Titled Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, the installation is part of the Swarovski Series, a program whose focus is supporting the world’s most exciting contemporary creatives in pushing the boundaries of art and innovation.
Located on the Balcon d’Honneur, the luminous sculpture is visible from all angles within the Grand Palais. Wu Tsang uses Swarovski crystal as both a visual and acoustic device for the installation, using the crystal’s properties of refraction as a metaphor for the infinite spectrum of meaning and variation possible within the medium of voice. “I was thinking of the crystal as being a voice, and light as being a language. Both crystal and voice possess a range of qualities that are expressed through language or through light,” explains Tsang. The form is ambiguous, resembling a large body or body part - remaining abstract and fluid enough to invite interpretation.
The artist drew her inspiration for the installation from the 1939 film ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ In the story, the ‘Great and Powerful Oz’ uses artifice and spectacle to mesmerize and intimidate his subjects, controlling them with his disembodied voice of authority - until the protagonist, Dorothy, discovers he is simply a man hiding behind a curtain.
Wu Tsang saw the creation of the fantasy world of Oz as author Frank Baum’s exploration of illusion, authority, and the desire that drives behavior, as well as man’s eventual rediscovery his own sovereignty. As Wu Tsang’s largest work to date, the installation serves as a poetic interpretation of a hero’s journey that effectively exposes the illusion of an outer authoritarian power, be it a system or economy, whomever the “Wizard” of that era may be.
The installation consists of over 235,000 crystals arranged into a thousand handmade crystal strands developed exclusively for Tsang. The large stainless steel structure contains 1 million LEDs projected to create vibrant moving images within the crystal. Wu Tsang comments, “The Balcon d’Honneur is a perfect location because the architecture and green facade actually resemble the emerald chambers in the Oz film, and I can’t think of a grander platform to stage the metaphor. The film is most explicitly referenced by the sculpture’s moving LEDs, which explode like the flames around Oz’s throne.”