This post forms part of my initial research for my project proposal.

Christian Boltanski’s fascination with collective memory, humanity and the effects of time has become of interest to me, the lives of people we will never know, the anonymity and uniqueness that shows through every story. Ordinary and commonplace, yet having significance – what mark do we leave on the world. I perceive strongly the communication of emotion in his work and this is something that I aspire to in my own artistic practice.

His use of found objects provides a direct connection with the subject that cannot be ignored, especially the pile of discarded jackets and the sound recordings of the human heartbeats in the piece No Mans Land (2010). I am always intriguied by pieces like this and they make me begin to question the piece more deeply. In this piece Who did these jackets belong to? What life experiences have they witnessed? Whose hearts are beating? to name but a few.

My own curiosity often leads me to the ordinary and the everyday. I find there is so much inspiration in the normality and the transient nature of our daily lives. The piece La traversee de la vie (The crossing of Life) speaks about ordinary lives and people whose names and identities cannot be traced and appear somewhat forgotten. Yet this piece for me invokes the same level of questioning, Who were these people and what were their lives like, what did they live through.

Anonymity is a strong element in Boltanski’s work as he explores historical events and circumstances through the ordinary people bringing to the fore something that we generally tend not to think about and that is that we are only here for a short time and that we are easily lost through time once we are gone.

Boltanski reflects on what he calls small memory where large memory is that recorded formally and small memory is the little ordinary aspects of life that very often go unnoticed and unpreserved, yet show our individuality and uniqueness. The preservation of the small memories important given they can disappear for good once a person dies.

In an interview with Timeout Shanghai he reflects on his unanswered questions about what embodies a human life and how you symbolize and presevere the essence of such – even digitisatiion, comparing the internet and social media to a large collective storage memory, retaining our prescence even after our passing.

His questions go unanswered, then, and remain all the more pressing. What’s a human life? Can you symbolise it? Preserve its essence? Can you even digitise it? After all, internet and social media can also be said to serve as a collective ‘storage memory’. ‘Absolutely, I’m very interested in computers…I’ve been thinking about doing a project on Facebook. It’s funny with Facebook, how people are kept there forever. I have people requesting me as friends, while I know they’ve been dead for years.’,-death-and-his-retrospective-at-the-PSA.html


Archives and Creative Practice (n.d.). Christian Boltanski — Archives and Creative Practice. [online] Archives and Creative Practice. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018]. (n.d.). 10 Things to Know about Christian Boltanski | Artsper Magazine. [online] Artsper Magazine. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018]. (n.d.). Christian Boltanski | La traversée de la vie (2015) | Available for Sale | Artsy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

Duggan, B. (2010). The Persistence of Memory: Christian Boltanski and Memory. [online] Big Think. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

Gobin, A. (2018). Interview: Christian Boltanski talks life, death and his retrospective at the PSA. [online] Available at:,-death-and-his-retrospective-at-the-PSA.html [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

Guggenheim (n.d.). Christian Boltanski: Documentation and Reiteration. [online] Guggenheim. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

Hopkinson, S. (2018). Christian Boltanski: Art Beyond the Veil – ELEPHANT. [online] ELEPHANT. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

Ley, A. (2013). “Christian Boltanski and the Disruption of Memory” – Written by Allen Ley (Carleton University). [online] VAULT REVIEW. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

Marian Goodman Gallery (n.d.). Christian Boltanski: Éphémères – Press Release | Marian Goodman Gallery. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

Moroz, S. (2015). Christian Boltanski: the artist counting the seconds till his own demise. [online] The Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

Penelope1967 (2011). Les vies possibles de Christian Boltanski (audio en francés, subtitulado en inglés) PARTE 3. [online] YouTube. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

Searle, A. (2010). Christian Boltanski: It’s a jumble out there. [online] The Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

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