Wander, Labyrinthine Variations

ExhibitionsWander, Labyrinthine Variations

12 september 2011 - 5 March 2012

Locations : Grande Nef
Category : Exhibitions
Public price : 7€ (tarif unique)
Public : All ages

“Wander, Labyrinthine Variations” follows “Masterpieces ?” as the second major thematic exhibition at the Centre Pompidou-Metz.

“Wander, Labyrinthine Variations” is an international group exhibition, which takes its cue from the model of the labyrinth, tackling the notions of straying, loss and wandering as well as their various representations in contemporary art.

In partnership with

Wendel Mécène fondateur

Mystical, archaic forms, labyrinths and mazes are examined here as metaphors. They form complex figures that associate the image of non-linear progression through bends, curves, repentance and returns… whether architectural, mental, economic or structural in nature. The show itself is organised thematically according to a sinusoidal principle that follows the detours and polysemy of the subject itself, offering a loss of reference both figuratively as well as formally. It veers from an architectural maze to thoughtful meandering, from global political-economic chaos to disorientated contemporary urbanism, from bodily spatial confinement to maieutics, from exploded narration in cinema or literature to geometric abstraction as an eye-catcher.

The exhibition is presented in eight themed parts, which develop the subject from an angle that is both conceptual and sensory.

Painting, architecture, penetrable works, sculptures, films, maps and archaeological artefacts offer as many different perspectives on, and immersions in, these curious and surprising worlds.

Beyond its historical references, Wander, Labyrinthine Variations sets out to represent certain contemporary aesthetic, political and intellectual trends of our era. It addresses the history of forms and ideas by challenging a strictly linear model or progressive vision. Instead, it multiplies possibilities, draws the visitor into zones of confusion, multiple choices and lays obstacles to our apprehending of what is real, with all that this implies in terms of adventurous speculation and uncertainty.

Unfolded on 2,000 square metres across two of the gallery spaces at Centre Pompidou-Metz, the exhibition shows different generations of French and international artists, alongside major works from the Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne in Paris and important international collections. There will also be specific commissions by Matt Mullican, Public Space With a Roof and re-enacted pieces by Gianni Colombo, Gianni Pettena and Julio Le Parc.

Wander, Labyrinthine Variations is also a game in the form of an enigma - Labyrint* in a Valise (*h) - elaborated by the independent curator, Jean de Loisy.


Hélène Guenin
Head of Programming Department at the Centre Pompidou-Metz

Hélène Guenin was appointed Head of programming at the Centre Pompidou-Metz in November 2008. Alongside Laurent Le Bon, she supervises exhibition projects and parallel programming in the Wendel Auditorium and the Studio.

Prior to this, from 2002 to 2008, she worked with Béatrice Josse at the Fonds régional d'art contemporain in Lorraine.


Guillaume Désanges
Curator, Art Critic, Director of Work Method

Guillaume Désanges has curated numerous exhibitions in France and internationally. He is the director of Work Method, an independent production entity. Between 2001 and 2007, he coordinated artistic activity at Les Laboratoires in Aubervilliers. In 2007-2008 he was head of programming at La Tôlerie Arts Centre in Clermont-Ferrand. Since 2009, and until 2011, he has been guest curator at Le Plateau-Frac Ile de France arts centre in Paris for a series of exhibitions entitled Érudition Concrète.

Work by Isidoro Valcárcel Medina is presented thanks to funding from the AC/E Acción cultural española (Seacex)

Work by Public Space With a Roof is produced thanks to funding from Fondation Mondriaan and Fonds BKVB / Netherlands Foundation for visual arts, design and architecture

The game for the Wander, Labyrinthine Variations exhibition is sponsored in part by Carlson Wagonlit

I - The labyrinth as architecture

The labyrinth originates in architecture. Greek mythology popularised the concept with the Minotaur, a creature that is half-man, half-bull, imprisoned in a construction so complex that no one can find their way out. Invented by Daedalus, the original labyrinth was thus based on paradox: how can a rational, methodical structure produce confusion, disorientation and wandering? Modern-day architects and artists have considered these questions anew, and imagined principles based on broken lines, twists and turns, tangles and bulges. This part of the exhibition looks at practices which are both programmatic and decorative, and which break with the readability of straight lines.

