There are few places in the 21st century that can lay claim to being a temporary autonomous zone – spaces set apart from the machinations of consumer society, that provide pause for radical reflection upon the self and one’s place in the world. The Carmignac Foundation, which opened its doors last weekend, is then a truly refreshing and quietly revolutionary proposition. Based upon a small forest island in the south of France, it is the realisation of the dream of its founder Edouard Carmignac to create what he refers to as a “pure” and non-elitist environment in which to experience art. It’s inaugural exhibition The Sea of Desire celebrates anti-authoritarian rebellion, and brings together an extensive collection of pieces by some of the most iconic artists of our era – from Ed Ruscha to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Bruce Nauman – placing them in a strangely beautiful, almost underwater environment, where light dances on the walls via an aquatic glass ceiling. Among the hidden sculptures on this profoundly silent floating forest, the director of the foundation, Charles Carmignac – son to Edouard – told AnOther about its relationship to the great dystopian novelist Aldous Huxley and why the foundation it is intended as an antidote to the “bad dream” of modern society.
On the enduring influence of Brave New World…
“Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in Sanary sur Mer, which is very close to here, and I can’t say how much the area as a whole influenced him, but The Carmignac Foundation shares its sense of asking questions about the future, and exploring what lies beneath the veneer of beauty, or society. The Porquerolles Island is a forest floating in the sea and it is a place that really has its own way, its own rules. Islands have, of course, always had that sense of being seen as a kind of utopia, but here we have created a space that is not just about things that are beautiful or escapist. Underneath what seems to be a very unassuming villa, we have given birth to a hidden world – a 2000-square-foot space filled with provocative art.”
On the radical influence of Guy Debord…
“My father was involved in the uprisings of May 1968 and was very influenced by Guy Debord and The Society of The Spectacle. He has never wanted his art collection to be sold or to be part of a consumer capitalist conversation, he wants it to be available for anyone to see. The Carmignac Foundation is about creating that pure space, in which the collection can be seen, and it’s a space in which a person can really come back to themselves – the point of the foundation, in a way, is to bring people back to themselves, and also, back to nature. When you travel to the island you are leaving society, in a way, and when you enter the collection, you must walk barefoot into an environment where nature itself has actually come inside the space, through the light refractions created by our aquatic roof.”
On rebellion and the need for temporary autonomous zones….
“Guy Debord often spoke about the ‘bad dream’ of modern society – The Carmignac Foundation is a space to dream of something else, perhaps another way to be. The only movement in society that has ever offered a real alternative is still the hippie movement of the 1960s, and here some of that feeling is alive. The Carmignac Foundation is not a space outside of society, but it is a space that is, let us say, a step to the side? It is a space that is alive, where we will have music, and talks and happenings. What we have created here is about freedom, and the freedom to really experience art. We are living in a period of quite dark energy, and we need the space to be apart, to create new ways of being… When you really experience a work of art it is of course a very personal experience, but it is also the sense of having a feeling that is also very universal – it’s a sense of connection.”
The Sea of Desire is on at The Carmignac Foundation until November 4, 2018.