Bianca Bondi, Jean-Baptiste Caron,
Curated by Marianne Derrien
09/03/2017 - 01/04/2017
« People, generally, prefer the twilight than the day.
And it is exactly in the twilight when appear the ghosts »
(Goethe, Grand-Cophte, Acte II, Scène IV)
Revealing and awaking invisible forces through the figure of Cagliostro, a strange character oscillating between reality and fiction, alchemy and science who lived during the 18th century.
« Les vies de Cagliostro » is a group show based on the mystical and political story of Joseph Balsamo’s, (known as comte de Cagliostro), multiple lives, who was gifted with soaring imagination and who soon understood the mystical needs of his times. In order to map the artistic, cultural and socio-political whys and wherefores of visible and invisible forces, this exhibition invites us to explore systems of representations using cognitive fields such as science, anthropology and history. Artists invited all stand at the crossroads of these worlds and explore the relationship between institution/non-institution, authority/resistance, possession/reappropriation.
During centuries, chemistry and alchemy formed one single science. In alchemy, transmutation of material designates the possibility of transforming a substance into another one, or even an element into another one. At the end, the alchemist was supposed to obtain the Philosopher's stone, which would have allowed to transform metals of little value into precious ones or to obtain the elixir of life. But after the « Siècle des Lumières », an evolution began to take place, the image of the alchemist took another form, partially influenced by the attitude of cheats and quacks who aspired to receive some profits out of this discipline. From science, alchemy passed into the category of esotericism, relegated to the rank of occult science, and the alchemist, at first scientist, erudite researcher, otherwise called "a philosopher", was crunched under the lines of a learned madman, a visionary in his laboratory treating with the devil. In search of secrets of material and composition of metals, these followers of chemistry nevertheless intended to improve nature, to transmute gold or silver metals, to discover secrets of the elixir of youth, with the idea to work for a well-being. Made of hidden symbols, of a secret language, of metaphors, of images, of analogies, the transmission of these knowledges is a story which entails us on the border between science and esotericism.
The exhibition relies on the different perspectives that change the world, the ones that shape official stories and collective mythologies. In times of social change, struggles and revolts operate as alternative value systems on a political level. Aiming at recreating a meeting of minds and actions, this exhibition tries to untie the knot of a legacy left by new critical thoughts that stand the test of more « unavowed » visions such as occult, magic and alchemy.