For over twenty years, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain has developed a program that explores major current environmental issues. Over time, its collection has been added to with numerous works that invite the public to look at the beauty and vulnerability of the living world in a new light. Bringing together over 250 works, coming essentially from this collection, the exhibition Les Vivants (Living Worlds) offers to challenge our imagination, questioning the limits of anthropocentrism, in order to reinvent, with empathy and humility, a new possible cohabitation on earth with plants and animals.
Contrary to Western tradition, Les Vivants encourages us, by looking and listening, to consider non-humans as our equals within a vast shared world that belongs to all living creatures. The exhibition draws on the contributions of a community of artists and scientists engaged in an aesthetic and existential quest, profoundly marked by the enigmatic beauty of the living world. These include American musician and bioacoustician Bernie Krause, Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang, French plastician Fabrice Hyber, Armenian filmmaker Artavazd Pelechian, French botanist Francis Hallé, and American artist Tony Oursler. Their works are among some of the most emblematic pieces that make up the Fondation Cartier Collection and are the fruit of several years’ joint work between these artists and the institution. Les Vivants is also an opportunity for the Fondation Cartier to develop new collaborations with artists like Bruno Novelli and Solange Pessoa from Brazil.
In addition, the heart of the exhibition comprises a remarkable collection of works by contemporary Amerindian artists, shown together for the first time in Europe. Their experience of an equal relationship between living beings, both humans and non-humans, stems from an immemorial tradition, from which we have much to learn in this time of environmental crisis. Many of these artists come from the Brazilian Amazon, such as Jaider Esbell (Makuxi), Ehuana Yaira and Joseca (Yanomami), Bane, Isaka and Mana (Huni Kuin), but also from the Venezualan Amazon, like Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe (Yanomami). The exhibition also brings together a selection of drawings by Nivaklé and Guaraní artists living in the Paraguayan Gran Chaco forest, such as Esteban and Angélica Klassen, Floriberta Fermín, Marcos Ortiz, Clemente Juliuz, Osvaldo Pitoe, and Jorge Carema.
Les Vivants is a continuation of a series of exhibitions already held at the Fondation Cartier, exploring the place that Western man has appropriated at the top of a supposed pyramid of living beings and people. These exhibitions include: Yanomami, Spirit of the Forest (2003), Native Land, Stop Eject (2008), Histoires de voir: Show and Tell (2012), The Great Animal Orchestra (2016) and more recently, Trees (2019) and Claudia Andujar, The Yanomami Struggle (2020).
Curated by anthropologist Bruce Albert and the General Director of the Fondation Cartier Hervé Chandès, this exhibition–manifesto is part of UTOPIA, the 6th themed exhibition of the lille3000 cultural event that takes place from May 14 to October 2, 2022.