II - Space / Time

The labyrinth is the archetypal space that generates time. Inside the labyrinth, times feels warped in a succession of detours that bring us back to our starting point. In mathematics, spirals, loops and Möbius strips are the physical embodiment of this paradoxical progress through space and time. Each of the works and projects in this section identify with this highly specific dynamic immobility or involution, examples of which are also found in the natural world, in seashells and nebulae, from mystical wanderings to the revolving planets.

III - The mental labyrinth

The structure of the human mind is often likened to a labyrinth. In physical terms, the brain can be seen as an inextricable network of neurons and synapses while, metaphorically, "thinking is like entering a maze" (Cornelius Castoriadis). In philosophy, wandering and digression are necessary stages in the quest for truth.
The mental labyrinth encompasses knowledge, as well as dreams and memory. It embodies the depths of consciousness, from loss to revelation, through which we attain the "light through darkness" which Henri Michaux describes. Various ways of formalising thought are assembled here, in the work of artists who map these complex areas of the mind
and invent new orders of ideas and reality

IV - Metropolis

Described by the poet Emile Verhaeren as "tentacular," the modern city has much in common with the labyrinth. Viewed from a distance, it resembles a comprehensible network but once in its midst, this network reveals itself to be an inextricable web of chaos. Thus it elicits new behaviours – inadvertent or deliberate drifting, marginality and dispersion – and becomes a new space for individual adventure. Paul Citroen's Metropolis, which inspired Fritz Lang's film, embodies the overwhelming, the dizzyingly dense in much the same way as the Babylon of antiquity, the symbol of power and authority. These mythical cities inspire a new kind of artist-surveyor/cartographer. They portray the complexity of the modern city, or approach it as a playground and laboratory, part poetry, part social deviance.

V - Kinetic dislocation

This part of the exhibition considers experiences of loss in its physical and optical dimensions. From the 1950s, kinetic artists began to conduct plastic research into movement, whether achieved mechanically by the observer's movement, or resulting from the material's own inner vibration. These necessarily interactive works elicit feelings of illusion and disorientation, halfway between giddiness and wonder. They use extremely simple mechanisms to produce momentous disorientation of perception. They are shown with films that associate the kinetic experience with psychological confusion.

VI - Captive

The fundamental paradox of the labyrinth lies in its twofold purpose: to imprison and simultaneously protect the Minotaur. An insidious, open, constantly shifting prison, the labyrinth allows a certain degree of freedom while controlling from afar. The inability to fully comprehend where a space begins and ends, the loss of bearings and the absence of any map produce a feeling of confused claustrophobia, no matter how many perspectives the labyrinth seemingly opens. Like a spider's web, this complex architecture is a trap that encircles, closes in on and ultimately suffocates. The labyrinth thus elicits ambivalent responses, part protection and part conditioning, as well as magnificent and also desperate attempts to escape.

VII - Initiation / Enlightenment

As a sinuous path strewn with obstacles and trials, the labyrinth has, from the very inception of the myth, been associated with the initiatory quest, both spiritual and physical. This concentric, spiralling progression has a moral, even heroic, dimension, whether processional route or symbol of wisdom, church labyrinth or Tibetan mandala. One emerges from the labyrinth as another; it is a pretext for a journey to self-knowledge. Finding one's way through the labyrinth is like finding a path through life, with its choices, hesitations and periods of wandering as we move towards self-fulfilment. In contemporary art, this moral dimension is sometimes portrayed metaphorically, within the ordinary and the banal.

VIII - Art as labyrinth

Avant-garde and modern artists challenged the idea, inherited from the Renaissance, of representing the world from a single perspective, or vanishing point. The explosion of points of view on the surface of the canvas, and the increasing abstraction of form, were accompanied in experimental cinema by a corresponding blurring of meaning and deconstruction of the linear storyline. The empty space created between meaning and form is the very place of vertigo. Thus a work of art becomes a conceptual, sensual labyrinth where we can lose ourselves. It is a complex, auto-referential structure, the experience of which defies all reason, yet which brings us to a new form of understanding.


