March 9, 2018 - Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian – Délégation en France - Talismans
March 9, 2018

Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian – Délégation en France

Pedro Barateiro, The Universe in a cup, 2017. Photo: Francisco Ferreira. Courtesy of the artist and Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon.

The desert between us is only sand
March 9–July 1, 2018

Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian – Délégation en France
39 bd de la Tour-Maubourg
75007 Paris
Hours: Wednesday–Monday 9am–6pm,
Saturday–Sunday 11am–6pm

T +33 1 53 85 93 93
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Adonis, Leonor Antunes, Art Orienté Objet, Kader Attia, Pedro Barateiro, Bady Dalloul, Laddie John Dill, Eléonore False, Isabelle Ferreira, Claire Fontaine, Maria Hassabi, On Kawara, Tarek Lakhrissi, Cildo Meireles, James Nares, Azzedine Salek, Lawrence Weiner

Emilie Hermant and Valérie Pihet (April 18, 2018)
Kader Attia (June 19, 2018)

Choreographies, films and performances
Pedro Barateiro, Maria Hassabi, Liz Magic Laser, Pedro Neves Marques, Francisco Tropa, Ana Vaz

Sarina Basta

Curatorial assistant
Pietro Della Giustina


“No space is darker than that which is just next to the light” –Trinh Minh Ha

The desert between us is nothing but sand takes the form of an exhibition, lectures, performances and projections. This project focuses on three main themes: the incommensurability of time following turmoil, reparation and the talisman. 

We approach reparation with an observation: solutions can be found in unique testimonials. Often, the shape of possible new realities becomes clear through the stories of those who have overcome adversity.

In this exhibition, we view the apocalypse as something which may be behind us, as the Yanomami shaman Davi Kopenawa describes in his book The Falling Sky. This concept is linked to the idea of internal collapse or the history of a people who must survive destruction, and may be extended to the survivors of nuclear disasters.

Here, the talisman is the link between heterogeneous elements which hold unique meaning for the person composing them. Rather than its esoteric nature, it is its significance as a composite object which is of interest to us. Nor are we concerned with its ability to wield power over people in the name of superstition, justifying acts of oppression and violence. Instead, we consider the talisman’s capacity to create stories, links which help individuals to manage the world and to create new worlds. In this context, the talisman is a pretext by which to adopt the concept of a non-Western object as a basis for reflection on art, an object of questionable value, a volatile impact, which is not necessarily controllable by the forces of power and which, by its very nature, is able to move with its owners. This mobility gives rise to transformation of the object’s interpretations and meanings.

In this sense, the talisman of interest to us establishes a relationship between things; it gives strength to whoever needs it, because it prompts a sense of belonging or identification, of projection in the present and future, which is none other than the capacity for projection of the subject and his own resources. All societies have their fetishes, even our post-industrial Western society, which Bruno Latour, Philippe Pignarre and Isabelle Stengers, as well as Tobie Nathan, have explored in their writing. In the present-day context, the talisman is often an object which belongs to members of minority communities, who must struggle to find a place in the world or a sense of agency. In some countries where its use is more common and sometimes tolerated, the talisman escapes the power of official religion. It is also an invocation, a poem of substance, a palliative to the feeling of powerlessness, a source of comfort, a reminder that even if we feel insignificant, we can capture and replenish the strength within us.

The theoretical basis of this project is an empathic interpretation which brings together the vectors and forces of attachment, collapse, diversion and reversal, through artistic endeavours and the compilation of a body of ideas. The research of theoreticians such as Boris Cyrulnik and Eve Kosovsky Sedgwick, artists such as Kader Attia and poets such as Adonis was fundamental to the project design.


Cultural programme in collaboration with the Jeu de Paume and the Festival Move at the Centre Pompidou

Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian – Délégation en France
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