What will this installation look like?
It is what I call an “unidentified visual object.” I convinced Wim Wenders to focus on two aspects of his work as a filmmaker which make him also a visual artist: montage and photography. As the founder of the French Cinematheque, Henri Langlois, used to say, cinema is also a “fine art.” Wim Wenders is a formidable artist. For once, we are dropping the narrative aspect of cinema and concentrating on its plastic quality, on its aesthetic side. From The Wings of Desire to Paris, Texas, to more recent documentaries, we are going to survey all of Wim Wenders’s works following a singular path, which will be reminiscent of exhibitions devoted to painting. We have thus divided the space into thematic areas: “Movement,” “Travel,” “Face,”… There is not going to be a white screen like in a movie theater. Films will be projected directly onto walls.
What will the immersive experience consist in?
I think that every exhibition is an immersive experience. When I was working on the Bill Viola installation at the Grand Palais in 2014, I did not hesitate to have rooms entirely plunged in darkness. I’m proud of that decision. I think that we should build experience that is at once physical, sensory, and oneiric. We are lucky to be able to have this exhibition in such an impressively spacious venue. The Nave of the Grand Palais is 200 meters long, 60 meters wide, and 48 meters tall. You can just imagine the possibilities! Especially that films are meant to be seen on the big screen. What better for a space than to be covered with images? And this harks back to ancient art, already present in painting: when you look at a Giotto fresco in Assisi, you get a cinematic impression—that’s already immersive.
And you use cutting-edge technologies…
Yes, absolutely! This installation was made possible by the invention of 4K projectors, which are quite exceptional and offer incredibly high-quality images. When I observed the trial runs, I was really impressed. We are betting on this new technology in screening Wim Wenders’s images, and even if we are taking a risk, it’s quite exciting! In any case, it makes us think about what an exhibition is and keeps us from spinning in circles.
Indeed, especially since Wim Wenders pitched in as well?
When working on this project, Wim Wenders was compelled to confront his past as a filmmaker. He agreed to show his images afresh. What we are going to see in these conditions, so unlike a movie theater, is thus a new film. Wim Wenders had to recreate his oeuvre, which is not an easy thing to do. But at the same time, that’s what makes it so interesting. I think that we are dealing with a de facto self-portrait, in the most literal sense of the word. In any case, there is a retrospective element to it.
Why Wim Wenders?
I sought him out for this installation because he has always, from very early on, had this artistic side to him. Wim Wenders has, for example, exhibited his photographs on several occasions. He is known for working really hard on the aesthetics of his films, and I think that inviting him to make an art film about his own work is a clear proof of that. He has agreed to do something experimental, and that takes courage—it shows that he is able to take risks.
By Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
April 18 to April 22, 2019
Grand Palais, 3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower, 75008 Paris