Identity is an urban installation project that continues the exploration Carnaille started in 2015 with Introspection. This temporary installation consists of the artist covering the faces of figurative sculptures around the city of Lille with mirrored cubes. Arresting the attention of passers-by, Carnaille transforms these landmark sculptures into contemporary artworks.
The installation challenges the public to question otherness, as the mirrors evoke the intellectual construct which links the viewer to the environment. Bringing together a wide and varied audience, this installation-happening allows people to rediscover these familiar artworks, this heritage that we often forget about as it has become part of the urban landscape.
In taking art to the streets, this installation targets the general public and offers us several possible interpretations. Appealing to the senses, the pieces communicates directly to the viewer; overriding intellectual understanding by calling on the basic modes of perception. The installation thereby becomes a dialectic of the self and the other: in order to consider the self, one must accept the other as an integral component of his own identity. These mirrored cubes contrast with the bronze bodies of the statues, providing a shock that is both intellectual and aesthetic.
As at the beginning of the 20th century, the simple geometrical form symbolises a major departure from figurative art, with the literal representation of objects being replaced by interpretations of inner life, as well as spiritual and philosophical beliefs. The mirror evokes the construction of identity, characterised by the perception of its corporeal presence and the principal of otherness. This game of reflections between humans is necessary; the fluctuation between identification and distinction allowing us to build a sense of our own identity.
In this way, Identity examines the intuitive intelligence that connects us: our ability to make the analogy between the psychic and the physical phenomena of quantum entanglement. The human psyche, divided between the conscious and the unconscious, is not an isolated system: the correlation that exists between individuals is similar to that of the relationship between two enmeshed particles. Man is singular in his individual consciousness while simultaneously being part of a whole, thus contributing to the collective consciousness.
The physical distance between the sculptures and the viewers also provokes questions about celebrity and anonymity. Since antiquity, sculptures have been used by those in power to cultivate admiration and to secure their sovereignty. The goal of the cult of personality has always been to define and emphasise a leader’s values and attributes. Nineteenth century statuary focused primarily on the representation of the human body. Yet the second half of the twentieth century saw changes that led to the upending of traditional artistic values, with many artists reevaluating the relationship of the spectator to the artwork by removing the viewer from a position of passive contemplation.
The body can now take part in the creation of installations, performances, and architectural sculptures. Many post-war monuments adopt these new forms of language, no longer focusing only on representation. Instead, perception – both of sensibility and intellect – now figure as an artistic concern.
Halfway between the heroic statuary of the 19th century and the fracturing of the aesthetic codes in contemporary sculpture, Identity invites us to reflect on human perfectibility, suggesting ways to continue and improve our personal journeys. Inside every human being resides a heroic figure, on the condition that he has the courage to develop the best in himself. Identity is not unlike the wrapping projects of Christo and Jeanne Claude, one of which was the 1970 wrapping of the King of Italy Vittorio Emanuele II monument in Milan’s Piazza del Duomo.
By concealing a part of a sculpture, the sculpture becomes the centre of attention anew. This project is also an examination of the function of public art, the way of living within a city that tends towards cultural democratisation. The Lille metropolis already boasts contemporary works that have integrated into their environment, such as Yayoi Kusama’s The Tulips of Shangri-La on the Place d’Euralille, Wim Delvoye’s Discobolos in Roubaix’s Hommelet neighbourhood, and Kenny Hunter’s La Demoiselle de Fives on the new square of this commune. All affirm the metropolis’ desires to beautify its environment and to support contemporary creation, countering the purely economic motivations of the art market. It is in this context that Identity exists, applying Malraux’s idea of putting “art within everyone’s reach”.