Is this man going to win his game with death?

French artist Christian Boltanski

French artist Christian Boltanski

Talking about art and new standards of life (virtual identities as well as the contemporary trend of ‘performed’ existences, Big Brother style) some days ago I read a very interesting article about French artist Christian Boltanski’s new extravagant project (unfortunately I’ve only found the original interview made by Le Monde to the artist: and another Italian article on the subject:

A bizarre Australian millionaire, hardened gambler and art passionate, decided to literally ‘buy’ Boltanski’s life for 8 years: from January 2010 he will live in a cave in the man’s property in Tasmania and will be observed by cameras and visitors for eight years (note that Boltanski is already 65); he will be free to live his live ‘normally’ and express his needs and desires but for eight years he will constantly be subject to the irreverent eye of the cameras and to his superb ‘master’s wishes.

This already extravagant project becomes a real bet with death, due to the internal clauses of the contract: if Boltanski dies, his millionaire master will become the beneficiary of his life annuity, if he survives he will instead be due to pay Boltanski back of a huge amount of money.

The unforgettable scene from Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal": the knight plays a chess game with Death

The unforgettable scene from Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal": the knight plays a chess game with Death

In my opinion, the project is challenging, original, unacceptable and grotesque at the same time, but it’s nonetheless a very significant and multifaceted work, and it especially arouses many interesting issues:

First of all, the idea of a massive invasion of the public sphere into the private one in modern society (“I’m being watched, therefore I am”?);

Secondly, it is a peculiar overlapping of life and art: most of Boltanski’s work is actually imbued with this sense of loss, inexorability of time and memory:

could this project become his own personal way of immortalizing his life into a piece of art?

Is this simply a mere contemporary interpretation of the classical ‘memento mori’ motif and a way of securing his presence even in case of ‘extreme eventuality’?

I don’t really know the answer, but of one thing I’m sure: in this crazy game with Death, the incredible and even unexplainable human compassion and attachment to life will drive people to root for this man!

Blog — Gianna Yebut, August 23, 2009 @ 11:37 pm

1 Comment »

  1. I don’t think it’s “memento mori”. Perhaps it mean “memento vivere” … or better “memento bibere” (bibere=to drink), because “beati Hispanes quibus vivere est bibere” …

    Comment by antonio de boni — September 5, 2009 @ 3:48 am

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