Purple Travel

[February 23 2016]

A visit to the Château de Rentilly at the Parc culturel de Rentilly, Bussy-Saint-Martin

Mirrors are often linked to the idea of self in art. The egocentric Narcissus comes as a first outlook, inspiring from Caravaggio to Dalí, each of who had he’s particular version to the tragedy that still intrigues the human imaginary up to this day: looking at oneself’s own image awakes sentiments as opposed and correlated as insecurity, ego-inflation, or on a further standpoint, self-awareness. This last perception was extensively used by the Surrealists, who transformed the beforehand solely physical notion of reflection into an intimate–often intrusive–relation with one’s consciousness. Jean Cocteau’s leading character in Blood of a Poet confronts his sexual drives while jumping into a fluid mirror, whereas Magritte’s eye in The False Mirror displays the viewer’s own interpretation to the external world.

When requested to renew the Château de Rentilly, in 2011, French artist Xavier Veilhan did not intend to deal with such a rather manifest notion of self – to him, the Cultural Park of Rentilly, located 30 km away from central Paris, in Bussy-Saint-Martin, should be the protagonist of his soon-to-be-born oeuvre. Together with architects Elisabeth Lemercier and Philippe Bona and scenographer Alexis Bertrand, he created a bespoke camouflage to the five-century old castle, a polished stainless steel structure that reflects from the forest to the clouds and the sky. The building itself is as alive as the nature around it: it not only follows the sun’s subtle light changes throughout the day, but its pleated surface transforms the mirrored images as passersby walk along. Human reflections become mere details given the majestic landscape.

Since its inauguration in 2014, the castle has become a contemporary art museum with works by Dove Allouche, Michel Gondry, Andy Goldsworthy and Hubert Duprat. Its interior is an extension of the surroundings: a collection of books on land art lies right at the entrance and its third-floor rooftop gives the visitors an unprecedented view of Marne and Gondoire’s hills, reaching far beyond the park’s boarders. Aware of that or not, Veilhan does call a notion of self into existence. But one that’s dissolved into something bigger, unreachable to the Narcissus: the contemplation of nature as a call to one’s very own tangible limits.

The castle is now closed but the next exhibition Dix-Neuf Mille Affiches, 1994-2016 by Michel François runs from March 12th to July 24th 2016.

Text and photo Sarah Kern


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