Works, historical and archaeological artefact

Maps, anatomical plates, old etchings, games and archaeological artefacts are interspersed throughout the exhibition. They offer a view of, or indeed an entrance into, curious worlds, and suggest the emergence and sources of this labyrinthine, speculative train of thought, as they sketch possible lineages or more formal relationships.
Thus Piranesi's Carceri are placed alongside works by Gego and Colombo. Gautier d'Agoty's anatomical plates, a phrenological skull, and the first engravings of neuron connections by Santiago Ramon y Cajal introduce the section on mind spaces and knowledge.


Mandalas and games of snakes and ladders shed light on questions of moral initiation or the quest for self-knowledge.
Treasures from Metz' libraries and multimedia centres, the Louvre, the Musée de Rambouillet, the Musée Testut Latarjet and the Musée Guimet give insight into contemporary aesthetic and intellectual trends, and elucidate ways of structuring thought and knowledge that are still relevant today.

Commissioned works

Wander has occasioned commissions to artists and requests for re-enactments of important works, such as those by Julio Le Parc, Gianni Colombo, and Gianni Pettena.
Some of these commissions are described below.

Matt Mullican

American artist Matt Mullican (b. 1951) is a unique figure on today's contemporary art scene. His work has been shown a number of times in France, most recently at the Lyon Institut d'art contemporain. He was also the subject of a wide-ranging retrospective at Munich's Haus der Kunst (10 June – 11 September 2011).
Working in the fields of performance art, installation, drawing and sculpture, as well as using hypnosis in his work, Matt Mullican has, since the 1970s, evolved a personal cosmology comprising a formal, symbolic vocabulary. He uses the sign- and colour-based vocabulary he invents to organise society within reinvented worlds.

Primary colours associated with symbols refer to five fundamental concepts: green for nature and elements, red for spiritual values, yellow for conscious manifestations of art and science, blue for the mysteries of the unconscious mind, and black for language. Assembled in various combinations in a range of media, his pictograms classify reality. Using his own system of classification, Mullican devises charts: universal cities and maps that simulate natural phenomena or the mysteries of the human being. Centre Pompidou-Metz has commissioned Mullican to produce a work in keeping with the dimensions of the spectacular 20 metre-high wall of the Grande Nef. A monumental exploration of mental space and the brain, it will be one of the artist's largest ever commissions for a museum.


Public Space With a Roof

Public Space With a Roof is an artists' collective, founded in 2003 in Amsterdam by artists Tamuna Chabashvili and Adi Hollander, and the theorist Vesna Madzoski. Wander has invited the collective to slip between the seams of the exhibition, like a spider spinning its web. La Ville Inversée (Upside-Down City) offers a mise en abyme of subject and exhibition. As we go from room to room, it reveals the labyrinths and stories that filled the thoughts of the exhibited artists, as well as previously unsuspected connections between some of the works.

We follow the thoughts of an imaginary character who haunts the exhibition, speculating on the labyrinth theme, producing notes, illustrations and documentation along the way. PSWR considers both the conceptual dimension of the labyrinth, and how it is transposed into the museum context of this exhibition. On the first floor, a map of this Upside-Down City could be the exhibition's reflection in a distorting mirror. The disturbing feeling experienced by the visitor is now revealed through this map.

Michel François et François Curlet

Michel François and François Curlet's contribution to Wander takes position on the glass windows above the museum entrance, which are inscribed with curious black lines. They trace the outline of a network, part way between a mechanical circuit and a spider's web. The seemingly random tracings suggest a cracked window that has been hastily repaired with black adhesive tape.
Broken glass has been central to Michel François’ work since the late 1980s, either working visually with the imploded, diffuse craquelure effect of shattered glass or, from a more urban and social stance, linking the idea of rebellion to the star-shaped impact of a projectile. The aim in both cases is to alter the transparency of the modern city, and the notions of exposure and surveillance that surround it.
Map of Metz (As it was broken) in fact portrays a simplified map of the city. The glass windows become larger-than-life telescopes, trained on the city. Looking outwards, the building becomes a giant observatory, and this stylised representation of the surrounding territory is superimposed on the city itself. moderne, ainsi que les fantasmes de visibilité et de surveillance qui s’y rattachent.
A Metz, le dessin de Map of Metz (As it was broken), figure en réalité le plan simplifié de la ville. Ici, les baies sont de véritables panoramas pointés sur la ville comme de grands télescopes. Ainsi tourné vers l’extérieur, le bâtiment agit comme un gigantesque observatoire et la représentation stylisée du territoire vient se superposer sur la ville réelle.


