My role as the Curator of Parcours is to select projects amongst all those proposed by the galleries participating in Art Basel. Each year, Art Basel selects a different historical area of the city of Basel to develop Parcours: Münsterhügel in 2010, St. Alban Tal in 2011, St. Johann in 2012, and Kleinbasel in 2013 and 2014. I visit the chosen area and, together with the production team, we identify the potential locations where the artworks can be presented. I work extremely closely with the artists and the galleries to not only present an artwork in one location but to truly anchor the work within the city.
The main difficulty is that sometimes we can’t have access to or permission to use some of the locations that we identified. We then need to look for alternative possibilities until we find an even better solution. More than the spaces or sites themselves, the relations that we create with the different partners are important to me.
On Parcours Night, on Wednesday evening, we’ll start with the screening of Mario Garcia Torres’ visual and musical essay at the kult.kino cinema at 8.30pm and a spectacular requiem by Guido van der Werve in the St Clara church at 10pm whose film is being presented as part of Unlimited.
Then we have 13 more projects to discover: Francesco Arena’s performance inspired by the presence of Nietzche in Basel; Darren Bader’s performed installation; Gottfried Bechtold’s large installation; Pierre Bismuth’s night and day performances; Jean-Luc Blanc’s painting; Chris Burden’s folly; Ryan Gander’ series of posters; Mark Handforth’s monuments to the symbolic memory of superstition; Iman Issa’s proposal for a public sculpture; Eva Rothschild's monumental sculpture; Zeng Fanzhi's giant plum tree branch.
Because the artists and the locations are very different, the two editions are very different. Now in my second year, my knowledge of the city and my proximity with the team of Art Basel enabled me to work even more closely with the artists and the galleries and the partners in order to develop artworks that will truly exist within the city itself, exploring and revealing its past and present history. Francesco Arena’s project, for instance, is directly inspired by the past presence of Nietzsche in Basel. Other works are adapted to the configuration of this part of the city, like the sound work by Seth Price, which will be heard in multiple places of consumption and leisure, every working day. There are no real differences between the editions, but we are more and more heading towards an exploration of how the works presented in Parcours find their place in social life.
When I visited this year’s area for the first time, all I could see was a succession of small bars, restaurants, and hairdressers! I was a little worried because we couldn’t really find any room with exhibition qualities. Later, I found out that this was a great opportunity as it forced me to select projects that, just like the work by Joep van Liefland, are truly anchored within the city and become part of the everyday life of its inhabitants and visitors.
I feel that my experience as the Director of the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne has prepared me in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated. Managing an institution that operates in a whole region of a country isn’t about curating shows and writing texts. Most of the time, it’s about engaging with very different sorts of people, in very different types of contexts. It’s about making art part of society.
With Parcours, I’m of course working within the context of an art fair, but also in the city of Basel. And Art Basel isn’t like any other fair. In Basel, it provides all the institutions (museums, art centres, schools, etc...) with an unparalleled visibility and coherence; it’s a leading force. I also believe that no other fair in the world has created such a daring and generous response to the public’s ever-growing interest in site-specific and performative works. I’m most interested in how Parcours can provide artists and audiences a different context for the creation, exhibition and reception of artworks within this context. Parcours responds to a renewed desire for challenging forms of interaction with art. For me, it is particularly interesting to observe how the works presented in this geographical and temporal framework find their place in social life. —[O]