In the beginning of his artistic work, Christian Boltanski (b. 1944 in Paris) approached painting in an autodidactic way, mainly concerned with historical themes. At the end of the sixties, however, he turned away from painting and started searching for traces of his own past to which he was connected, as he found out, only via a few pictures. And these pictures led Boltanski to question the method he had hitherto used when inventing his pictures. Making progress into the past, on the other hand, supplied him with other pictures in which fiction and the discovery of authentic testimonies blended into each other. The systematic reconstruction of his own childhood and youth using documentary as well as fictive pictures subsequently became his point of departure. In doing so, he utilises a wide range of media such as film, video, performance, and photography, without deducing from this a contradiction to his self-understanding as a painter, which he continues to maintain. The combination of diverse media is also an integral aspect of the spatial installations which have been the focus of his work since the eighties. These also, time and again, create powerful "pictures", in which Boltanski literally re-draws the past using all types of found objects. He recalls life-stories that have past and are only kept alive in one's memory, regardless whether dealing with his own life or the life of others.

The exhibition, for the first time, presents the entire multitude of Christian Boltanski's artist's books and mail-art projects from 1968 to 1991. The two complexes, which have not been in the centre of public interest, possess extreme significance for Boltanski within his oeuvre, as they represent an alternative variant of realisation lending his artistic practice - compared to his spatial installations - an adequate expression. Portikus continues with it's tradition of presenting parallel to the Frankfurt book fair an artist, who has explicitly contributed to the exploration of the book as an artistic medium.

Portikus publishes the artist's book "Sans-Souci" designed by Boltanski (16 pages with 56 b/w illustrations). The book is based on a facsimile print of a private photo album containing typical amateur shots from the 1930s the way they were collected in numerous albums. The title of the book refers to the first photo showing a group of visitors posing in front of the famous Potsdamer residency of Friedrich II. The title also characterises the mood of the people in the following photos, their carefreeness triggering uneasiness and doubt in the face of one's knowledge of history.

Photo: Katrin Schilling