With his films, photographs, and sculptures, Cyprien Gaillard (born 1980 in Paris) describes and evokes the perpetual destruction, preservation, and reconstruction of urban spaces. The exhibition «Cyprien Gaillard. Roots Canal» puts on display from 16 February to 5 May 2019 works capturing the incessant transformation of the urban landscape, as well as that of nature and humankind. Close to tipping point, his works evoke the imminence, or the coming, of a metamorphosis.

Installed at the heart of Museum Tinguely and presented for the first time in Europe, a series of excavator heads precisely embodies this moment of suspension. A metaphor for human voracity, in the museum context these tools commonly found on building sites become fossils from the future.

This train of thought is pursued and extended by Sober City (2015), a series of pictures on show in the same room: as a visual counterpoint to the excavator shovels, Polaroid photographs hang on the walls at irregular intervals, in their familiar modest size, forming an urban backdrop. The photographs are double-exposed: views of New York layered over a fragment of amethyst from the city’s Museum of Natural History. As a result of this merging of two motifs via double exposure, the pictures seem to have been taken through a prism. A building, a bus, a sculpture or a tree – the urban components are barely recognizable. Under the viewer’s gaze they seem to crystallize, like in J. G. Ballard’s sci-fi novel The Crystal World where a mysterious phenomenon causes humans, animals and plants to gradually transform into crystalline structures. Thanks to the use of Polaroid paper, a fragile, ephemeral support that fades over time, and the choice of motifs, the Sober Cities mirror the continual (excavator-driven) metamorphosis of the city in its state of perpetual tension between the preservation of architectural heritage and the construction of new buildings.

KOE (2015) follows a large-format, wall-filling projection of a video showing a swarm of exotic birds above the luxury shopping streets of Düsseldorf. The winged visitors, ring-necked parakeets originally from Africa and Asia, fly past expensive shops between the modern architecture, beneath them the permanent construction site that is the city centre. The green of their plumage traces anachronistic lines at the heart of a hyperaesthetic world of the city of tomorrow, marked by the luxury brands and ethereal buildings of omnipresent consumerism. Nightlife (2015) invites visitors to immerse themselves in a hypnotic, trance-like atmosphere. The 3D-film, a mosaic of scenes with no apparent connection, transports the viewer to a brightly coloured urban night. The footage leads from Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker outside the Cleveland Museum of Art via a hallucinatory ballet of juniper trees in Los Angeles (another invasive species) and a spectacular firework display above Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, back to Cleveland to an oak tree presented (as a sapling) to multiple Olympic medal winner Jesse Owens by the Nazis in 1936.

As in the other works in the exhibition, Gaillard creates a new narrative out of disparate, even contrary fragments. In this new narrative, anecdotes mix with history, while city, nature and people coexist in a shared non-linear space-time structure.

Cyprien Gaillard shows transformation processes of our living worlds in intoxicating pictures: on view at Museum Tinguely from 16 February to 5 May 2019. The curator of the exhibition is Séverine Fromaigeat.