You wouldn’t expect, while out on your evening stroll, to look up in the sky, at night, and take a glimpse of the iconic bat signal, right? Well not in this world. But if it was in this world, you would expect to find it, somewhere in New York. With Gotham after all being an old urban name for the Big Apple. Well, the bat signal would quite possibly look more at home there, than anywhere else. How about France thought? How about Provence? How about Batman in Marseille? No, not in some weird vacation with Robin…
We are talking of course, about Alex Israel’s latest exhibit, this time at the Marseille Modulor (MAMO), the town’s contemporary art center, opened in 2013.
It includes a Batmobile (based on the Tim Burton film) right at the center of the gymnasium of MAMO, which has been rearranged in order to capture the feeling of the dark and famous Batcave. When it comes to the Batmobile, Alex Israel calls it “the ultimate fetish”. And in the atmosphere he has created in the gymnasium, with the moaning engines puffing up smoke and the dim, dramatic lighting, a deeper and artistic aura seems present.
‘In the dark, it loses its objectness and becomes this reflective surface for light, and kind of a breathing thing,’ he explained. ‘It’s almost like a memory or a fantasy.’
Moving further up, literary, in the rooftop of the building, one will encounter, an old search light from the Second World War. But while that is interesting and of itself, it’s not just it, in our case. The searchlight has been modified into an actual Bat Signal, which with its white light casts the eerie emblem piercing the black wall of night,
“It deeply and profoundly impacted me like those kinds of experiences do when you’re young.” The artist declared about the 1989 Tim Burton adaptation of Gotham’s vigilante, which he saw as a six year old boy, and became the inspiration for his latest exhibition. He also explained that he specifically likes that Batman doesn’t posses any superhuman powers. ‘He just has to do the best he can as a human.’
A few words about the building would also be interesting.
It is of the modernist design principle developed by Le Corbusier, called Unité d’habitation. The building in Marseille called Cité Radieuse, is actually the first, as well as the most famous of these buildings. It is also known as La Maison du Fada –“The Madman’s House”. Construction was finished in 1952, it remains one of Le Corbusier’s most famous works, it is considered as the original inspiration of the Brutalist architectural style, and one would argue, that it represents, the perfect place, for a late 80s Batman-inspired art exhibit, to take place.