FRANCE: A 168-box Meyer Sound specification is an integral part of Christian Boltanski's eye-and ear-catching new exhibit in Paris, writes David Davies. The third 'Monumenta' series installation in the transept of the Grand Palais, Boltanski's exhibit is entitled 'Personnes' - a French word meaning both 'many people' and 'nobody'.
Reflecting Boltanski's enduring preoccupation with the random cruelty of old age and the devastation wrought by conflict and genocide, the exhibit incorporates a floor-full of old clothes and a crane that occasionally reaches down to lift garments before dropping them once more.
"When you have reached a certain age, you feel like you're crossing a minefield," said the 65-year-old Boltanski in a brochure issued by the French Ministry of Culture. "You see people dying around you while you stay on, for no particular reason, until the moment comes when you, too, pop off. That's the subject of 'Personnes'."
The artist is in no doubt about the exhibit's oppressive ambience. "People will be relieved when they get out," he predicted.
Arguably most striking after dark when a series of low-hanging neon lamps constitute the only source of light, the installation is soundtracked by the sound of human hearts drawn from Boltanski's own extensive archive.
To provide the audio, Centre Pompidou sound designer G_rard Chiron worked with Marc deFouqui_res at Meyer Sound's French distributor, Best Audio, to install a Meyer Sound system. The human heartbeats are relayed by 138 MM-4XP miniature loudspeakers, while general ambience is courtesy of 20 UPM ultra-compact loudspeakers and ten 650-P subwoofers.
Pablo Espinosa, vp of research and development at Meyer Sound, tells PSN-e: "The MM-4XP is the self-powered version of one of Meyer Sound's smallest products, the MM-4, which was originally designed for a sound art project in Lyon, France. A primary goal of the MM-4XP is to maximise flexibility so designers can make an impact with powerful and clear sound, in this case by reproducing the sound of a human heart. We're pleased to be a part of this thought-provoking art installation."
Following the conclusion of its Parisian run on February 21, 'Monumenta 2010' is due to transfer to New York's Paris Avenue Armory, where it will be on view under the title of 'No Man's Land' from May 12 to June 14.