The Chevalier de la Barre: Akerman and acolytes en prime in Paris; Amélie has two mommies, and they’re concerned (corrected and updated, 11-25, 16h00)

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

To the memory of Jill Johnston, my Chantal Akerman. And for Ingrid, her widow, in profound appreciation. And for Chris, roommate sublime. And for Ben, collaborator, friend, and twin. And for Mark Dendy, idol and vector. And for P., friend and counselor. And for Amandine and spouse, voisines parisiennes des jours du 49 rue de Paradis.

I wasn’t going to take this brazenly political approach to writing about the exhibition Chantal Akerman: “Maniac Shadows,” which opened last Saturday at the Ferme du Buisson outside Paris, where it continues through February 19, because much as viewing art in a political and social context has almost existential importance to me as a journalist and citizen — and is, I feel, an honorable way to promote art’s societal relevance and thus potentially garner it a larger audience — I’m hyper-aware that it’s also unfair to impose my worldview, or angle and prism for viewing the world, on the subject I’m writing about. What should prime is capturing, as best I can, his or her expression as he or she intended it. It also didn’t seem fair to enlist Akerman, ipso facto and post-mortem, in a cause some might perceive as narrowly and exclusively centered on the rights of gay people, given that (as far as I can observe — and I might be wrong, because I certainly haven’t seen everything) her work doesn’t seem to focus particularly on the facet of her identity related to her sexual orientation; like all complete artists worth the designation, she’s neither defined nor limited by her own particular identities. (Even though obviously they inform her work, particularly Akerman’s Jewish background, which includes being the child of a Holocaust survivor, a frequent source of inspiration. But so is having lived in Brussels, Paris, and New York….And Godard’s “Pierrot le fou.”) And as a foreigner in these brittle times, I’m not particularly comfortable commenting on local politics, a subject which might justly be seen as none of my onions and a pursuit which thus might seem ungracious.

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A la MEP, l’Amerique vu par Andres Serrano /At the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, America by Serrano

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Andres Serrano, “Blood on the Flag” (9/11), 2001-2004.  © Andres Serrano and courtesy Galerie Nathalie Obadia Paris/ Bruxelles.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

In a jaundiced media climate in which too many journalists seem more interested in confirming stereotypes than confronting them, what artists can provide is a perspective guided not by fixed political, racial, national, or societal constructs but by their own inherent acute aesthetic antennae and geographic sensibility. Such is the frank portrait etched of the United States — not incidentally providing a much-needed antidote to the tired stereotypes the American presidential election has enabled much of the French media to regurgitate (we’re just a bunch of Puritan sexists, 60 million of us are in prison, ad nauseum) — by the photographs of Andres Serrano in a major exhibition opening November 9 at the City of Paris’s Maison Européenne de la Photographie, where it continues through January 29.

To access the rest of the article, including more images — among them by pioneering 19th century photographer Gustave Le Gray — subscribers please e-mail paulbenitzak@gmail.com . Not a subscriber? 1-year subscriptions are just $49 or Euros, or $25 or Euros for students and unemployed artists. Just designate your PayPal payment in that amount to paulbenitzak@gmail.com , or write us at that address for information on how to pay by check or in British pounds.