With Louis Vuitton comes images of embossed leather luggage, monogramming, a recent (successful) Jacobs to Nicholas torch passing, and its notorious status of having the world’s most copied bag in the Chinese faux-luxury goods market. Yet a remarkable few know that within the impressive Louis Vuitton headquarters perched along the Champs Elysées in Paris, is a contemporary art space featuring an ever changing flow of internationally renowned artists.
It is known as L’Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton. While Louis Vuitton holds an eminent place in the history of fashion and luxury goods, it also occupies a notable position of influence within the art world, and even more so as a patron of spoken knowledge through its fostering of the fading art of intellectual discussion.
- “Je m’intéresse aux autres dimensions et aux univers parallèles”
- “I’m preoccupied with different dimensions, a parallel universe”
- – Borre Saethre
This month’s exhibition, Astralis: Beyond the Stars, is devoted to visions associated with the astral sphere–another term for the invisible–including concepts of the mystified Self, that is to say, one who conflates dreams with reality; existing on the border of the visible and the invisible; between the dimensions of life and death. Eleven artists bound by their shared exploration of the astral, shaman, and otherworldly are currently on display at Louis Vuitton’s contemporary art space:
“Cosmic Lodge”: Inspired by the sweat lodges of the Inipi tribe and their ritual divided into four symbolic doors. The ritual is an initial step to communicating with the spirit world. The forms on the glass are shadows of intertwined bodies.
“La vision ne vient pas du mental, elle se demande, puis se chasse”
“Vision does not come from our minds; it must be summoned then pursued”
– Charley Case
In conjunction with the ebb and flow of the exhibitions, L’Espace Culturel hosts bi-weekly “conversations” for its invited members. These conversations take place around a large oval table, and essentially occur between two individuals while the rest of the attendees listen in. It is a meeting of two brilliant minds from disparate fields. The conversation unfolds, morphs, and expands, and by the end, has fueled everyone in attendance with such an energy of reflection and questioning that the apéritif reception that follows is saturated with ripples of the discussion which preceded.
The first time I was invited to attend, the conversation took place between a hair stylist John Nollet and astrophysicist Aurélien Barrau. And what transpired was nothing short of a thought provoking philisophical discussion which cleverly wove together the mystifying beauty of the unknown with the relation to the Self as conveyed through one’s hair style.
“Avec le nuage, nous sommes le vecteur de notre propre voyage”
“The cloud allows us to become the vehicle for our own journey”
This week’s discussion centered on the invisible and passed between the minds of Charley Case, one of the artists on exhibition, and Stéphane Allix, founder of l’Institut de Recherche sur les Expériences Extraordinaires (INREES, a research institute devoted to the study of strange human experiences, such as near death encounters and communicating with the spirit world.
A former geo-political journalist, Stéphane’s dramatic career shift from one based in skeptic and fact to one engaged in the world of the “invisible” and extraordinary was spurred by the sudden death of his younger brother in a car accident in Afghanistan in 2001. He recounted how he became preoccupied with reassuring his brother’s dead body:
- “Don’t worry, you’re dead, I will take care of you, your body.”
Although he understood his brother was dead, lost, Stéphane describes not being able to shake off the feeling that there was somehow still a connection, one which is invisible to the eye. He describes having visited shamanist tribes throughout the world and having experimented with peyote in ritual ceremonies. About a quarter of the way through Stéphane’s one sided conversation, Charley Case, his other half, showed up, and the discussion quickly turned to a recounting of their different, increasingly intense, drug trips that took place deep in the amazon rainforest, including Charley’s experience of having licked the back of a psychoactive toad, whose trip-inducing back secretion is considered one of the must powerful in the world.
“Je sais que la prémonition existe puisque je l’expérimente”
“I know premonition exists because it happens to me”
– Siobhán Hapaska
While such accounts of drug enlightenment and communications with the spirit world are often dismissed as residing on the side of the “flaky,” a point that Stéphane himself referred back to several times as a baseline of scientific skepticism which continually pervades his studies, the conversation that transpired was undeniably illuminating. What made the discussion so impactful was the mere fact that it begged for an open-mind, and the consideration of the possibility that there might exist a layer of our world, which although invisible to the naked eye, is filled with energies and connections the dogmas of science have yet to deem “real.”
“Les astes sont partout, sous la forme de constellations ou juste d’éclats”
“The stars are everywhere, as constellations or individual points of light”
– Myriam Mechita
“Je parle du dévoilement au sens d’apocalypse, c’est-à-dire de révélation”
“I’m talking about unveiling in the apocalyptic sense of revelation”
– Damien Deroubaix
Art Orienté Objet
– Marion Laval-Jeantet & Benoît Mangin