Born in 1944, French artist Christian Boltanski is dealing with recent history in his emotionally laden work. “I am half Jewish and half Christian... I was born at the end of the war and the war is very important to me... All my work is more or less about the Holocaust”¹
© Christian Boltanski, Théâtre d’ombres, 1984, installation
In his installations Boltanski transforms concrete political and personal history into universal artworks with an apparent
human dimension, in the widest sense of the word. Working mainly with large scale theatrical installations he animates the
viewer to engage physically in them. After this first phenomenological experience it is difficult not to get caught up in
an emotional involvement.
The works are often simple but fragile in execution, using universal iconography, and showing a touch of emphatic carelessness. For his Théâtre d’ombres (Theatre of Shadows) he uses small metal figurines, primitive in their style and handmade out of metal foil and thread. There is a skull, some ghosts, some skeletons, masks and scary faces. They are all dangling from a simple metal frame placed on the gallery floor. Light spots next to them throw their shadows multiplied in size onto the walls.
Behind the work lie children’s rituals. The dance of life and death reaches an elusive borderline here. The experience is ambivalent, at once laughable and sad. Boltanski says he has always been interested in Childhood. He feels that we all carry a dead child within us.²
Christian Boltanski was born in 1944 in Paris. He lives and works in France.
¹ Steinar Gjessing, «Christian Boltanski. An Interview», Terskel, 11, (1994), 43.
² Günter Metken, «Christian Boltanski. Memento Mori and Shadow-Play», Terskel, 11, (1994), 21.