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The Life of C.B.

Rows of CD case spines

David Walsh

Posted on Friday 16 July 2021

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I thought this blog was dead, and then Boltanski died.

I met Christian Boltanski at a restaurant in Paris, introduced by his close friend Jean-Hubert Martin. Drunk we got. And fun we had. Christian hardly spoke English, and I speak nothing but English (on another occasion the Europeans, when they realised I spoke only English, slowed down their speech to compensate for my intellectual disability) but Christian could communicate with me perfectly, through gestures, an occasional nod, and a sly wink. The world vastened for me that night, and Mona continues to pay the price.

Christian spoke of (and gestured about) projects he had executed and those he planned: a reservoir of heartbeats over generations; and a treasury of pictures of war dead; a repository of all the phone books in the world. And a proposal for me: cameras in his studio showing his creative process. A work with great conceptual depth, but framed as a bet that he would die before he collected sufficient payment for his work. His studio has been streamed live to Mona for over ten years. It’ll be switched off on Saturday. But the work remains—an archive of a great creator steadily, without drama, making, and making the world a better place.

Christian Boltanski singed our hypocrisies, our fallibilities and our miscreancies into the flesh of his art. He was born just after the war, but for him war could never end while injustices were perpetrated. His are the Christian values we need.


Header image: The Life of C.B., 2010–21, Christian Boltanski