Sous les pavés, la plage !
Sous les pavés, la plage ! (Under the cobblestones, the beach!) was one of the slogans used in France’s 1968. It expressed the desire that beneath the city which had been hardened by stone, there be the freedom of the beach (represented by the sand in which the paving stones were placed).
Beneath this poetic phrase of the past lays actual brutality and anger of the French fighters for freedom and all the pre-1968 ideals which have never quite played out. In a simple gesture of installing a beach the work summons heritage of the 20th-century failure (with which we are yet to deal properly) and assembles it with characteristics of the contemporary societies of global capitalism. The beach underneath the pavement is not that with soft sand of the primeval, the crystals represent the greed, lust and sloth, and arrival of humanity at the point with no return.
The installation is meant to function as a place of activity: a beach where people gather, rest at the beach chairs, sunbath, play, take pictures, etc. As a very primeval form, the beach imposes and forces us to look into the contemporary from the perspective of our human nature.
The action of taking one’s clothes off has a liberating character and is a gesture of freeing oneself from several of the constraints of the contemporary civilisation. The beach made of crystals is very beautiful as are the the ideals of fighters for freedom which always ended up with failure. We are blinded by this artificial beauty of the light reflected from the crystals and at certain point one realises something has been forever lost. But we are happy to go, to take photos and share our presence in this ‘extraordinary’ place with everybody, however uncomfortable and unpleasant it may be. In this way the installation is utilising cultural mechanisms of the contemporary society which is being criticised through its very own actions. Taking photographs, playing, listening to music, using mobile phones are all strongly encouraged.
The installation thus offers a passage from the primeval experience alike that of the child to that of the grown up, in other words here the sensual meets the intellectual and critical.
The context of museum remains pivotal. As much as the installation is gently incorporated into the architecture its contextual concept is more groundbreaking: the context of museum, i.e. space for storing, contemplating and studying of art becomes a place of liberation, activity, leisure and relaxation. There is no art to store or study but the very lifestyle activity. The slogan sprayed upon the gray wall is the only reference to the history, and that particular moment when maoist Frenchmen questioned the very achievement of the post modern civilisation. The sprayed slogan is not only a form of renunciation but reminds one of the situation where ‘after the history’ the sacred space of a museum becomes taken over by a wave of a new civilisation, what remains is a sigh of the past written upon the black wall (which architecturally appears like a cornerstone of the building), upon which nobody looks so much, as the richness and blink of the crystal sand takes all attention.