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I could eat you and you could eat me...We could better know each other...

Inspired by this thought of Levi-Strauss, La Maison Rouge in Paris, is staging a surprising and provocative exhibition on cannibalism. A practice followed from past to present times. The integrity of the human body is called into question in a total reconstruction and metamorphosis...

Published on Monday, May 30th,  2011
Some time ago an article was written by Claude Levi-Strauss, entitled We are all cannibals and it was published in the cultural section of the daily Italian newspaper Repubblica, on the 10th of  October, 1993. The German art historian Jeanette Zwingenberger, has set up a work that reflects on the concept of incorporation. As far as this exhibition concerns, it presents a theme in which the development is paradoxically very contemporary. The artworks have been chosen by the curator through an accurate curatorial selection, half made by women artists who critically address the issue in terms of anthropology, analyzing its consequent psychological aspects. The whole exhibition is an overview on how the theme of cannibalism has evolved and persisted through time and place; it aspires to be both an examination of the role cannibalism has played in our society and how it has been artistically reflected, nevertheless it ends up being almost gaudy or even gruesome. Usually the concept of cannibalism is presented as a ritual act in primitive cultures, whereas in fact cannibalism is strictly linked to the act of eating human flesh and this gesture still exists in modern society. The practice persists through history and it is still carried out for means of cultural ritual, out of necessity in extreme cases such as famine or even in connection with certain mental disorders. It is difficult to define or categorize the motives behind cannibalism, the functions are varied and can be real or even imagined. 
Does it really exists or is it in fact, prescribed by the eye of society? The exhibition shows that cannibalism has inspired artists since the earliest times, through antiquity to the Middle Ages up to today's modern fascination. One faces the exhibited works which incompass a historic excursus composed by illustrations, texts, engravings and ritual objects, introducing the main issue with works made between XV and XVI centuries. The spectator examines the body of contemporary works made by young artists, where the main artistic domains displayed are photography, videos, installations, sculptures, drawings and paintings. The whole exhibition is structured in chapters in which the themes involve: the man-eating the outsider or non human, the relationship with others and construction of identities; passing onto the body as an organism capable of transformation, eroticism, violence and horror on one side; on the other ritual and sacrifice, accompanied by images from fairy tales and legends.


Far from a gory perspective Zwingenberger chose artists that address cruelty with critical intention and delicacy. The collaboration with La Maison Rouge, an independent gallery, has allowed for the ability to stage a provocative and challenging show, in such a clever way that refreshes an art system increasingly swamped by corporate sponsorship deals. Exhibitions of the likes of Tous Cannibales are rare in their way of proposing works that rise from an accurately observed record, and do not express opinions nor impose thoughts. 
At the beginning the spectator faces his pre-conceived ideas: the impression that cannibalism focuses on the concept of otherness, the primitive; at a later stage comes the realization that in fact, this concept is not so far from ones own reality. Gradually, the path returns to the representation of the human body: Gilles Barbier(1965, Vanuatu) separates her organs to make them look like planets in orbit around its shell, John Isaacs(1968, Lancaster) presents a dilated body as the obese As melted, and the iconic photographs by Cindy Sherman(1954, Glen Ridge) show us a reconstruction of a painting from the Middle Ages that displays the artist's ignorance of female anatomy. The video Melons (At a Loss) by performance artist Patty Chang(1972, San Francisco), in which she stands eating from her huge breast made of melons, is one of the most affecting pieces that make us realize there is still something more to see and know around us. The act of eating human flesh of another person is one of humanity's most fundamental taboos, but it is also a key aspect of the collective human experience. Ralf Ziervogel(1975,Berlin)s DD, offers a wide panoramic drawn on a paper showing a huge network of human figures acting out cannibalistic gestures, sexualities or cruelties. Alongside these works, Goya(1746-1828, Argon)'s art depict more cannibalistic acts, consistently troubling the spectator. The brothers Jake & Dinos Chapman(1962/1966, London/Cheltenham), Goya's contemporary successors, have themselves cannibalized their master by drawing over his Disasters of War engravings. Following with Japanese artist Aida Makoto(1965, Niigata)s watercolors Edible Artificial Girls, Jérome Zonder(1974, Paris)s Nightmare fusion of childhood, adult perversions of hardcore pornography and torture, and lastly, the grotesque pencil drawings by Sandra Vasquez de la Horra(1965, Vina del Mar).


After having visited the exhibition the spectator is most likely to leave with a sense of  shock, while at the same time, he is mesmerized. The curator's aim has been to equally combine extremely varied works drawing from the same theme.  Through this fusion of approaches, the spectator is transported to a time when war, the ultimate cannibal, is tolerated by losing its shock value, thus becoming just a common nightmare.

curated by eleonora galasso

The exhibition will last from February 12th to May 15th
At La Maison Rouge, 10 boulevard de la bastille, Paris.

On display are works by: Makoto Aida, Pilar Albarracin, Gilles Barbier, Michal Borremans, Norbert Bisky, Patty Chang, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Will Cotton, Wim Delvoye, Erik Dietman, Marcel Dzama, James Ensor, Renato Garza Cervera, Francisco de Goya, J.J. Grandville, Sandra Vasquez de la Horra, Pieter Hugo, Melissa Ichiuji, John Isaacs, Oda Jaune, Michel Journiac, Fernand Khnopff, Frédérique Loutz, Saverio Lucariello, Alberto Martini, Philippe Mayaux, Patrizio Di Massimo, Théo Mercier, Yasumasa Morimura, Vik Muniz, Wangechi Mutu, lvaro Oyarzn, Giov. Battista Podesta, Odilon Redon, Félicien Rops, Bettina Reims, Toshio Saeki, Cindy Sherman, Dana Schutz, Jana Sterbak, Adriana Varejo, Joel-Peter Witkin, Ralf Ziervogel, Jérme Zonder.


Reserved Reproduction