Thomas Garnier

Shānzài - Installation - 2017

présentée dans le cadre de l'exposition panorama 19


Somewhere in a country faraway, replicas of monuments emerge from a fogbound, toxic winter. Among them, a triumphal arch from an amusement park, a Château Maisons- Laffitte converted into a club for wealthy eccentrics, a suburban residential Eiffel Tower ringed by a racetrack …

At first deserted, these are that places sow doubt, creating an impression of uneasy familiarity, summoning up an out-of-place and synthetic nostalgia. They are a perfect manifestation of that heterotopic “other space” Michel Foucault used to dream of – enclosed spaces in a society conforming to a completely new set of rules. On the screens the visual resemblance to a picture postcard is reinforced by unvarying frontal viewpoints that transform the structures into shallow, flattened objects, pasteboard backdrops worthy of a theater set.
Slowly but surely, visitors, residents and tourists sporadically erupt into the image. Gradually, the movements of these human occupants appear more and more artificial and insistent.
Looped movements lasting a matter of seconds compose a choreographic rearrangement of space-time, creating a crescendo that culminates in total visual and acoustic saturation.
For a son of expatriates like myself, who suffers from derealisation, my relationship to French culture has always been somewhat indistinct, detached. Strangely, I find these copies of monuments more tangible than the originals.
Facing them, I feel a mix of apprehension, admiration, fear and euphoria. For me these structures function as the telltale signs of the plummeting value of the reality – hybrid forms of everyday life crossed with simulacra, a relentless surrealist remix of codes and symbols.
All in all, they are monuments to the glory of the present.
Shanzhài questions the symbolic, identityforging value of architecture in a world whose geographical and cultural limits are on the point of dissolving.
Perhaps our future will be one of enormous assembly plants for mass-producing cheap replicas of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe to set up in all the conurbations of the planet.

Thomas Garnier

Thomas Garnier is a contemporary artist with a background in architecture. After gaining his state architectural diploma in 2016, he took a complementary training at Le Fresnoy - Studio National des Arts Contemporains.

His work is often classified as partaking of a new, post-digital Romanticism. It interrogates the essence of the local, history and the role of memory in the gradual institution of a globalised and desensitised world. His practice is like that of an artist/researcher or a heteropologue, as defined by Foucault in his text on heterotopias.


Le Fresnoy - Studio national des arts contemporains, Tourcoing