Conversation on Biographical Forms

Jean-François Chevrier, Ahlam Shibli and Claire Tenu

November 27, 2013 - 7:00 p.m.
Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Claire Tenu. Exhibition view. Saint-Ouen, 2011
Claire Tenu. Exhibition view. Saint-Ouen, 2011

The exhibition Biographical forms. Construction and individual mythology reviews the narrative dimension of art in its relationship with literary manifestations. The selection of works analyses the binomial “life and work” as well as the identity and biography construction mechanisms that operate throughout 20th century artistic activity. The biographical story is thus interpreted as a construct of an individual mythology in which the artist takes part, by means of a process of searching for and constructing the subject. Traditionally set in opposition to the visual arts, the literary realm, which also includes anti-literary manifestations and ones outside the institutionalised field of literature, reveals itself to be a broad area of knowledge that encompasses psychoanalysis, anthropology and critical theory and is vital for proposing a new writing about art.

This event serves as an introduction to the exhibition with a lecture by its curator, Jean-François Chevrier, followed by a colloquium with two of the artists represented, Ahlam Shibli and Claire Tenu. The colloquium is intended to encourage debate on the confluences and distances between the two artists’ ways of approaching the biographical. On the one hand, Ahlam Shibli, a Palestinian artist who works in the documentary dimension of photography, in broad series structured around the analysis of the processes of construction and representation of identity in relation to a territory battered by conflict and displacement. On the other hand, Claire Tenu, a photographer whose work derives from her inquiry into the photographic medium as a poetic narrative and investigation into place and its memory.


7:00 p.m. Lecture by Jean-François Chevrier

8:00 p.m. Colloquium with Ahlam Shibli and Claire Tenu, moderated by Jean-François Chevrier


Jean-François Chevrier. Art historian and critic, professor at the National School of Fine Arts of Paris. Among other exhibitions, he has curated Another Objectivity (Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris, and Centro per l'arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, 1989), Photo-Kunst (Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, 1989) and Art and Utopia: Restricted Action (MACBA, 2004). He recently published L’Hallucination artistique. De William Blake à Sigmar Polke (Éditions L’Arachnéen, 2012). He is the curator of the exhibition Biographical forms. Construction and individual mythology (Museo Reina Sofía, 2013).

Ahlam Shibli. Artist. She has had solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Basel, the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art and the Darat al Funun/Khalid Shoman Foundation in Amman, among others, and she has participated in collective shows such as the 27th Biennial of Sao Paulo (2007), Documenta 12 (2007) and The Condition of the Document and the Modern Photographic Utopia (MACBA, 2008). In 2013 she created the exhibition Phantom Home, which was hosted by MACBA, Jeu de Paume in Paris and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Serralves, Oporto.

Claire Tenu. Artist. Fellow of the Terra Foundation residency in Giverny in 2012, she has conceived the solo exhibition and the book La ville que nous voyons at the art center Le Point du Jour in Cherbourg, France in 2013. She is now working with the artists group RADO on a public commission (CNAP) initiated by the association Peuple et Culture Corrèze in Tulle, France.