Maria Thereza Alves & Jimmie Durham “The Middle Earth” at IAC, Villeurbanne/Rhône-Alpes

Jimmie Durham, Four Fish Flasks, 2018
Ph. Nick Ash, Courtesy the artist


This Spring, the IAC, Villeurbanne/Rhône-Alpes handed the totality of its space over to artists Maria Thereza Alves and Jimmie Durham for their project devoted to the Mediterranean, called The Middle Earth.

This new and original collaboration comes from the artists’ desire to explore together the territory where they live, in a poetic and critical fashion.

After a period in Marseille, followed by Rome and then Naples where they regularly travel, Alves and Durham settled on the coast of the “inland sea” following a continuous and committed period of roaming that led them away from the American continent and all the way to Europe. In a similar vein to Jimmie Durham’s Eurasien Projet, begun in 1994 just after his departure from America, and the project Seeds of Change that Maria Thereza Alves began in the port of Marseille in 1999, the idea of The Middle Earth began to form little by little, in search of that vast continent, not at all defined by nations, but rather something that is completely imagined and dreamed, and thus, endless.

The two artists, who both have their own distinct, internationally recognized, artistic practices, reveal common influences that come, on the one hand from a political engagement that flows through their respective work, and on the other hand common areas of research, that deal with notions of territory and authority. One can effectively observe these questions in the work of both artists, and in both cases, their thought processes are engaged in the same criticism of the ideological and normative frameworks that shape people’s relationships with the world.

Maria Thereza Alves brings a particular attention, that is also that of an activist to the experience of a territory and guides the research, between poetry and ethnology, that she does on migratory phenomena and peoples that have been uprooted. In Europe Durham’s work has focused primarily on the relationship between architecture, monumentality and national narratives which deconstructs the stereotypes and official tales of powers. Conceiving history as a process, he seeks the reality of objects, their intentionality even, within their evolving context, moving backwards and away from any kind of frozen categorization.

Starting from the matrix form of relationship that exists between their artistic practice and the places that they move through or live in, the two artists will work in collaboration with one another, embarking upon new research at the IAC that deals with the mixed heritage of the Mediterranean. Divided into specific fields of knowledge, from archeology to biology by way of climatology, The Middle Earth explores a multiplicity of sources. Playing with universalist models, Alves and Durham’s dialogue hijacks the apparent objectivity of classification in order to deploy an active dialogue between recent artworks and archeological and ethnological objects in each category, with writing that places itself somewhere between the poetic and the scientific.


Jimmie Durham, Pleas in Stone, 2018
Installation view, The Middle Earth, Maria Thereza Alves & Jimmie Durham
Courtesy the artist, © Blaise Adilon


Maria Thereza Alves, We Know Everything That Happens Over All The Generous Earth, 2018
Installation view The Middle Earth, Courtesy the artist, © Blaise Adilon


Maria Thereza Alves & Jimmie Durham, Mediterranean, 2018
Ph. Nick Ash, Courtesy the artists


Maria Thereza Alves, Inanna, 2018
Courtesy the artist


Maria Thereza Alves & Jimmie Durham
The Middle Earth, Mediterranean project
2 March–27 May 2018

INSTITUT D’ART CONTEMPORAIN | 11 rue Docteur Dolard, Villeurbanne
Opening hours: Wed/Fri, 2–6pm; Sat&Sun 1–7pm
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