Christian Boltanski



currently on display

Artist / Artist group
Christian Boltanski
installation, Black-and-white photography
Material / Technique
16 black-and-white-photographs, 400 cookie tins, 16 metal drawers, 16 lamps
Dimensions / Duration
300 x 215 x 94 cm, installation dimensions variable
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe

»Today, everything is perfectly preserved. But my work is supposed to be on the border like a candle that can go out from one moment to the next.« [1] (Christian Boltanski, 1990)

The practice of remembering and of confronting the past and transience are central themes in the work of Christian Boltanski. Even as a young boy, the artist, who was the son of a Jewish head physician, thought intensely about his family history during the Nazi era. Later, Boltanski began to work more broadly on a (re-)construction of the past, as in his altar-like installation »Réliquaire«: taken from the estates of anonymous individuals, the sixteen blurred black-and-white photographs of children are arranged in four rows, almost appearing to be religious images reminiscent of icons. Installed on pedestals made from metal cookie tins, each of the faces is illuminated by a reading lamp. The metal containers are repositories for memories, personal treasures, and newly discovered objects which have been laid out before us like relics. In the dramatically lit and spectral atmosphere a tension arises between presence and absence, which lives from the desire to »recognize« the individual people and to learn more about their individual fates.

[1] Christian Boltanski in an interview with Doris von Drathen: »Der Clown als schlechter Prediger«, in: Kai-Uwe Hemken (ed.) »Gedächtnisbilder. Vergessen und Erinnern in der Gegenwartskunst« (Leipzig: Reclam, 1996), p. 236. Translated from German.

Author: Julia Ihls

About the artist/s