Text of the exhibition Tchouri, Air and Space Museum, Paris-Le Bourget, May-November 2018

With his exhibition at the Air and Space Museum, Yan Tomaszewski engages the visitors' perception, but also their thoughts, their imagination and their dreams, into the possible origins of life in the universe. Inspired by the study, far away from Earth, the Rosetta-Philae spacecraft produced of the Tchourioumov-Guérassimenko comet – aka. “Tchouri” – the artist combines a celestial body with science instruments, and moves into the supernatural spaces, the form and function of this distant ensemble. There, the origin of life and its oblivion can meet, as well as scientific research and its limitations. The anxiety of understanding as an echo from the fantasy of the unknown. The installation in itself defines the icy mass and energy of a celestial object, in which anatomical elements appear, sculpted in distortion and reassembled again, while movie images of their possible reinvention by today's scientists and their strange machines pass by.

On the apron of the Bourget airport, near the mock-up of the Ariane space rocket without which the Rosetta – Philae adventure wouldn't have had a chance to happen, it is first Tchouri itself the viewer discovers, as an architectural reproduction in reduced scale of the comet, its surprising shapes and its matter, more than deeply black, a darkness unknown on Earth. Fallen there with no warning, no shock and no sound, as the impact of a twinkle, it watches.

Getting closer, the visitor realizes the installation possesses inside, beyond the substance of a comet, the spirit of a cave to be examined, in which sculptures link the glass instruments of an improbable laboratory to an anatomy becoming transparent, all the while built and dissected by these tools. The sharpness of chemistry dissolves into the imagination of alchemy, the shape of though becomes a track, mingling for those passing through the appearing of life and its potential, mystical recreation.

Connected to these works is a video, interviewing the symbols of the origins through an ultramodern machinery, which spins to recreate, and therefore to understand, the associations of matter, the encounters of atoms giving birth to the primal molecules necessary for any known life form to exist. Under steel, pressure and coldness, a far away space domain takes shape, trimmed to the point it fits in our hands. The precise and thorough search therefore mutates into what reminds us of the alchemist's hermeneutics entangling the reptile and the furnace, microcosm and macrocosm, in a logic which interpretation could be prolific, if only it wasn't impossible.

Inviting us to daydream, Yan Tomaszewski's work transposes, in the heart of the Air and Space Museum, the earthly attraction for science, exact or not, towards imaginary art, as a powerful inspiration which these entangled opposites know how to create in all of us.

Selected texts