You can Row Inside the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. For Real.

You can Row Inside the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. For Real.

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Céleste Boursier-Mougenot at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris / Photo: Sylvia Davis
You won’t believe your eyes, or your ears, but it’s true: there’s a black lake inside the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Contemporary French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot has achieved an eerie and refreshing metamorphosis with his installation Acquaalta.

You can always trust the Palais de Tokyo to reawaken your senses in childlike wonder. In this case a surface of 1.200 m2 with 440 m3 of water makes reference to the annual high-water flood in Venice. You walk along a dark passageway, haunted by strobing spectres prowling across the black walls. Beyond the ‘point of no return’, the way out is under your own power, via the flat rowboats provided (guides are available).

There's no turning back / Photo: Sylvia Davis
“There’s no turning back” /Photo: Sylvia Davis

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot started his career as a musician; he was the composer of the Pascal Rambert Theatre Company. In the early 90s he started making indie music installations in contemporary art spaces. So in his art, what we hear is just as important as what we see. For Aquaalta, the hum of the video is amplified everywhere, you can feel it in your chest and jaw, as well as your ears.

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot -  Palais de Tokyo - Acquaalta Photo: Sylvia Davis
Acquaalta by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris / Photo: Sylvia Davis

The destabilisation of the strobing figures, which are projections of the movements of the visitors themselves, treated through his signature zombiedrone filter, is accentuated by the soft foam underfoot in the rest area, where you can playfully recline and let the atmosphere sink in. If you give it enough time, the body adjusts to the unfamiliar environment and your thoughts start to bob in and out of focus, like the ghostly figures on the wall. Then you are brought slightly further out of balance by gliding on the floating surface of the indoor lake.

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot -  Palais de Tokyo : Photo: Laurent Lecat
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot / Photo: Laurent Lecat

By drawing our attention to the noise made by situations and objects in our environment that we normally ignore, as we are what he calls “distracted listeners’, and making the audience and their movements visible, Boursier-Mougenot brings the viewer, the sound and the visual image together into one indivisible work of art.



Until September 13
Palais de Tokyo
13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 16th
Métro: Alma Marceau-Iéna
Open every day noon to midnight. Closed Tuesday.
+33 1 81 97 35 88
@PalaisdeTokyo #acquaalta