By: Junet Bedayn and Lia Laureen Schulz
Photos: Junet Bedayn
“Do I contradict myself? Yes, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” — Walt Whitman
What does contradiction even mean? How often do we contradict ourselves and in what spheres of our life? Does the word have a negative connotation to it and if so, why?
Those are the questions that many students explored at Emmanuelle Laine’s recent exhibition at the FRAC in Reims. On a very personal level and by employing diverse media, she has created a complex and multi-dimensional art show right next to the Sciences Po campus.
On Thursday evening, November 15, approximately thirty students arrived at the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne exhibition not knowing entirely what to expect. The BDA had advertised the event as a free guided tour of the exhibit paired with a champagne tasting (which, let’s be honest, is a sufficient motivator for anyone to show up). Many students seemed excited to finally be inside the gray-windowed building attached to our campus that is often looked at, but seldom entered by students. When the museum’s curators welcomed us in and began to introduce us to the exhibit, the significance of the event came clearly into perspective.
Emmanuelle Laine, the designer of the current exhibit, has created an immersive photographic experience that depicts the historic “Old Refractory” and “Old Library” of the Sciences Po campus. Laine masterfully uses the room and its volume (specifically the play on the continuity of lines based on perspective) as a method of presenting new art by using the work of other artists to create large scale photographs, and other art installations throughout the room. The size and perspective of the photographs add a fourth dimension to the room such that one is no longer sure if they are standing in a modern museum, or a 17th century Jesuit library. By employing this fourth dimension, and adding modern sculptures to the historical setting, Laine creates a unique hybridization of time that will leave any observer questioning the contradiction presented before them.
The effect of the exhibition could be felt throughout the entire evening. There were interesting conversations, many questions and flourishing debates.
Maybe though, deep down, many of us were able to feel how the topic corresponded to aspects of our own life:
Having just returned from visiting friends and family over the vacation or even having enjoyed a quiet and somewhat more relaxed week in Reims, we were thrown back into our Sciences Po lifestyles. This exhibition sparked the realization that contradictions are all around us: in the juxtaposition between our intense studying sessions and carefree leisure time. In the contrasts between cultures on our campus and the fact that our semester has seemingly just started but is already almost over.
That theme continued to be part of our soiree, and it was amplified by the champagne. We were surrounded by delicious food, discussing the fine notes of the distinguished types of champagne. Nevertheless, there was a open-minded and engaged atmosphere within the room, with everyone enjoying themselves, making many new acquaintances and learning more about our daily surroundings.
Overall, we started to feel a tension between that which we know and that which we do not (yet) know, a notion introduced by the necessary change of perspectives within the exhibition. The lasting effect was an open-mindedness of the event, which stimulated interactions and created a comfortable atmosphere (giving half the credit to the champagne at this point).
All that is left to say is: Thank you, Emmanuelle Laine, for this homage to the complexity of human emotions and the transparency of diverse perspectives embodied in a single university.
We strongly advise you to go and see it yourself. The exhibition continues until December 16, from Wednesdays to Sundays for free!