Rêvolutions: Installation Art by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot (Venice Biennale)

rêvolutions by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot: rêvolutions; Venice Biennale 2015 (French Pavilion)

In the art installation rêvolutions, a living tree on a little island of soil slowly moves, rotates and revolves around an empty white room, accompanied only by a steady low hum. To get a good idea of the tree’s movement, you can check out the time-lapse shots at the beginning of this video:

This installation, by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, was the featured work at the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. On opposite sides of the room are viewing galleries, with soft, padded viewing stands that encourage exhibition visitors to flop down and lounge around rather than sit. The artist designed the installation as a place for people to rest and relax. Perhaps, that is a good lesson for artists at big exhibitions. If you want people to contemplate your work, give them a nice cool place to lie down and stretch their legs.

About the Art Installation

The installation visualizes the idea that plants are able to manipulate the environment immediately around them to better suit their needs. In this case, the manipulation is exaggerated, allowing trees (there are two more moving trees outside the pavilion) to break free from the earth and wander around, with their movement designed to reflect changes in their metabolic processes.

rêvolutions (detail) by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot: rêvolutions; Venice Biennale 2015 (French Pavilion)

The entrance to the viewing gallery created a kind of picture frame in which the tree changed position and which people entered and left. Some people would stride purposefully across the room, barely giving the tree a glance. Others would stop and pause, wondering what they were supposed to be looking at, and then suddenly notice the tree’s movement.

As I was lying there in one of the viewing galleries, the minimalist nature of the installation led me to imagine I was travelling in a spaceship, with the rooms in the pavilion being a rest area designed to give crew members and passengers a little reminder of something real and natural from Earth. In the context of this imagined scenario, the whole installation seemed like a kind of environmental warning—a warning of a future where solitary trees revolving aimlessly in plain white rooms were all that was left to remind us of Earth’s great forests. I don’t think this is the interpretation the artist had in mind, though.

Mini-bio: French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot was born in Nice in 1961 and now lives and works in Sète. His works often involve presenting sound through visual arts or presenting visual images acoustically. He studied at the Conservatory of Music in Nice and began his career as a music composer for theater. During the early 1990s, he began producing sound art installations.


Go Further

This section includes links to online photo galleries and websites, discussion questions and an art challenge.

Online Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Go Further

The artist’s website (in French): celesteboursiermougenot.blogspot.com

Three Questions

  1. How would you interpret this work? Why are the trees slowly wandering around?
  2. If you could create an artwork about trees, what kind of work would you create?
  3. How can creating a relaxing environment aid in presenting artworks?

Art Challenge

Try to express in your own way Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s idea that plants can manipulate the environment around them.


~ text and photos by longzijun

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