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Dangling elephants, magic pedestals, and more in Broad's 'Transported Man'

Jamie Paisley
Daniel Firman's Loxodonta, a highlight of MSU Broad's new exhibit "The Transported Man"

For the past couple weeks, most of MSU’s Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum has been shut down. They’ve been preparing to open a new display which has taken over all of the main galleries. WKAR's Jamie Paisley spoke with some of the minds behind this exhibit called “The Transported Man.”

This first-ever Broad Museum exhibition curated by their new director Marc-Olivier Wahler is called "The Transported Man," but one of the works, Synchronicity, created by artist Robin Meier, contains a bit of transported earth.

"Well, from the outside," describes Meier, "it's a big black tent with zippers. So, let's go inside, no?
"The ground is a bit uneven." he warns. "Just watch your step."

Inside the black tent of Synchronicity contains live crickets and will later incorporate fireflies. The insects, bred specifically for this artwork, will have their biorhythms and processes synchronize so that their lights and chirping will occur at the same time. To help with this, Meier has replicating the conditions of South East Asia.

"We're basically on Bangkok time" says Meier, "because the fireflies will be coming from Thailand. The crickets are from Malaysia, so they'll be living their nocturnal life during East Lansing day, and in the evening the lights go on and the sun rises inside this tent."

And as we leave the black tent of Meier’s Synchronicity, we are faced with one of the most imposing works of this exhibit. A sculpture by Daniel Firman featuring an elephant suspended from the ceiling. The elephant is one of a few signature pieces of Broad’s exhibit “The Transported Man.”

Another one, situated on the second floor is Piero Manzoni’s Base magica – Scultura vivente

"[which] Translates to Magic Base." says MSU Broad Assistant Curator Steven Bridges. "So the idea is that this magic transformative sculpture that anyone that occupies the position as determined by those felt footprints turns into a living sculpture."

But as with much of The Transported Man, it’s the concept of belief which allows this reverse-Pygmalion, the transformation from a person into a sculpture.

"The blurring of, kind of, 'what is art?,' what is not art?'" says Bridges. "Those kinds of questions start to fall away and so life becomes art, art becomes life is very much embodied by the idea of the sculpture."

We continue upstairs and discover a black and white film with an unassuming 2-minutes in length. But as ever, in this exhibition, looks can be deceiving, as Bridges explains: "This film here is actually quite, quite remarkable. This is the debut, the U.S., North American, whatever you want to call it, of the Georges Méliès film."

George Méliès, the early French filmmaker who also created A Trip To The Moon, with its iconic image of a spaceship crashing into the human face of the moon. This saved bit of early film history titled Match de prestidigitation was filmed in 1904, and lost until just this past year, when it popped up in a Czech film archive, was restored, "and so to rediscover this film" continues Bridges, "and be able to show it for the first time in over 100 years is really a special occasion to have for us to have here at the museum and very meaningful for this exhibition as well."

Another famous French artist, Marcel Duchamp is represented in MSU Broad’s “The Transported Man”, by way of a mirror bearing Duchamp’s signature, but the mirror is reversed.

"By signing that mirror," says Bridges, "a couple things happen: One, anything that's reflected in that mirror carries his signature. So, your face, your body, you know, for all intents and purposes, this exhibition, this gallery, as reflected in the mirror carries his signature and so he's claiming some form of authorship, maybe, perhaps one might argue in that act. The other side is that you know, since his passing he is still continuing to make artwork."

The MSU Broad Museum’s exhibit “The Transported Man” is open now and runs through October 22.

Credit Jamie Paisley
(Daniel Firman: Loxodonta, 2017) and the black tent of (Robin Meier & Andre Gwerder: Synchronicity, 2015)

Jonathan Monk: Second Hand Daily Exchange, 2006 Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery, New York and London
Credit Jamie Paisley

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Werner Reiterer: Beginnings of Space Travel, 2002 Loevenbruck Collection, Paris

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Gianni Motti: Mani Pulite (Clean Hands), 2005 Private collection, courtesy of Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Männedorf-Zürich, Switzerland
Credit Jamie Paisley

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