About the Exhibition
Trans-Voices is a multimedia public art exhibition designed to transcend geographic and language barriers with urgent messages about fundamental social, political, economic and ecological shifts affecting us all at the close of the 20th century. The artwork will be presented on television, radio and throughout the subways in Paris and New York. This public art project will involve the commissioning of more than fifty emerging and established audio, video, and visual artists—half of whom work in the United States and half of whom work in France—to create new works that address the radical political, economic and cultural changes that are occurring globally.
Spring Street Subway Station
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Dominique Blain, Untitled [subway poster]
The poster depicts a glowing silver U.S. Indianhead nickel on a black background. Underneath the nickel, the caption reads: “Discontinued in 1938. Discontinue en 1938.” The coin is enlarged so that the majestic Native American head and the word “Liberty” imprinted on it are shown in great detail. The nickel became an ironic symbol of the racial and economic exploitation underlying the colonization process in the U.S. and nations around the globe.
Speaking about the work, Blain (b. 1957, Montreal, Quebec) says, “The very existence of the 1913-1938 U.S. nickel raises the issue of the insenstivity, the cynicism, and the rather curious identity problem of white North Americans. But more importantly, the Indian Head/Buffalo coin is the ultimate embodiment and the most explicit expression of the drive to annihilate and to appropriate that is at the very root of the colonialist process.
“One should not take comfort in knowing that this coin would not be minted in the America of today. While a sense of shame and discomfort may have permeated our minds, little of significance has been done to address the political reality, social fairness or, ultimately, the balance of power within our society.
“This in turn raises the issue of ‘Political Correctness.’ Should it be seen as the emergence of an historically high level of social consciousness, as the dawn of a new era?
“Or should it be viewed as our society’s most sophisticated attempt yet to cloak realities and to preempt real change through sanitizing our language?”
Christian Boltanski, Avis de Recherche
Christian Boltanski (b.1944, Paris, France) has created a poster, Avis de Recherche, for the Trans-Voices exhibition.
Philipe Cazal, Empire
Philip Cazal (b.1948, La Redorte, France) has created a poster entitled Empire for the Trans Voices series. His poster includes the word “Empire” written in capital letters upside down across the poster horizontally. The background of the poster is a textured, almost snake-like material.
Touhami Ennadre, Mains de Monde
Touhami Ennadre (b.1953, Casablanca, Morocco) has created a poster entitled Mains de Monde for the Trans-Voices series.
Ennadre’s posters feature black-and-white photographs in which words appear alternatively in French and English. For example:
“OTZI-MANKIND MEMORY-INDIVIDU-IDENTITY-CORPS-TERRE-CRI-RACINES-UNITY-PERSON-LIGHT CRY-OTZI-ECRITURE-RESEAU-BREATH-LIFE SCRIPT-MEMOIRE-ROOTS-HEARTH-LUMIERE-SOUFFLE-HUMAIN-OTZI-UNIVERSEL-ONE-ALL-IDENTITE-LIEN-UNIVERSAL BODY-THREAD-OTZI…”
The layout and graphic expression of the texts aim for simplicity and brutality, with the dense black contrasting with the violence of the white.
Jochen Gerz, Comment Vivre?
Jochen Gerz (b.1940, Berlin, Germany) has created a poster entitled Comment Vivre? for the Trans-Voices series.
For his work Gerz explained, “The simultaneity of an art event in two culturally marked and making cities of the 20th century provides the opportunity to think about issues of mutual concern, issues that may be linked to the nature of contemporary culture and which are international because of this. One issue that was constantly present in modernity is religion. Art, to a certain extent, seems to owe its presence in our time to the “death of god,” but on the other hand religions seem to have survived since the utopia of a post-religious humane and social being, as it is portrayed in art and through art, failed.
“Today, ‘after modernity,’ one finds outside of museums and art magazines a growing need for religious faith which is among the last issues able to provoke wars. At the same time it seems, as before, unthinkable to the cultured mind that there is a way back to the past, and that this way lies ahead.
