L'Annee derniere a Malmaison
Group show featuring Henning Strassburger

May 21st – Jul 24th, 2022
/SAC, Bucharest

Copyright the artist; Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf

The title of the exhibition, L’Année dernière à Malmaison, references a film by Alain Resnais, which carries almost the same title, the only difference being that the location in Resnais' case is Marienbad. While Resnais alludes to the famous Czech spa where Goethe wrote his Marienbader Elegie and Richard Wagner began work on Lohengrin and Meistersinger, Malmaison actually refers to a building in Bucharest. Originally built as a cavalry barracks in 1844, it was aptly known as Riders Barracks. When Napoleon III. later sent troops to train the Romanian army, it was renamed in gratitude. Malmaison is the name of the castle, which Josephine, the wife of Napoleon I., had bought as a love nest for the two of them. Napoleon wrote her countless love letters to that address. In one of them, he addresses her as "Mio dolce amor". Thomas Zitzwitz has taken up this phrase to be the title of an artwork that welcomes visitors at the entrance of the show with a fragrance that is in the air (Thomas Zitzwitz, "Mio dolce amor", 2022, situation with scent). The fragrance is precisely the eau de cologne Napoleon used and which had been brought to him from Cologne – the home of the painter Zitzwitz – to wherever he happened to be in the world.

This complex web of references sheds a light on one of the grand themes of the exhibition, which the two curators of the show, Alex Radu and Thomas Zitzwitz himself, describe as the capacity of art to unfold a narrative in dialogue with the viewer, a dialogue in which past, present and future, psychological, inner life and physical, external world, dream and reality overlay each other to such an extent that they become indistinguishable like the paths in a maze. The other central theme of the exhibition is the myth of Orpheus.

The curators find a case in point of art's labyrinthian structure of reference in the films of the Nouvelle vague and the texts of the Nouveau roman, such as those of Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet, who, together, made the 1961 movie L’Année dernière à Marienbad. (excerpt from a text by Björn Vedder from the exhibtion catalog)

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