Under Carriageworks’ superb direction, Lisa Havilah has secured yet another fabulous addition to the Sydney Festival calendar. Renowned French artist Christian Boltanski’s exhibition Chance will be his first in Australia. Though it’s not the first time this work has been shown, it has been reconfigured to respond to the unique architecture of Sydney’s Carriageworks.
The work itself, made from pipes, scaffolding and computer screens, reflects an enormous printing press that has swelled to fill the cavernous volume of the exhibition space. Chance speaks directly of the artist’s ongoing concern with the universal pathos of death and loss. For this work, a continuous film of photographs of newborn babies, sourced from the birth announcements of Polish newspapers, runs through the scaffolding. Two digital clocks will each day tick over, one counting the real-time global deaths, the other the real-time global births, with a tally given each midnight.
Accompanying the work is a new presentation of Boltanski’s game Chance, which, like a slot game invites players to pause a pair of films to create a mismatched face. When the correct two halves are matched, a prize is awarded.
Boltanski is recognised as one of the most influential figures in contemporary art. Born in 1944 in Paris, Boltanski’s oeuvre includes all mediums (photography, sculpture, painting, film etc) though he has increasingly become known for his large and dramatic installation works. Imagery of commemoration and loss – drawn from newspapers, police files, family albums and postcards – typifies his work. In his installations, these are generally presented as grand and solemn tableaux that suggest a narrative then draw away to render the images universal.