Palais du Tokyo’s White Cube Goes Black

Published October 4, 2012

Over the past few years, the London-based curator and writer Francesca Gavin has organized exhibitions inspired by psychedelics, rave culture and, now, black light fluorescent poster art. The root influence is obvious. “A lot of it has to come down to a fascination with my childhood,” she says. But “Dark Cube,” her exhibition opening Oct. 7 at the Palais du Tokyo in Paris came out of a different utopian experiment that was rather more Bertolt Brecht than Jerry Garcia.

Gavin spent her elementary school years in Woodstock, New York. She recalls, “There were lots of crazy leftover freaks littered around the town, which I loved. My parents were very left-wing, creative originals—an actor/musician and a writer—and I grew up with an intelligent awareness of countercultural ideas that still interests me. I think I’m drawn towards it because of its genuine utopian desire to reimagine the world.”

Gavin’s exhibition of blacklight art (created using fluorescent paints) is part of an ongoing series at the museum that is being organized by the Berlin artist Tjorg Douglas Beer. Gavin says, “Beer used to do an amazing, crazily ambitious project in Berlin called The Forgotten Bar, where he got people to put on a different exhibition every night in this narrow bar in Kreuzberg. What really came across is the energy and freedom behind the project.”

The artists gathered together in The Dark Cube include Thomas Dozol (who has a solo show opening tomorrow in New York at Jack Hanley Gallery), Harry Burden, and Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller. “It’s all completely different from the work you would expect in a blacklight show,” Gavin confirms. “The work is a really interesting examination of the idea of defunct technology. UV is a very lo-fi way of making something seem hi-tech.”

Night-light paint might seem like an unusual way to convey rootsy utopianism, but walking into a darkened, glowing room does affect the way visitors interact with each other. “It’s impossible not to examine yourself when the light changes,” Gavin says. “The viewers and how their faces and clothes react in the light also becomes part of the exhibition installation. I’ve got some fluoro accessories I’m looking forward to getting out for the occasion. I have a thing for neon orange nail varnish.”

Photo: Harry Burden, Dirty Fucking Hippies.