The little figures hang high up on the wall of the staircase, held at a distance from the wall by an almost invisible support. They look like the Indians and cow-boys of our childhood, except that the characters are dressed in the style of the 11th of September, and they are the three-dimensional representation of what we couldn’t believe we saw in the newspapers. To those simple mortal beings, Jon Haddock contrasts three figures falling with arms and legs spread out, confident of the happy ending which awaits them, like actors falling in the movies, – but even so we wonder if they too won’t miss the mattress. In the rabbit’s burrow, Alice’s dress slows down her fall towards Wonderland; in Alice in the World Trade Centre, nothing could be less certain.
This installation sets the tone for an exhibition which joyfully mixes fierce irony, humour and self-derision, - a journey in a Wonderland such as the journeys which Jerôme Jacobs likes to conceive for the Aeroplastics gallery. For in this Wonderland, the Apocalypse is never far away. The Chapman brothers, who recently produced a nazified version of the Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch in a huge diorama, apply themselves here to illustrating in their own way the Disasters of War by Goya, with figures coming straight from the toy department of a store whose manager we prefer not to know.
The same scene of torture and massacre is repeated infinitely, its mecanised reproduction mirroring the unflagging repetition of the barbaric acts that humanity never grows tired of.
In this vast macabre theatre, politics – or apolitics – is often on the forestage; in the " No compassion " series, Jiri David expresses his idea of a universal repentance, with the re-worked photos of the actors of this big geopolitical game, in which the dubious honesty of some of them (Bush, Poutine, Sharon, Jean-Paul II,…) is mixed with what (more or less) everyone agrees to consider as the expression of the Evil incarnate (Ben Laden, Saddam Hussein,…) – the presence of Kofi Annan or of the Dalaï Lama in this assembly can be interpreted in different ways. All of them look at us with eyes full of tears: according to the news, or to the motivations of each of them, the spectator is free to decide what drives them to such despair.
To those who would like to find salvation in some kind of return to a nature that is pure and innocent, the photomontages of Marnie Weber offer an unexpected alternative. Repeated infinitely in her forest undergrowth is the naked and lascivious body of a nubile Asian girl (the taste of Lewis Carroll as photographer for undressed little girls continues to foster lots of rumours, very likely unfounded, on his sexuality). Alice ends up tied to a tree in a staging worthy of Araki, surrounded by gentle animals of the forest.
As for the living-room dromedaries of Jean-François Fourtou, which are half way between toys and a taxidermy experiment, they stand next to little groomed dogs, rooted to the spot for eternity, which really look as if they were stuffed by some mistress inconsolable over their premature death.
Much more sensitive is the work of Alexandra Vogt, which also explores the relationships which develop between man and animal, in her series of photos of the young Eva and Toni, her white horse. The reference to the fairy tale, to the desire for freedom, is tinged here with an evocation of the fear of the passage to adulthood and of a will to protect oneself against the outside world – " on a frontier between Bilitis and Blue Velvet ".
The exhibition also shows the powerful return of the self-portrait in the field of contemporary practices, even if it is an ancient heritage. When, in his first famous self-portrait, Rembrandt represents himself in armour, he is not trying to make us believe that the has reached a rank which is not his, but only to make a painting which will be sold as a " portrait of a young noble man " - moreover, with a cheap model. On the contrary, when he depicts himself, at the end of his life, in the guise of the old man Zeuxis, he clearly wants to associate his name to the one of the great painter of Antiquity.
Yasumasa Murimara takes up for himself this practice of disguise, in his self-portraits as Marylin, Sylvia Kristel or Marlène Dietrich. He even goes further than that inasmuch as, in addition to referring to the star, he measures himself up against the photographer who made those very famous clichés – the quintessence of vanity and narcissism.
In this field, the case of Anthony Goicolea is more complex: he clones his own image and recomposes scenes in which he simultaneously plays all the roles.
His figure of eternal adolescent allows him to treat, on a tragi-comic mode, all the themes related to the awakening to adulthood, in particular the questionings about a sexuality which is ambiguous or restrained by social conventions. Their very artificial aspect confers depth and an unexpected complexity to those stagings.
In a similar way, Pépé Smith incarnates alternatively the different members of the same family, the father, the mother and the two children, in clichés whose final destination – the top of the fireplace – is well found. She also throws herself, literally, under the feet of the visitors, who trample her - covered with bandages - on a sort of doormat which is placed directly on the foor.
Two photos, taken out of the " Something more " series by Tracy Moffat, seem to echo the concerns of the artist, who was born from a native Australian mother, for the interracial conflicts which go through the contemporary Australian society. On the one hand, there is a very sophisticated setting, for an image of softness which seems to be drawn out of a romantic movie of the sixties – but there is no happy end on the road to Brisbane, in black and white.
On the other hand, more oedipian in his relationship with the self-portrait, Robert Melee focuses his practice on the contacts which he maintains with his mother, whether he photographs himself naked on her knees, or whether he films himself carrying her, completely drunk, up the staircase leading to her bedroom.
The ventriloquist Beatles of Laurie Simmons illustrate the work the artist has been doing for several years on the theme of " dummies " - the pejorative connotation of the term here taking all its meaning (here again we can’t help seeing a reference to the TV programmes of our childhood).
The discreet eroticism of the drawings of Tracy Nakayama finds a particular echo in the video of Guy Richard Smit, in which none of the protagonists – two men and one woman – seem really ready to begin the act.
Finally, the baroque complexity of the film of Olaf Breuning contrasts with the lightness of the video montage conceived by Laone Lopes for Wonderland: a ballroom, learning how to curtsy and the true story of Alice – a bit of sweetness in a Wonderland which really needs it…