Rester vivant
Michel Houellebecq

Rester vivant is an exhibition by poet, essayist, novelist and filmmaker Michel Houellebecq at Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Houellebecq has always had close ties with the cinema and the world of the visual arts, which have accompanied and extended his reflexions since the start of his career, as the frequent allusions to them in his novels attest.

Exhibition Rester vivant
Artists Michel Houellebecq
Venue Palais de Tokyo
Photography André Morin

The exhibition is set up as a scenario, leading visitors through the writer’s obsessions. Made up of sounds, photographs, installations and films he has conceived, as well as the presence of several guest artists.

Michel Houellebecq on creating the exhibition: “On several occasions, I have thought about introducing bifurcations, or narrative options, into a novel. I am not the first to have tried this – or to have failed.

Coetzee used an interesting system in his Diary of a Bad year, which has footnotes. I tried to interweave two narratives in The Possibility of an Island. But then one of the narratives ended up by dominating the other; it is above all the first ten or so pages of Diary of a Bad year which attract attention; and what I above all managed to do, in The Possibility of an Island, is a shift from one dominant narrative to another (thanks to using poetry, that universal can-opener).

What I think we were both aiming at is a second dimension, which is incompatible with a timeline, and thus unreachable within the limitations of our art.

Obviously, when planning the exhibition, I said to myself: but of course, that’s what I should have done! why didn’t I think of that before?

I haven’t overdone the bifurcations. There is an important one at about entrance+30 m; then another, less brutal one at about entrance+90 m. Otherwise there are obligatory points of passage, but also optional rooms. From a narratological point of view, it was very interesting to produce. My faithful, just so faithful readers, will I hope recognise my main idiosyncrasies.

A downer of a beginning, not devoid of radicalness, via an irremissible immersion in reality.

A clear taste for some megalomaniacal nonsense, the impression that I could put in anything, juxtaposing all types of representation and discourses. But that’s more towards the middle of the show. It is there, too, that my guests, and next of kin, can be found.

Towards the end, things become evanescent, with a spiral of individual disappearances, or a walking-ghost phase. Suddenly, an intrusive, gloomy romanticism emerges, re-enlightening the whole, and a second visit can begin. That would be a total success, and I can’t hope for it very often; if I get there with one or two people a day, then that will be fine.”

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