Fear Eats the Soul: The Paris Triennale 2012

November 17, 2012

Annette Messager, Motion/Emotion, 2009–12. Installation view, ‘La Triennale, Intense Proximité’, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2012. Photograph: André Morin. Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris, and ADAGP, Paris.

by Jennifer Burris via Afterall

On 7 April 2012 the Grand Palais in Paris held a twelve-hour banquet of tom ka, a traditional Thai soup, prepared by the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija and his team. Free and open to all,Soup/No Soup (2011/12) preceded the public opening of ‘La Triennale 2012: Intense Proximity’ – a minefield-laden excavation of the juncture between hostility and hospitality. Giving form to an uneasy social harmony of objects given and objects received, Tiravanija’s project drew forth the complexities of transactional value that structure gift economies – the ever-present quid pro quo. First presented at Gavin Brown’s enterprise in New York in 2011, the performance acquired a further layer of signification in its Parisian re-staging due to its resonance with a public debate around the serving of soupe au cochon (pig soup) in France – a controversy initiated in winter 2003 when kitchens run by Bloc Identitaire (Identity Bloc), a far-right nationalist organisation, began serving pig soup to homeless people in Paris. A traditional French recipe containing smoked bacon and pigs’ ears, feet and tails, the soupe identitaire (identity soup), as it came to be known, was quickly understood as a political act of debasement and exclusion aimed at members of the Muslim or Jewish faiths – ‘Help Our Own Before Others’ is the group’s official slogan. In December 2006, following widespread civil unrest in the banlieues of Paris, police authorities attempted to shut down the rapidly proliferating kitchens serving soupe identitaire, citing its distribution as the type of antagonistic alienation that provoked the riots.
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