Naima Morelli

Pascal Marthine Tayou at MACRO, Rome

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Let’s say that we don’t know anything about Cameroon.
Even worse, let’s pretend that we heard about this country only by the soccer match channels.
To be short, let’s have the same approach that the average Italian Macro’s visitor probably has.
It’s more question of practicality than of willful ignorance.
An art appreciator coming visiting the contemporary art museum of Rome will go there without a previous research of what Camuroon is, what are the inner dynamics and the main issues of that country. That’s the problem with the global art. No one can know everything about everywhere and often the press releases and the captions near the artworks explains everything but the context in which the artworks are born.
You can argue that this is the art critic’s job. Well, maybe.

Anyways, just because the fellow Marthine Tayou is kind of well-known, we can tell that he’s from Camerun but he lives in Belgium.
Of course, he travels a lot, as all the contemporary artists nowadays, especially since the Biennales popped out all over the world. In spite of that he decided to work mostly with his origins.
Walking in the Macro’s Enel Room there is no doubt about it: that guy has to be African.

The many glass statuettes welcomes you from greek doric pillars and they are loaded with objects of consumism and dirty with something that could be mud, ground or chocolate.
These small totems are beautiful, strange objects that someone can be easily attracted to.
That sudden attraction maybe deals with the exotic vibe that this tribal masks reproduced in small sizes on the mud, it deals also with the colour of the pelouches surrounding the glass big-mouthed figurine.
The general feeling is that the artists is making fun of the European perception of Africa. Something in between precious materials, tribal art and a wasted, bracelets and other coloured items from nowhere with the prize still attached.
Contamination plus globalisation is never pollution in Tajou. Could sound like a bad slogan for his art, worse than the Macro’s advertising campaign but it’s just like that (actually I should sell the slogan to them).
Whatever, what I mean is that his artworks are incredibly attractive fetishes. It’s like founding African antiques in a landfill.
We can look at them also as symbols. As burden idols burdened by modernity or has human beings charging on his shoulders the weight of his cultural heritage, his history and nonetheless his present.

Of course, you and I don’t know much about Cameroon, that’s the assumption. So maybe that particular traits that the totems have are not related to some exoticism-mocking, but to the specific culture of Cameroon.
The names that came to my mind and to the average Macro’s visitor as well (he’s not interested only in soccer fortunately) are: Picasso, Noveux Realisme, New Dada, Daniel Spoerri, Arman…
Wait. Weren’t this chaps inspiring themselves to the African tribal art?
The question that the average visitor should ask himself, at least, is if Pascale Martine Tayou studied them or he draws the inspiration directly from the source. You know, in times of postmodernism who can really tell?

The next artworks are this cages shaped in a form of diamonds, containing coloured gems inside and hanging from the ceiling. The reference that one can get is to the diamonds caves in Africa, and the fact that a resource like that is turned in something bad.
Another site specific installation is also hanging from the ceiling of the Enel Room.
Decorative pumpkins together with mats and stools formed a sort of overturned bridge.

We can’t go further even with the tall statues that seem to come out from a Tin-Tin racist comic book. The strong colours are Tajou’s trademark, we can find them also in the huge egg-shape made of coloured plastic bag at the entrance of the museum.
Sort of a massive candy. The chewing average visitor in front of it could argue that the material in with it’s made is not probably wealthier than the ingredients in a Big Bubble.

You can say finally that we undervalue this old dear average Macro’s visitor. Probably is more informed about was is going on in the world, but I can swear that I heard someone coming out of the exhibition complaining and chewing: “Well, that Tajou guy is from Cameroon… and not even a soccer ball?”

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Pascale Marthine Tayou. Secret Garden. MACRO. Rome

29.11.2012 — 07.04.2013