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Exhibition explores Jean Genet’s life

Few that have read the novels, plays, poems and essays of the prominent and controversial 20th century writer Jean Genet will know that he visited Norwich in 1964. It is this tidbit of trivia that has inspired the artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz to make Genet the subject of his new show: ‘Jean Genet…The Courtesy of Objects, Chapter One’, which opens in The Gallery at Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) on Tuesday 19th April.


Detail from work by Marc Camille Chaimowicz

Chaimowicz, who forged links in Norwich through his exhibition ‘Jean Cocteau’ at NUA in 2003, is famed for installations and performances that include preparatory photographs and prototypes as well as found objects and artwork by others. A Frenchman who works out of London, he has shown in major cities around the world including Paris, Zurich, Berlin, Vienna and New York.

Presented as part of the programme of events of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2011, ‘Jean Genet…The Courtesy of Objects Chapter One’ will explore themes derived from Genet’s fascinating life, from his empathy with Palastinian refugees and the Black Panther movement in the USA to high profile endorsements such as those of Jean-Paul Satre (in an essay entitled ‘St Genet’) and David Bowie (who wrote ‘Jean Genie’ in tribute to Genet).

The context for Genet’s visit to Norwich was to act as a witness at the wedding of Jacky Maglia. Marc Cammille Chaimowicz says: “Jacky was the stepson of Genet’s lover Lucien Senemand. In Norfolk he bought Maglia a customised Lotus Elan. They grew very close, later travelling widely together and covertly entering the US to cover the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention for Esquire.”

The exhibition is curated by NUA’s Professor Lynda Morris, who says: “Chaimowicz is an exile. After the liberation of France his family migrated to England, where he grew up in Stevenage New Town piecing together the otherness embedded in his French and Polish identities. Genet’s interest in Arab countries connects with Chaimowicz’s idea of Vienna. The figs in the coffee, the dome of the Secession, the architecture of Alfred Loos all reflect the North African Arab influence understood by intellectuals in Vienna.”

The exhibition runs in The Gallery at NUA until Saturday 21st May (open to the public 12pm-5pm, closed Sundays and Mondays) before travelling to Nottingham Contemporary and the Performa Festival in New York.

Two portraits

Two works by Marc Camille Chaimowicz

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