What it was. What it is.

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

One of the strongest exhibitions I saw in 2008 was From One Revolution to Another, presented during the fall and winter at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The exhibition was part of the institution’s Carte Blanche initiative, whereby an artist is given time slot in the schedule to curate an exhibition in the entire venue. From One Revolution to Another was Jeremy Deller’s carte blanche. The exhibition took the entire venue, and consisted of large and small shows and salons, including the eclectic “Folk Archive” made together with his collaborator Alan Kane.

One of my favorite components was “1984-2008. Ed Hall. Banners” (installation view pictured here). These were dozens of banners hung through two—the most spacious—galleries of the Palais. These were beautiful and attractive banners that artist and activist Ed Hall created for “organizations committed to social and political causes.” Hall selected the banners on display, which are on loan by their respective groups represented, and also made a banner for the Palais exhibition.

If this was one of the strongest exhibitions in my mind, the reason was proportion. And I do not mean the size of the venue or the scale of the work — two much-heard criticisms about recent exhibitions at the Palais. By proportions I mean to point to the social dimensions that the project embraced. The exhibitions that made From One Revolution to Another presented recent movements, from craft to politics, that create new communities and shape the cultural landscape of Britain and other nations.

This year, Deller got his carte blanche in the US for which he creates It is what it is: Conversations about Iraq, co-commissioned and presented by the New Museum and Creative Time. The project starts next month with programming in New York, and then extends nationwide as a cross-country tour. It’s curated by Laura Hoptman, Amy Mackie and Nato Thompson, with research by Shane Brennan, Sarah Demeuse, Ozge Ersoy, Jazmin Garcia, and Terri C. Smith.