“In my “double” work ‘the other’ plays a central role. In New York, Paris is referred to, and vice versa. In the texts (English or French) ‘a man’ is quoted while a woman is to be seen. Imagination may help to tolerate and to profit from difference (the other) in our environments, as it emerges from and focuses on our hidden, and most resembling human vortex.”
The text on Gerz’s posters read:
“AT THE SAME TIME / IN PARIS A MAN / READING THIS TEXT / IN A SUBWAY STATION / TURNS AROUND / STRUCK / BY THE THOUGHT: / HOW CAN YOU LIVE, AT THE DAWN OF THE 21ST CENTURY, WITH RELIGION AROUND?”
“AU MEME INSTANT / A NEW YORK UN HOMME / LISANT CE TEXTE / DANS UNE STATION DE METRO / SE RETOURNE, / FRAPPE / PAR L’IDEE: / COMMENT PEUT-ON VIVRE, A L’AUBE DU 21IEME SIECLE, ENTOURE DE RELIGIONS?”
Alfredo Jaar, “1992”
Alfredo Jaar (b.1956, Santiago, Chile) has created a poster entitled 1992 for the Trans-Voices series.
In Jaar’s piece, under the heading “1992,” is a black-and-white photograph of the imposing, barbed-wired entrance to Whitehead Detention Camp in Hong Kong. This is the site where more than 25,000 Vietnamese refugees wait annually to have their status defined and to begin a new life. Indistinguishable from a concentration camp, the place becomes a tragic symbol for the way in which the world’s richest nations receive outsiders. The scene at Whitehead, the artist explains, is repeated in America’s treatment of Mexicans and Haitians, and in Europe’s treatment of immigrants of numerous nationalities.
Marie-Jo Lafontaine, Nous sommes tous de ombres (We are all shadows)
Marie-Jo Lafontaine (b.1950, Antwerp, Belgium) has created a poster entitled Nous sommes tous de ombres (We are all shadows) for the Trans-Voices series.
In developing her idea for the Trans-Voices show, Lafontaine explained, “It occurred to me these recent years that the acceleration of the orbiting of the world and cultures by way of peace, but especially of wars, left us, for lack of historical references, at the edge of a precipice just as threatening as radiant.”
Annette Messager, Impertinente
Annette Messager (b.1943, Berck-sur-mer, France) has created a poster entitled Impertinente for the Trans-Voices series.
Laurie Simmons, New York & Paris
Laurie Simmons (b.1949, New York City, NY) has created a poster entitled New York & Paris for the Trans-Voices series.
In Simmons’ poster, the picture is divided equally into four spot-lit, photographed tableaux, each voyeuristically showing the lower half of a naked female mannequin protruding from an object—a house, a book, a gun, a globe. Each of the bodies is positioned differently, suggesting volumes of disturbing information about the relationship of women to the realms of knowledge, power, and violence symbolized by the four objects. Crude, funny, sad and ultimately infuriating, the four photographs displayed together raise difficult questions about the official and unofficial roles imposed on all women in contemporary society.
Lorna Simpson, Untitled [subway poster]
Lorna Simpson (b.1960, New York City, NY) has created an untitled poster for the Trans-Voices series.
In an attempt to address the loss and pervasive unrest caused by the AIDS epidemic, Simpson created a billboard lined at the bottom with the words: “She was,” “He was,” “They were,” in both English and French. Directly above each phrase are arrows and figures, slight markings of height and weight that indicate where a living human body once stood but where now resides only dead space.
Masami Teraoka, Untitled [subway poster]
Masami Teraoka (b.1936, Onomichi, Japan) has created a poster for the Trans-Voices series.
Teraoka’s poster is executed in the traditional colorful style of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints. An informal domestic scene shows a Western woman sitting at a breakfast table, sipping a frothy café au lait, using her teeth to tear open the foil wrapping of a condom. A framed print on her kitchen wall shows kabuki-like Eastern lovers, dressed in ancient Japanese garb, who appear to observe the woman with a mixture of bewilderment and horror. The painting is framed by Japanese calligraphy and Hokusai-esque waves. The work openly advocates safe sex, but more subtly suggests that the AIDS crisis is both geographically and sexually bordlerless.