June 1, 2010By Heidi EllisonArchive
dreamlands, centre pompidou, paris

Kader Attia’s “Untitled (Skyline),” 2007. © Colin Davison

The Centre Pompidou is currently holding one of those “multidisciplinary” (read “popular”?) shows that it says are part of its mission. “Dreamlands” certainly has something for everyone, from

dreamlands, centre pompidou, paris

Kader Attia’s “Untitled (Skyline),” 2007. © Colin Davison

The Centre Pompidou is currently holding one of those “multidisciplinary” (read “popular”?) shows that it says are part of its mission. “Dreamlands” certainly has something for everyone, from the kiddies to conceptual architects, and manages to be both thought-provoking and extremely enjoyable throughout.

It begins with a giant slide show of postcards from the original Dreamland amusement park in Coney Island, New York. This ephemeral fantasy world complete with Venetian canals and Swiss Alps burnt down in 1911, only seven years after it was built. It may have been cheap and tawdry in real life, but because it no longer exists, it somehow seems poignant and desirable, especially with the haunting strains of the 1909 song Meet Me To-night in Dreamland” (“Meet me in dreamland, sweet dreamy dreamland; There let my dreams come true.”) playing in the background.

Although they excel at the exercise, the Americans weren’t the only ones who wanted to visit exotic places without leaving home. Another slide show documents the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, a real faux wonderland with Chinese pagodas, German half-timbered houses, Khmer temples and Italian palazzi lining the Seine.

All sorts of other imaginary worlds are presented, some of which have actually been built in bona fide cases of life imitating art. A quick sampling of what’s on show: Salvador Dalí’s “Dream of Venus” pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, which invited visitors into the world of the unconscious and treated them to the sight of live naked women (in the puritanical United States?!); a slide show based on Learning from Las Vegas, a famous analysis of the architecture of the neon city in the desert by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown; a film of Walt Disney describing the never-fully-realized plans for Epcot, the science-fiction city under a transparent dome, designed to “serve the needs of corporations”; and fittingly slick presentations of Dubai’s numerous building projects, which go beyond even Las Vegas and Disney in their grandiosity.

To remind us that this is also an art museum and not a fun fair, paintings, sculptures, photos and installations are thrown in, among them “Untitled (Skyline)” (pictured above), one of the few works by the young artist du moment Attia Kader that I can honestly say I admire. Most of his pieces are one-liners; once you’ve got the joke, you can forget about it and move along, but this one – an installation of discarded refrigerators covered in mirror tiles, placed so that they evoke a city skyline and effectively displayed in a darkened space – stands up to contemplation.

Other works in the show make you laugh, most notably Farrell Malachi’s hilarious installation “Nothing Stops a New Yorker” (2005-10), involving skyscrapers with stunted mechanical arms that periodically come to life to a soundtrack, in turn evoking mindless exercisers, menacing terrorists or cool clubbers, depending on the sound effects. Another intriguing installation, Liu Wei’s “Love It!, Bite It! (2009), very effectively recreates monuments of the world in ruined states. It is made with, of all things, dog chew treats, which are eerily reminiscent of human skin. I also liked Kingelez Bodys Isek’s model of a playful city I’d like to live in, “Ville Fantôme” (1996), and Yin Xiuzhen’s “Portable City: NewYork” (2003), a fabric city in a suitcase, complete with sound effects.

The show ends with Mike Kelley’s installation “Kandor Con” (2000), a design for Superman’s native city in a bottle, and a forlorn-looking live student working at a desk on her own designs for an imaginary city.

Heidi Ellison

Centre Pompidou: 19, rue Beaubourg, 75004 Paris. Tel.: 01 44 78 12 33. Open 11am-9pm. Closed Tuesday. Métro: Rambuteau. Admission: €10-€12. Through August 9. www.centrepompidou.fr

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