HEAD GAMES: If you had to sum up your life with three items, what would they be?
Visitors to the 3537 cultural center in Paris will have the opportunity to jot those down in the guest book after taking in “Past Bones Present Flesh Future Omen,” an exhibition of works by artist-designers Flávio Juán Núñez and Laurent Tijou that runs until Feb. 13.
Spread over the top floor and lower level of 3537, the exhibition is the culmination of an artistic dialogue that began five years ago when Tijou, then head of jewelry design at Jean Paul Gaultier, called upon furrier and leather specialist Núñez for pieces for haute couture. The two men connected over a shared love of craftsmanship.
Welcoming guests on the first floor amidst strobe lights and strains of techno is the leather and crystal “Death of Disco,” the first of many Death Mask sculptures in the show. Facing off with a photograph of one of Núñez and Tijou’s early collaborations, it kicks off a dialogue between past and present.
“[These photographs] started as pieces that were part of Jean Paul [Gaultier’s] collection, so they had to undo them. We then wanted to transcribe them differently with the same techniques,” Tijou said.
Other Death Mask sculptures tap into Núñez’s familial roots and the crafts he has learned. “My grandmother used to make effigies of family members and conserving [their] jewelry, so that’s how the conversation started with Laurent,” he said.
“The Death Masks started from embalming rituals from different eras, connected to craftsmanship,” he added, pointing out the complex wrappings of Egyptian mummies or how defeated Mayans were stripped of their adornments.
Woven into the production of Núñez and Tijou is commentary about materialism; trauma and healing; LGBTQ advocacy, plus a healthy dose of their “twisted sense of humor,” as the duo put it.
On the walls are photographs from the “Disrespectful Idols,” “Golem” and “Om” series. The latter was shot in Malta and explores feminine archetypes from antiquity to the Renaissance. In the lower level, the Gisants installation — crates with pictures and the discombobulating sound of crackling fire — cohabit with more death masks and small coffins.
A coffin in the courtyard serves as a memorial to members of the LGBTQ community who “inverted…transitioned…rebelled…deceased,” stated the artists in a poem inscribed on it.
They will be further remembered on Feb. 12 and 13 as Núñez enacts the story of a transformation, rebirth and transcendence in “Passing,” a performance he has cowritten with dancer Corey Scott-Gilbert.
A book, retracing the path from older works from Núñez’s artistic research to the exhibition, is on sale in the Bookshop 1909 for 49 euros. It is the first publication edited by 3537.