[May 9 2011]
In a reductionist yet poetic scenography orchestrated by Italian designer Enzo Mari, the doors to the mystical are opened. This is the late Jacques Kerchache, trailblazer and curator, and Anne Kerchache’s collection of the strange sculptures of the ancient West African Vodun religious cult and philsophical tradition. In light of Kerchache’s fight to recognising the primitive arts beyond a purely ethnographical view, the exhibition unfolds as a journey into experiencing the readymade art of Voodoo. A curious encounter with the guardian sculptures outside anonymous houses, a black darkened room with Bocio sculptures in individual glass cases ensues. These are the theatrics of the spiritual world, not far from those imagined in Wes Craven’s cult Eighties horror film, The Serpent and the Rainbow. Messengers of the invisible, these fetishes called Bocioact act as mediators with divine energies, their language as complex as it is impenetrable. From chain bondage to rodent jaws, iron-sealed lips, mirrors, locks and stakes – all covered in a thick layer of sacrificial material – sculpture as symbolic writing for ritual use is one that is also a collaborative art. Created from an exchange between the commissioner and the Vodun diviner, each material has its own significance. The double-headed sculptures are most unusual, representing ego and spirit. In the pursuit to access a world beyond reality, the alchemical sculpture speaks of the rawest human conflicts tensing between protection, power and danger.
Vaudou is on view until 25 September at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, 261 Boulevard Raspail, Paris.
Photo and text Sophie Pinchetti