|Title||The MMM exhibition||Posted In||Exhibition||Duration||04 October 2016 to 29 January 2017|
|Venue||Cité de la musique Philharmonie de Paris||Opening Hours||Tuesday to Friday 12:00 - 18:00 / Saturday and Sunday 10:00 - 19:00||Location||
221 Avenue Jean Jaurès
One would not normally associate the Philharmonie de Paris with the visual arts but a new series of exhibitions that brings together photography and music aims to change this perception. Combining the work of French singer-songwriter Matthieu Chedid (better known under his stage name -M-) and English photographer Martin Parr, two virtuosos in their respective fields, “MMM” (Matthieu aime Martin or Martin meets Matthieu) at Philharmonie’s Cité de la Musique, the first in the series, is a truly multi-sensory exhibition that invites the visitor to become immersed in a hybrid world of colourful sounds and mellifluous pictures.
What captivated Chedid in Parr’s work—the ideas for an artistic collaboration was Chedid’s—was, in his own words, “a combination of aesthetics, derision, kindness and tenderness” and indeed Parr’s work zooms in on modern society’s overlooked details with a satirical yet empathetic eye in order to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Characterized by saturated colours that hark back to the postcards of the 1970s, as well as black and white, and oscillating between the garish, the quaint and the nostalgic, his pictures chronicle life in the West, filtered through societal concepts of leisure, consumption and communication.
The exhibition, co-curated by Sam Stourdzé, Chedid and Parr, was first presented at the Église des Frères-Prêcheurs in Arles under the auspices of the Rencontres d'Arles photography summer festival, and the installation at Cité de la Musique in Paris retains the church’s immersive ambience by designing a space of dark surfaces and low illumination where the only brightly lit objects are the pictures.
Functioning as a mini-retrospective with more than 500 photographs, Parr’s work is grouped in nine thematic chapters featuring themes such as animals (real and imaginary), headdresses and congregations, each paired with a unique soundtrack, specially composed by Chedid, which is arranged around one music instrument (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, celesta etc). Although the matching of the pictorial theme and the specific instrument may seem somehow arbitrary, the result is a tour de force of creative collaboration that captivates visitors from the moment they walk in.
The images are presented in different formats, from black and white framed prints to floor-to-ceiling posters but what immediately catches the visitor’s attention are the multiple wall projections of large-scale colour images, in front of which deck chairs have been set up for visitors to relax in and enjoy the musical-pictorial spectacle. The deck chairs, specially made for the show featuring Parr’s photos, perfectly complement the nostalgia that underpins Parr’s work but also allude to his life-long fascination with the seaside —his 1986 book “The Last Resort” about the seaside resort of New Brighton is said to have launched his international career.
As visitors walk around the exhibition, pulled in and out of each audiovisual installation, each music composition swells and fades but is never fully silenced. It’s as if an orchestra has been “deconstructed” giving visitors the task of mentally reconstructing the distinct sounds into a virtual concerto, a poetic process that mirrors Parr’s photographs which challenge viewers to see the bigger picture out of the fragments they depict.
Rounding up this truly multi-sensory exhibition is an installation that also includes the sense of touch. Here, visitors are invited to sit down on a specially designed deck where Chedid’s bass arrangement can also be experienced through vibrations. Towering across the deck is a floor-to-ceiling print of Parr’s photo “Clare College May Ball, Cambridge, England”, which fittingly captures the moment, late at a fancy cocktail party in an upper class home, when the guests have shed their inhibitions, taken off their shoes and sat on the floor, an experience not so different to the one this exhibition invites visitors to partake in.