Goldschmied & Chiari – Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain

In La démocratie est Illusion, Goldschmied & Chiari (formerly known as goldiechiari) focus on the similarities between the practices of illusionism and those of the intelligence service, both used in the representation of deception and to persuade and fascinate the viewer. Through various media such as collage, photography, installations, video, as well as ethereal materials like sand, smoke, scenic devices and mirrors, Goldschmied & Chiari construct an imaginary set in which the secret operations during the Cold War are staged through sleight of hands and the materials used by the most famous illusionists in history.

A large part of the works exhibited reveals the inspiration and influences drawn from famous magicians. Above all: Harry Houdini with his famous tricks, like “hiding the elephant,” the “needle trick,” the “torture watercell,” the “metamorphosis trick,” and the “handcuff trick.” In his escapology performances the use of conflict and the extreme challenge made him unique. Other influences come from the illusionists Jasper Maskerlyne and John Mulholland. The artists themselves state that what mostly influenced them during the realization of the project was “the actual collaboration, during major military operations, between professional magicians and the intelligence.” Specimen was the illusionist Jasper Maskerlyne, who served the British MI16 during the Second World War. He invented techniques of camouflage and disguise that enabled the Allies to stop a series of German military actions in North Africa. Thanks to a game of light and a blinding device made with a mirror, Maskerlyne architected the disappearance of the Canal of Suez from the sight of the German bombers. He camouflaged thousands of trucks, carrying tanks. He “moved” the port of Alexandria, and built a reproduction of it with straw, mud and wood, only a few miles away from the real port, therefore diverting the Italo-German bombers. Another example of collaboration is the one between the magician John Mulholland and the CIA. The illusionist wrote a secret essay CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception (1950), a manual of magic that provided guidance to the CIA agents to decipher certain behaviors, and suggested specific techniques to hide themselves and to conceal documents. As affirmed by the former CIA director John McLaughlin, “Just as a magician’s methods must elude detection in front of a closely attentive audience, so an intelligence officer doing espionage work must elude close surveillance and pass messages and material without detection.”

Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain – 41, rue Charles Berthelot, Brest
February 8th 2014 – May 3rd 2014