The first time I saw the pieces that were going to be exhibited, I immediately thought of Marcel Duchamp. The objects that he chose for his readymades were first and foremost very beautiful designs.
Each had, in its own way, a great aesthetic quality. This is true with Fontaine (Fountain or Urinal) and Porte-Bouteilles (Bottle Rack).
For Duchamp, it was important to consider not only oil paintings and bronze sculptures as having aesthetic value but also manufactured objects. Looking at the objects of the exhibition, I sometimes found this same aesthetic quality.
Particularly among the smallest, simplest objects that had been reduced to the essential. More frequently, I noticed they were less interesting as objects of formal beauty than as objects of medicine
These statuettes, as well as their components, function as a grammar. The rope, a recurring attribute, affects the part of the body it’s wrapped around. Remember, each of these objects has a curative, restorative function. It’s a kind of grammar. That’s how I see it. I wanted to tell the story of each object, but they have come to us without stories, without dates.
Each object is invested with a special power related to the different materials used by the Vodun priest when he made it, as well as by the addition of palm oil and medicinal herbs. It seemed to me that it was possible to tell all of this, in one way or another, directly through the exhibition design.
What was the concept behind the exhibition design? What was your approach to the different spaces of the Fondation Cartier?
I imagined I was Jacques Kerchache arriving for the first time in Benin, with some idea of the subject, but no direct experience. I don’t know anyone, I can’t yet enter any home. So the first things I see are the largest objects, those standing in front of the houses. I wanted the experience to be the same for visitors here. Then I meet someone from the village, listen to stories, visit homes and discover other objects. Similarly, visitors to the exhibition will then discover the more secret objects: those kept in the house.