Michel Houellebecq exhibits in New York

(NEW YORK) Author, poet, filmmaker in his spare time, Michel Houellebecq is also a photographer. He is presenting these days in New York his very first exhibition on American soil. The opportunity to discover some of the images that nourish his writing and his vision of the world.

It must have been one of the must-see literary events of the week in New York. Journalists from the New York Times , the New Yorker and many other media had taken place in the premises of the French consulate last Friday to attend a rare discussion with the most controversial French authors.

Obviously, Michel Houellebecq being Michel Houellebecq, he did not show up for the meeting. "He does not feel very good," said a manager to hundreds of people who had moved.

Zach Fischman, an employee of the Venus Over Manhattan gallery where Houellebecq's French Bashing  exhibition is presented , was not surprised. "He worked like crazy to prepare for the installation of the exhibition," he pleads. And then, how to say, Michel Houellebecq is a little particular. The only request he has made since he arrived was to go to a grocery store to buy jars of American yellow mustard! "Says Fischman, still dumbfounded by the quirks of the author of the  Elementary Particles.

Located on the third floor of a Madison Avenue building, near luxury boutiques, the Venus Over Manhattan Gallery has been reorganized from top to bottom to accommodate the artist's work.

Dramatic landscapes and holidays in the sun

A miniature version of the exhibition  Rester Vivant , presented last year at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris,  French Bashing  occupies two distinct rooms. 

In the first, immersed in the dark, we present about twenty large-format photographs representing French landscapes in dull colors: railways, housing projects, toll highway. Landscapes shaped by man, but lifeless, where concrete seems to have annihilated until the idea of ​​pleasure.

In the other room, white and bathed in artificial light, a dozen photographs and photomontages feature images that evoke tourism, sun and paid holidays. 

But as in the dark room, the human is absent. The room, whose floor has been entirely covered with postcards that smell of cheese, wine and clichés, is oversaturated with gaudy colors. 

Methodical and neat, Houellebecq's images evoke a dehumanized world, where commerce and hedonism, 9 to 5 and holidays in the sun are just facets of the same reality. A rather gloomy reality. 

Some of his photographs are accompanied or superimposed on his writings. A triptych composed of two pictures of greyish buildings is thus accompanied by a quote from his last novel ( Soumission ): "I had, no more than most of these people, real reason to kill me."

Pessimism and gloom

It will be understood, the exhibition  French Bashing (the denigration of all that is French) perspires pessimism and gloom. Here, the "French bashing" does not seem to evoke so much the denigration of the Americans with respect to France that the self-deception of the French with regard to themselves, or of Houellebecq with regard to itself and his contemporaries.

If he ended up at the opening of the exhibition last Friday night, he was miffed comments. Asked about the title of the exhibition as well as the political situation in France and the United States, the author refused to really clarify his thinking.

If the photographs of his exhibition do not ooze the joy of living, they certainly allow to better appreciate the images and the universe that inspire Houellebecq and have made him the French contemporary author perhaps the most respected of his generation.

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