Christian Boltanski: Infants are the best audience of “Heartbeats”

Christian Boltanski: Infants are the best audience of “Heartbeats”
“Infants are the best audience for this project – heartbeats is the sound that they hear while being in their mother’s womb, therefore - bring your kids to see this exhibition,” during a press conference on 19 January jokingly said Christian Boltanski, the outstanding master of French contemporary art. His exhibition at the creative workshop of the exhibition hall “Arsenāls” is part of the “Rīga 2014” opening programme.

Christian Boltanski arrived in Riga on 18 January to open his exhibition a day later – it consists of two of his world renowned projects. The audience in Riga will have the chance to visit his video work “Entre Temps” (In-between times) and the creative and interactive research “Archives du Coeur” (Heartbeats).

Christian Boltanski begun to create the heartbeat archive in 2005 and several tens of thousands of people have already taken part in the project. Visitors of the expo have the chance to record their heartbeats, which later are transferred to the project’s main sever – the heartbeat archive, which is located in the Sea of Japan, on the remote Eijima island. Each participant also has the chance to receive a CD recording of their heartbeat.


“This is not the only project that is being carried out from afar and in a sense is hidden. It is more important to me that people know of its existence. 

In a sense, I have created a myth about this project. 

It is important that people understand that somewhere far away this special heartbeat archive exists,” says the artist.

He explains: “Each human is unique, yet each of us is so fragile – in two generations we cease to exist. Each heartbeat is unique, similar to fingerprints. But, we cannot think that by recording a loved one’s heartbeats, they will become eternal. It simply means that the heartbeat stays as a memory.”

“If you want to feel the presence of somebody who has died, most likely you will just see that they are not here.

The same is with images of the dead – through them we are more aware that the person has passed away,” Boltanski comments on the “Heartbeat archive”.


Both projects are connected, but created in different times.  His video work "Entre Temps” (2003) continues one of the artist’s most significant topics – the research of one’s personal experiences and memories. The video projections portray the gradual transformation of Boltanski’s face in different ages and time periods, starting from six to fifty seven years old. The focus of the exhibition hall is the artist’s heartbeat.

The venue featuring the exhibition is described as a space for reflection. “In hearing one’s heartbeats, slight excitement takes over, as a feeling that they can stop at any moment takes over,” says Boltanski. The same happened with the artist himself after he recorded his heartbeat for the first time – he event went to the doctor afterwards. Visitors of the exhibition will be able to record their heartbeats in Riga till 20 April, and afterwards these recordings will be sent to Japan.

European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Sport, Media and Youth, Mrs Androulla Vassiliou, who also attended the opening of the exhibition, was the first to record her heartbeat for the special archive.


Among other participants of the exhibition opening was The Ambassador of France in Latvia Stéphane Visconti, Minister for Culture Dace Melbārde, Head of foundation ”Rīga 2014” Diāna Čivle and many others.

On 20 January Christian Boltanski will read a public lecture at the Art Academy of Latvia.

The creative workshop of the exhibition hall “Arsenāls” is located in Riga, on Torņu Street 1, on the second floor. The first floor features another “Rīga 2014” programme exhibition – “1914” – the artistic dedication to the 100th anniversary of WWI and its permanent effects on Europe.

The exhibition in Riga was created by the Latvian National Museum of Art in collaboration with L'Institut français de Lettonie (French Institute in Latvia).



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