Featured Artist: Virginie Maillard
“Images of an evolving past
in the context of crisis”
INSTITUTIONS HAVE A DUTY to be stable, noble, enduring. Or at least we might wish them to be.
An institution is a both a structure and an ideal. It might be a cathedral or a parliament or a court. It might be abstracted: the institution of marriage or of parliamentary democracy or of law. We expect the abstract structure to sustain the promise of the physical form: Sir Herbert Baker’s stately building in London’s Threadneedle Street should symbolise the sobriety and diligence we expect of the Bank of England.
In recent decades that sense of certainty has begun to crumble. The oracular temples of Wall Street, the sanctuary of the Roman Catholic Church, the trustworthiness of our governments have all proved to be unstable tropes. In an age of uncertainty we come to question our ideals and our institutions.
Virginie Maillard’s Anamnesis Land sets up an uneasy dialogue between the expectations associated with a given institution and the physical condition of the edifice laying claim to it. It plays on an inversion of the unsettling sense we have that the magnificent architecture of our institutions may harbour a praxis altogether less noble.
The word anamnesis describes a process of remembering. In Platonic philosophy it is the soul’s memory of the ideal form recalled when the individual is presented with the imperfect reality. In medicine it is the history of a patient’s illness. In the Eucharist it describes a prayer in memory of Christ. Things as we remember them or as we idealise them in memory.
These buildings with their neon signage proclaim an unlikely pedigree. Are they in the process of elevation to institutional status or in decay? There is a dissonance that is disconcerting. Perhaps it is simply that Virginie Maillard’s institutions are not as we would like to remember them… or perhaps they too closely mirror what we fear they have become.
Virginie Maillard lives and works in Boulogne sur Mer, France.
Images (from the top):
© Virginie Maillard – Bank from ‘Anamnesis Land’
© Virginie Maillard – Sanctuary from ‘Anamnesis Land’