Christian Boltanski Animitas, The Noguchi Museum

Christian Boltanski, Animitas

May 5, 2021 – September 5, 2021

From May to September 2021, Christian Boltanski’s Animitas, a sound work consisting of 180 small bronze bells on steel stems, will fill the Noguchi Museum’s garden with a “music of lost souls.” Boltanski’s extended video Animitas, La Forêt des Murmures (2016), which documents another, permanent version of the work on the island of Teshima in Japan, will also be on view.

The first incarnation of Animitas, a sound installation by Christian Boltanski (b. 1944), appeared in a remote part of the Atacama Desert in 2014. The name comes from the small roadside shrines to the departed found in Chile. In that desolate, high-altitude landscape, now a location for international observatories, Boltanski installed 800 small bronze bells suspended from steel stems of various heights arranged to mimic the position of the stars on the night of his birth. Twisting in the wind, the bells play a gently cacophonous “music of lost souls.”

The temporary version of Animitas installed in the Noguchi Museum’s garden will be linked to a permanent example called La Forêt des Murmures (2016) on the island of Teshima in Japan by a day-long video of the Japanese installation that will be on view in Area 4 of The Noguchi Museum. (On Teshima, in addition to walking through a ghostly forest of sound, visitors have the option to acquire a bell chime on which to engrave the name of a loved one and become a permanent part of the work.)

  • Christian Boltanski, Animitas, La Forêt des Murmures, 2016. Video projection, HD color video; 12 hours, 52 min. 21 sec., 16/9 format, stereo sound, hay, flowers. Christian Boltanski, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, Japan, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery. © Christian Boltanski

Boltanski’s affiliation with Japanese ways of thinking—and in particular his long embrace of the ways the transience of human existence shapes the human condition—is fundamental to his overall perspective. The Animitas installations are part of a larger body of work that includes another of Boltanski’s long-term projects, Les Archives du Coeur (2008– ), an ongoing effort to record and store the heartbeats of people all over the world in a sort of museum of spirits. Les Archives du Coeur, to which all are invited to contribute the sound of their hearts, is also based on Teshima and administered by Benesse Art Site Naoshima. Weaving together multiple instances of these gardens, and the souls they memorialize, Boltanski continues to extend the intimate, borderless, ephemeral network of loss and memory that constitutes his life’s work. 


Related Exhibition

Noguchi’s Memorials to the Atomic Dead
June 2–September 5, 2021
Two complementary installations from the permanent collection and archives survey Isamu Noguchi’s proposals memorializing the use of atomic weapons against humanity in Hiroshima and beyond. This will include a reinstallation of the original gallery Noguchi devoted to his Memorial to the Dead, Hiroshima (1952, unrealized); and a survey of Noguchi’s postwar memorial projects including Bell Tower for Hiroshima (1950, unrealized).

The Noguchi Museum would like to thank Christian Boltanski and Marian Goodman Gallery for their assistance and support in realizing the exhibition. Christian Boltanski, Animitas is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.