Les tombeaux (The Tombs)

Christian Boltanski

Paris, France, 1944 - 2021
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  • Material: 
    Wood, fabric, light bulbs, paper and glass
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    Work consisting of seven wood and metal tombs lined with black fabric, one hundred and ninety-two glazed black squares and thirty light bulbs
  • Dimensions: 
    Overall: variable dimensions / Part 01: 230 x 160 x 46 cm / Part 02: 199 x 140 x 45 cm / Part 03: 179 x 150 x 46 x 46 cm / Part 04: 157 x 130 x 46 x 46 cm / Part 05: 150 x 150 x 44 cm / Part 06: 118 x 140 x 46 cm / Part 07: 118 x 140 x 46 cm
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Les tombeaux (The Tombs) is an installation consisting of a funereal-looking space for the commemoration of the nameless dead. In keeping with the traditional religious symbolism of candles, dim lamps evoke the fragility of human existence and the permanence of the souls of the dead. Nearby, a series of mirrors in black portrait frames reflect the image of the approaching viewers, so that they see their own reflection in place of the commemorated deceased. Christian Boltanski works with the feelings and associations that can be awoken in a viewer by recognised forms and environments or settings connected to rituals and human habits, and using these elements, he approaches subjects such as memory and forgetting, loss and death. By doing so, he is associating the restoration of Baroque themes with a more contemporary interest in the power of the image in today’s society. In the artist’s own words: “In traditional societies, death was a little less problematic because the idea of progress did not have the same weight, and the survival of the family or group was more important. […]. Someone has said: ‘nowadays we die twice: first at the time of our death, and again when nobody recognizes us in a photograph any more’.”

Carmen Fernández Aparicio