|exhibition Balkis Island
exhibition ...&, iconostases 25 i.s.
Balkis-Island is a fictional island that emerged from the friendship between architect Yona Friedman and the artist Jean-Baptiste Decavèle. The island materialized in the cartography of the imaginary when an unexpected collaboration arose from coincidental everyday circumstancesthe death of Yona Friedman’s adored dog Balkis and Jean-Baptiste Decavèle’s discovery of images he had brought back from his successive journeys on the tracks of the great explorers of the North-West Passage, between Greenland and the Bering Strait.
The necessity to remember and the need to commemorate have always been crystallized in the photographic image. While looking at the photographs and video footage from the Arctic, a decade after his first voyage there, Decavèle was struck by an impression of emptiness and distance emanating from their absence of temporal and historical referents. This absence is not simply due to the position of the photographer, or a purported objectivity, or to forgetting. It flows from the strange neutrality of these landscapes in situ. Considering his documents as incomplete or unsatisfying traces, because too decontextualized, Decavèle wondered whether, how and for whom one might reinvest the spaces and times of these contested places, these collective and individual memory sites.
In homage to the departed dog, Decavèle named this collection of documents Balkis- Island and offered it to Friedman. In return, Friedman began to envisage Balkis-Island as a possible ‘Spatial City’, as a prolongation of one of his key architectural constructs. By placing his drawings on transparencies on top of Decavèle’s original images, Friedman transformed private and somewhat closed representations into potential social spaces, periodically inhabited, where architectural configurations nestle into glaciers and rest on the tundra. The very existence of Balkis-Island is structured by this constant back and forth movement between visual representation, spatial conceptualization, and commemorative inscription.
Presented at the galerie anne barrault for the first time, Friedman and Decavèle’s series of forty nine collaborative works, as well as a selection of unmodified landscape photographs, and two videos of Balkis-Island crossings, are the initial record of a site in formation, evolving as it drifts, here and there, and lands temporarily at various ports of call.
Memorial for a Dog
I agree that the idea of a Balkis-Port is a playful one. But it shows the realizability of a form of periodically inhabited habitat. As a larger part of our energy consumption comes from temperature conditioning of inhabited volumes, the period transport of residence from climate regions to other ones, could become the source of the most important energy saving programs we can already imagine.