the authority of European society to produce the good life, and also points to inequalities experienced by Muslims in The West.

Installation view from Joost Conijn’s video ‘Siddieqa, Firdous, Soelayman, Moestafa, Hawwa et Dzoel-kifl’ (2004) installed at the Palais de Tokyo

Intense Proximity contemporary art exhibition begins April 20th to August 26th, 2012 located at the Palais de Tokyo and seven other Parisian and regional galleries; Betonsalon – Centre d’art et de recherché, Centre d’art contemporain d’Ivry – le Credac, Galliera, muse de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, Grand Palais, Instants Chavires, les Laboratoires d’Aubervillers and Musee du Louvre.

Entry Fee: FREE

Location: 13 Avenue du President Wilson, 75116 Paris, France