"After, tomorrow", artist Christian Boltanski and the digital world

The artist Christian Boltanski at the first digital festival of the Théâtre du Châtelet, "After, tomorrow". © Siegfried Forster / RFI

Text by: Siegfried Forster Follow

4 mins

For Christian Boltanski, "humans have a great possibility of forgetting". On the occasion of "Après, demain", the first digital festival of the Théâtre du Châtelet, in Paris, one of the greatest contemporary artists invites internet users this Tuesday July 7 to realize a dream: to sing on stage, "Do It" . Interview.


Read more

RFI: You are participating in Tomorrow, after , the first digital festival of the Théâtre du Châtelet. Do you believe in the "next world " ?  

Christian Boltanski : There is always a world after. But sometimes the next world is not better, and sometimes the next world is the same as the old world, only worse, as some people say. So there is a world after, that's for sure, but, how it will be, I don't know. Unfortunately, and fortunately, humans have a great possibility of forgetting. I think things are picking up as they were. For example, we have the impression that we will no longer take our car, but I think that we will resume our car. Maybe a little bit less ... 

Read also: “After, tomorrow”, the digital “artistic revolution” of the Théâtre du Châtelet

However, what may be a little more annoying is that human relationships, which are very important to me, will decrease. There, we are virtual, and I'm afraid that we will order more and more online instead of going to stores. We send more and more emails. It would be a shame if there was no longer any real contact: I hope that we will continue to touch each other, that we will not forget the fact of kissing, of shaking hands. This moment is a useful moment. It has to stay that way. I think it's very good to spit on it, to yell at each other, to kiss ... It's necessary for life. We will have to come back to that.  

For Tomorrow, After , you designed a Do It , a participatory performance on the dream of being on stage. You invite Internet users to sing a song and film themselves against a plain background to integrate your performance on the Châtelet stage. What is for you the challenge of this digital project ?

Do It is a very old idea that applies to the visual arts. There, I tried to have a variant for something related to music. And then it's like a childhood dream to say: "  I sang at the Théâtre du Châtelet  ". I don't know if this will really work, but in any case, it's fun. It's like a child who says, "  I have the biggest doll  ." I have the most beautiful car  ". So everyone can! And it's true: everyone can sing. Music has this very beautiful thing - perhaps more than the plastic arts - that it is something shared by everyone. And everyone sings in the shower. If you can sing in the shower, you can sing at the Châtelet.  

In your doing its time  retrospective  at the Pompidou Center, you often evoked the past and the passing of time through documents and objects emerging from buried memories : photos, unperceived things, unspoken ... What is the word which comes to mind in relation to your work in the digital world ?

I have always been very interested in archives. And today, the archives are gigantic. I also tried to work with Facebook, but I did not succeed. But, when you tap Facebook, you have thousands of faces. I have collected human images all my life. And there, suddenly, we have thousands and thousands. All of humanity is in your hand. It is an extraordinary thing. And, sometimes, it's scary. There are people who no longer exist and who are still on Facebook. But, all the archives even become too large. That is to say: too many archives kill the archive. For example, on me there are many things. But most of them are false. But since there are so many, you can't read them.  

As a visual artist, you sculpt the world, the memory, the imagination. Can you show us an emblematic gesture in relation to this work and your state of mind today ?

There is no emblematic gesture. I'm not doing anything. I sit still scratching my nose. That's all. I try to think. But I have no activity. I stay seated, I watch television. I'm not doing anything. 

Many of your works seem silent. At the same time, there are many noises and cries emerging from the past. What is the role of silence in your work ?

I try to work a bit like what has been called "total art  " , even if it is a difficult word to use. So, yes, there is sometimes sound, there is sometimes silence and both are important. And both want to say something. Either way, there is silence, because there is sound, so both are important.

Tuesday July 7, at 8 p.m., Christian Boltanski offers a New creation by Christian Boltanski and you for Do It  as part of the first digital festival of the Théâtre du Châtelet, Après, d emain .

Newsletter Receive all international news directly in your mailbox

I subscribe

Follow all international news by downloading the RFI application


  • Arts
  • Digital
  • Culture
  • France
  • our selection

On the same subject


“After, tomorrow”, the digital “artistic revolution” of the Théâtre du Châtelet