Vito Acconci
(New York, États-Unis, 1940 – vit à New York)

Bas Jan Ader
(Winschoten, Pays-Bas, 1942 – disparu en mer entre Cape Cod et l’Irlande, 1975)

Jacques Fabien Gautier d’Agoty
(Marseille, 1716 – Paris, 1785)

Francis Alÿs
(Anvers, Belgique, 1959 – vit à Mexico, Mexique)

Carl Andre
(Quincy, États-Unis, 1935 – vit à New York, États-Unis)

Art & Language : Michael Baldwin (Chipping Norton, Royaume-Uni, 1945), Mel Ramsden (Ilkeston, Royaume-Uni, 1944 – vivent à Middleton Cheney, Royaume-Uni)

Saul Bass
(New York, États-Unis, 1920 – Los Angeles, États-Unis, 1996)

Didier Beaufort
(Liège, Belgique, 1955 – vit à Bruxelles, Belgique)

Christophe Berdaguer (Marseille, 1968), Marie Péjus (Marseille, 1969 – vivent à Paris et à Marseille)

Lee Bontecou
(Providence, États-Unis, 1931 – vit à Orbisonia, États-Unis)

Ian Breakwell
(Long Eaton, Royaume-Uni, 1943 – Londres, Royaume-Uni, 2005)

Stanley Brouwn

Santiago Ramón y Cajal
(Petilla de Aragón, Espagne, 1852 – Madrid, Espagne, 1934)

Vija Celmins
(Riga, Lettonie, 1938 - vit à New York, États-Unis)

Paul Citroën
(Berlin, Allemagne, 1896 – Wassenaar, Pays-Bas, 1983)

Henri-Georges Clouzot
(Niort, 1907 – Paris, 1977)

Guy de Cointet
(Paris, 1934 – Los Angeles, États-Unis, 1983)

Gianni Colombo
(Milan, Italie, 1937 – Melzo, Italie, 1993)

Constant Anton Nieuwenhuys, dit Constant
(Amsterdam, Pays-Bas, 1920 – Utrecht, Pays-Bas, 2005)

Coop Himmelb(l)au : Wolf D. Prix (Vienne, Autriche, 1942), Helmut Swiczinsky (Poznań, Pologne, 1944 – vivent à Vienne, Autriche et à Los Angeles, États-Unis)
Guy Debord (Paris, 1931 – Champot, 1994)

Agnes Denes
(Budapest, Hongrie, 1931 – vit à New York, États-Unis)

Maya Deren (Kiev, Russie, 1917 – New York, États-Unis, 1961), Alexander Hammid (Linz, Empire austro-hongrois, 1907 – New York, États-Unis, 2004)

Julien Discrit
(Épernay, 1978 – vit à Paris)

Gino de Dominicis
(Ancône, Italie, 1947 – Rome, Italie 1998)

Marcel Duchamp
(Blainville-Crevon, 1887 – Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1968)

Viking Eggeling
(Lund, Suède, 1880 – Berlin, Allemagne, 1925)

David-Georges Emmerich
(Debrecen, Hongrie, 1925 – Paris, 1996)

Harun Farocki
(Neutitschein, Allemagne, 1944 – vit à Berlin, Allemagne)

Léon Ferrari
(Buenos Aires, Argentine, 1920 – vit à Buenos Aires)

Michel François (Saint-Trond, Belgique, 1956 – vit à Bruxelles, Belgique), François Curlet (Paris, 1967 – vit à Paris et à Bruxelles, Belgique)

Yona Friedman
(Budapest, Hongrie, 1923 – vit à Paris)

Gertrude Goldschmidt, dite Gego
(Hambourg, Allemagne, 1912 – Caracas, Venezuela, 1994)

Joseph Grigely
(East Longmeadow, États-Unis, 1956 – vit à Chicago, États-Unis)

