Carte blanche for Enki Bilal
16 March - 13 June 2022
As a counterpart to the Limits of Humanity exhibition, which explores the our limitations and ponders the future of our species, the Musée de l'Homme has given carte blanche to Enki Bilal.
Human-machines, rebuilt humans, mutant humans, immortal humans and human-animal hybrids: this master of the art of projection has never stopped pushing the boundaries. His original drawings, paintings, reproductions and film extracts demonstrate this in the exhibition dedicated to the artist’s visual universe.
At the beginning of the exhibition, the artist shares his moment of awakening, which happens to align and intersect with the themes being explored in the Musée de l'Homme’s exhibition The Limits of Humanity. Each of its six parts (“I am an exceptional animal,” “I am a champion,” “I am a cyborg,” “I am a mutant,” “I am immortal” and “It will happen to all of us”) closely echoes the dystopian world created by Enki Bilal. Indeed, the artist has never stopped exploring frontiers which are material and metaphorical, temporal and spatial, and which have to be transgressed to seek out the otherworldly, the things that intrigue, frighten and fascinate us.
The future of Humanity is marked out by frontiers, limits, edges, which we (as the self-proclaimed perfection of living matter on this planet) live to push back, to provoke and to attack. Obsessed by controlling blind power, humanity finds themselves stripped bare - I am almost surprised to realise it myself - at the core of all my creations, and have been for a long time now. This exhibition demonstrates this.
Enki Bilal was born in Belgrade in 1951, and he is an artist whose own persona has been shaped by playing with the frontiers. He is a shapeshifting artist who has become known as an illustrator, author, director, painter, writer, and decorator with a style that defies definition and an elusiveness that feeds his creative process. His mineral style, lit by frequently harshly-angled lighting, puts humanity in the spot light. A humanity that is defiant, with damaged flesh and an augmented body, searching for somewhere better - but supremely human. A being that doubts, suffers and loves.
When Bilal composes his graphic novels, he does not write directly on a storyboard, instead he draws each frame one-by-one in a large format before putting them all together. The exhibition enables visitors to admire a collection of thirty of these original works, including exclusive excerpts from the Bug series, as well as paintings and reproductions. The exhibition is broken down into six themes, making it possible to enter into this universe and explore “hybrimutantechs,” “immortalists” and “mechahumanimals” evolving in a fragile, uncertain world. This wordsmith and painter of the imaginary world presents a magnificent counterpoint here at the Musée de l'Homme - a counterpoint that is both poetic and necessary - to The Limits of Humanity exhibition.
The human, the trans-human, augmented mankind - all this is our future.
The Exhibition Commission
Noémie Verstraete: Head of Exhibition Coordination and Production