Is it a demonstration, a procession? The forecourt of the Saint-Nicolas basilica, in the city center of Nantes, is teeming with two-dimensional giants, monumental black silhouettes as if they had come out of a painting by Jérôme Bosch. We come across men with the heads of birds, sneering monkeys waving flags, a standing goat, but also a skeleton, a slave or a fisherman. It is a dark and extravagant procession, a mute hubbub, a gesticulating and ambiguous ball that welcomes visitors to the Voyage à Nantes this summer.
The unclassifiable Hélène Delprata painter fond of history, cinema and literature, has thus imagined a shadow theater on the scale of the city on this intimate place Félix-Fournier, but also on the most emblematic place Graslin, where, last year, there was a happy roller-skating track.
This time, the mood isn’t festive, and an angel with open arms and outstretched wings faces a large, equally black loudspeaker. Further still, the vanished trident of the majestic fountain in the Place Royale has simply been replaced by a flag with imaginary Breton heraldry, which can be found on pennants announcing the festival throughout the city. This false theater of shadows, where the pre-apocalyptic atmosphere becomes carnivalesque, is called “The Theater of Operations”, and sets the tone for a demonstration which arrives against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, from 7e wave of the Covid pandemic and climate crisis.
Another setting, another spectral vision: it is in a cemetery of the city, that of Mercy, that one can continue the exploration. The visual artist, writer and French historian Pascal Convert was invited to design a permanent work there, which complements the permanent collection of some sixty pieces added over the summers, some of the most monumental, such as the Hermitage Belvedere by Tadashi Kawamata, to the most discreet, like the fishtail beaver, installed on a medieval vestige of the city.
The artist, for whom the question of memory and forgetting is at the heart of his work, has designed a subtle installation there, scattered between the oldest tombs, Mirrors of timesi.e. a set of hologram-like glass stelae, with one flat side and the other hollow, representing deer wandering around the area: a doe, a young stag, a large stag and fawns, which work like the memento mori traversed by light, peaceful ghostly figures placed on the ground.
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