Mona Hatoum

(Beyrouth, Liban, 1952 – vit à Londres, Royaume-Uni)

Thomas Hirschhorn (Berne, Suisse, 1957 – vit à Aubervilliers), Marcus Steinweg (Koblenz, Allemagne, 1971 – vit à Berlin, Allemagne)

Jean-Isidore Isou Goldstein, dit Isidore Isou
(Botoşani, Roumanie, 1925 – Paris, 2007) 

Mike Kelley
(Detroit, États-Unis, 1954 – vit à Los Angeles, États-Unis)

Toba Khedoori
(Sydney, Australie, 1964 – vit à Los Angeles, États-Unis)

Abbas Kiarostami
(Téhéran, Iran, 1940 – vit à Téhéran)

Frederick Kiesler
(Czernowitz, Empire austro-hongrois, 1890 – New York, États-Unis 1965)

Běla Kolářová
(Terezín, Tchécoslovaquie, 1923 – Prague, République tchèque, 2010)

Rem Koolhaas (Rotterdam, Pays-Bas, 1944 – vit à Rotterdam), Madelon Vriesendorp (Bilthoven, Pays-Bas, 1945 – vit à Londres, Royaume-Uni), Zoe Zenghelis (Athènes, Grèce, 1937 – vit à Londres, Royaume-Uni) et Elia Zenghelis (Athènes, Grèce, 1937 – vit à Bruxelles, Belgique)

Igor Kopystiansky (Lviv, URSS, 1954), Svetlana Kopystiansky (Voronej, URSS, 1950 – vivent à New York, États-Unis)

Kisho Kurokawa
(Nagoya, Japon, 1934 – Tokyo, Japon, 2007)

Fritz Lang
(Vienne, Autriche-Hongrie, 1890 – Beverly Hills, États-Unis, 1976)

Andreas Laurentius
(Arles, 1558 – Paris, 1609)

Julio Le Parc
(Mendoza, Argentine, 1928 – vit à Cachan)

Augustin Lesage
(Saint-Pierre-lez-Auchel, 1876 – Burbure, 1954)

Barry Le Va
(Long Beach, États-Unis, 1941 – vit à New York, États-Unis)

Mark Lombardi
(Syracuse, États-Unis, 1951 – New York, États-Unis, 2000)

Richard Long
(Bristol, Royaume-Uni, 1945 – vit à Bristol)

Kasimir Malevitch
(Kiev, Russie, 1879 – Leningrad, URSS, 1935)

Corey McCorkle
(La Crosse, États-Unis, 1969 – vit à New York, États-Unis)

Henri Michaux
(Namur, Belgique, 1899 – Paris, 1984)

Vera Molnár
(Budapest, Hongrie, 1924 – vit à Paris)

Robert Morris
(Kansas City, États-Unis, 1931 – vit à New York, États-Unis)

Nicolas Moulin
(Paris, 1970 – vit à Berlin, Allemagne)

Matt Mullican
(Santa Monica, États-Unis, 1951 – vit à New York, États-Unis)

Rosalind Nashashibi
(Croydon, Royaume-Uni, 1973 – vit à Londres, Royaume-Uni)

Gianni Pettena
(Bolzano, Italie, 1940 – vit à Fiesole, Italie)

Giovanni Battista Piranese, dit Piranèse
(Mogliano Veneto, République de Venise, 1720 – Rome, Italie, 1778)

Public Space With a Roof : Tamuna Chabashvili (Tbilisi, Géorgie, 1978), Adi Hollander (Bruxelles, Belgique, 1976), Vesna Madzoski (Zaječar, Serbie, 1976 – vivent à Amsterdam, Pays-Bas)

Jean Renaudie
(La Meyze, 1925 – Ivry-sur-Seine, 1981)

Alexandre Rodtchenko
(Saint-Pétersbourg, Russie, 1891 – Moscou, URSS, 1956)

Nicolas Schöffer
(Kalocsa, Hongrie, 1912 – Paris, 1992)

Robert Smithson
(Passaic, États-Unis, 1938 – Amarillo, États-Unis, 1973)

Frank Stella
(Malden, États-Unis, 1936 – vit à New York, États-Unis)

