His works, sited at the junction of information and poetic invention, possess a hybrid value that he refers to as “documents of experience.” Through films, texts, interventions, photographs, objects and diagrams Meessen has developed a poetics of re-reading and translation in which the document is transformed into experience, and experience into a vehicle of investigation.
My Last Life replicates the methods of appropriation and deconstruction of myth and modern ideologies used by French writer and semiologist Roland Barthes (1915-1980), in order to turn them on his own work. Barthes, who made himself the subject of analysis in Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes (1975), is explored as a symbol of the implication of the history of French imperialism and his own criticism. The starting point for Meessen’s project is the cover of the French magazine Paris Matchfrom 1955 that Barthes used to present the fundamental concepts of Mythologies (1957): the image of a young African cadet saluting the French flag, used to indoctrinate readers into the supposed virtues of colonialism as a guardian of the “dark continent.”
In the video Vita Nova (2009), Meessen tracks down the young Diouf Birante in Burkina Faso in order to demonstrate the superficiality of the colonial endeavor, and to reconsider the work of Barthes in the light of a fact he only alludes to very indirectly: that his maternal grandfather, Louis-Gustave Binger (1856-1936), was the explorer who “claimed” the so-called Ivory Coast before going on to serve the colonial administration in a number of roles.
The exhibition extends the logic of appropriating the work of Barthes to encompass an exploration of the dense web of relationships between French thought and literature and coloniality, one that invites the viewer to reconsider the whole genealogy of contemporary thought.
Artist: Vincent Meessen (Estados Unidos, 1971)
Curators: Cuauhtémoc Medina y Alejandra Labastida
My Last Life
Authors : Roland Barthes, Alejandra Labastida, Cuauhtémoc Medina
Language : Spanish & English