Palais de Tokyo in Paris

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One of the highlights of my meanderings around Paris was a visit to the Palais de Tokyo, a futuristic / modernist “museum” that has nothing to do with Tokyo but everything to do with technology, art, urbanism, and the environment. It claims it’s the “only museum open from noon to midnight”. That should give you a sense of the attitude of the place.

This summer the set is “Tropico-Vegetal Program”: “Lying at the point where global exoticism, ecological concerns, summertime tourism and paradisial utopias meet, the different shows and projects that finger in Topico-Vegetal Program constitue an invitation to an artistic conquest and lucid stroll through a world filled with paradoxes and ambiguities, between an idyllic imagination and politically committed questioning, historical perspectives and political and ecological analyses.”


In sum, it’s all very bizarre and confusing (I have no idea what that description means!) but it’s well worth a visit. In the current exhibition there are five different areas. The first one appears to be about nature, as there are big green sitting cushions, fake forestry apparatus hanging from the ceiling, TV screens and pictures of water lilies, and the color green everywhere. But upon examination, the phrases and fragments written on the wall are all anti-globalization. At first they seem innocuous — just factual statements about business and capital. But as the wall stretches to the right they gain complexity: “The neoliberalism vision has screwed tons of people” one essentially says. Ah, France! On the other side of the room there is a crocodile and herein lies the nut of the exhibit: it’s about what happens when “Crocodile mentality” (a real cognitive process) drives actions.

The next exhibition is a 2D topographic display of what happened in Puerto Rico after the U.S. conducted bombing exercises on one of their islands. How lovely!

No, it’s not all anti-capitalism or anti-American. The next few exhibits focus more on nature, rainforests, architecture. It’s a fascinating and massively confusing place. Trying to discern meaning out of everything is tough; just soak up the strange setting you find yourself in. The bookstore is also excellent: tons of books on urbanism, design, art, the future, and culture.

My understanding is that the Palais de Tokyo changes its exhibitions regularly but it’s well worth a visit any time of the year.

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