Günther Uecker
(Wendorf, Allemagne, 1930 – vit à Düsseldorf, Allemagne)

Isidoro Valcárcel Medina
(Murcie, Espagne, 1937 – vit à Madrid, Espagne)

Aldo Van Eyck
(Driebergen, Pays-Bas, 1918 – Loenen aan de Vecht, Pays-Bas, 1999)

Raphael Zarka
(Montpellier, 1977 – vit à Paris)

The exhibition game : Labyrint* in a Valise *(h)

 An enigma within an enigma, Labyrint* in a Valise (*h) is an exhibition-sized game that revives the tradition of garden mazes, where clues were scattered or whispered among the hedges. An initiatory quest where poems, works, quotes and equations weave a thread of romance and adventure through the exhibition.

A prize will reward visitors who resolve the enigmas, riddles and the Mystery that await them inside the exhibition labyrinth.

Keep track of the game, specially devised for the exhibition and which runs for its duration, on the Centre Pompidou- Metz website and Facebook page.


Labyrint* in a Valise *(h) Card game

A pack of 49 cards, this "Labyrinth in a Valise" snakes its way through the Centre Pompidou-Metz and out into the town itself. Players discover a set of clues and enigmas with which to imagine an itinerary, pulled along by the power of attraction of an ideal being. The visitor’s task is to find the way out of this maze of images, texts and mathematical formulas. A game that is part puzzle, part divination, and part…

Price : €10,00

Elaborated by the independent curator Jean de Loisy at the invitation of the curators of Wander.

Jean de Loisy is President of the Palais de Tokyo. His previous positions include Inspector for Creation at the Ministry of Culture, Curator at the Fondation Cartier and Curator at the Centre Georges Pompidou. He has also directed and co-directed a number of art venues in France. Jean de Loisy has staged numerous solo shows and other memorable exhibitions, including “La Beauté” in Avignon in 2000, and “Traces du Sacré” at the Centre Pompidou in 2008 He curated “Monumenta 2011 / Anish Kapoor” at the Grand Palais and the Israeli Pavilion by Sigalit Landau at the 2011 Venice Biennale. His current projects include an exhibition of works by Jacques Lizène at the Passage de Retz in Paris in October 2011, and an exhibition on shamanism, “Les Maîtres du Désordre”, at the Musée du Quai Branly in 2012.

With contributions from Estelle Delesalle, artist, and Laurent Derobert, philosopher and mathematician.
In partnership with the Ecole Supérieure d’Art d’Avignon

¹ The game's title was inspired by Marcel Duchamp's la Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Valise).

The game for the Wander, Labyrinthine Variations exhibition is sponsored in part by Carlson Wagonlit

The catalogue for Wander is the fourth exhibition catalogue to be published by the Centre Pompidou-Metz.

Its design is freely inspired by the mail-order catalogues which Manufacture Française d'Armes et Cycles published in the early 1900s, and which had a longstanding influence on artists. Marcel Duchamp, for example, wanted his catalogue raisonné to take this form; likewise for Jacques Carelman's Catalogue d'objets introuvables ("catalogue of unfindable objects").

There is no hierarchy of content, just a free and non-exhaustive inventory of labyrinthine thought and imaginings. Information about the works mingles with thematic entries in a maze-like mapping of the exhibition. Thus fairy tales, kaleidoscopes, literature on drifting and exhibited works criss-cross the catalogue's pages.

It also includes essays by Eric Duyckaerts, Luc Gwiazdzinski, Marcella Lista, Céleste Olalquiaga, Doina Petrescu, Pierre Rosenstiehl, Olivier Schefer and Philippe Vasset, with prefaces by Alain Seban and Laurent Le Bon.

Graphic design and layout is by Les Associés réunis.

The primary activity of the graphic design studio Les Associés réunis is book design. The agency was founded in 2005 by Gérard Lo Monaco. Following their studies at the graphic arts school ESAG Penninghen, Marie Sourd and more recently Katie Fechtmann joined the studio. The agency produces the graphic design, covers and typography for over twenty works per year published by Hélium and other known publishers including Denoël, 10/18 and Gallimard.


Description :
272 pages
Only in French
Publication in September 2011