Click here to watch the video the "Heart Archives" (in English) (scroll around and down the Serpentine page, video located on screen-left side)
Christian Boltanski is the critically acclaimed French artist whose primary purpose in art has been to remind us of our own mortality. The 65-year-old veteran with "Les Archives du Coeur", the "Heart Archives", has been globetrotting for the last five years, recording "heart beats" from the public and celebrities. The sound of a heart beating is sound-recored to live on after the mortal body of a Soul has passed on. This "Heart Archive" is a world transcript of our time, the lives that once beat their unique rhythm with each breath, each step, on each journey.
The same ongoing the "Heat Archive" has also been a part of other notable exhibits such as "Personnes" at the Grand Palais in Paris, "No Man's Land" at Armory in New York, the Serpentine in London, and Finland. Currently the exhibit is based on the remote Japanese island, Teshima, as part of Setouchi International Art Festival.
DD: What’s the inspiration behind Les Archives du Coeur?
Christian Boltanski: The idea came about six or seven years ago. You always try to capture people you love with photos: you know, you take a photograph of them to keep as a memoir? The recording of the heartbeats are like photographs: they capture a part of someone. Two or three years ago, I was asked by Mr Fukutake of Benesse Art to visit this island in Japan. I was inspired to make a library of heartbeats because it was so beautiful. It was very quiet and isolated, and you could hear the heartbeats of the person you love in a very quiet way.
DD: So are the heartbeats constantly playing on this island?
Christian Boltanski: There are two parts: one is like an office and you can record your own heart if you want to. The other is like a corridor where you can listen to your own recordings, and you can hear the heartbeats of other people.
DD: Who was first person to have their heartbeat recorded for the archive?
Christian Boltanski: I think it was a Swedish man. The first time I did it was in Stockholm. A man called me and said: 'I love my dog so much, please can you put his heart in the library?” Now I have around six thousand Swedish heartbeats and one Swedish dog.
DD: What does the future hold for this project?
Christian Boltanski: It will just travel all over the world. It has been to Korea, Sweden and London, and it's going to Finland next. The heartbeats will just be stored together in a big computer in Naoshima. After a few years, when you go to Naoshima you will find that the heartbeats all belong to dead people. Naoshima will become the island of death in fact. The idea of the piece is that it's impossible to preserve something: you can record the heartbeat of somebody, but you can't stop them dying.
DD: Are you planning to destroy the archives when it's completed?
Christian Boltanski: No, this will be a permanent piece of work and it will be ongoing.
DD: Have you given any thoughts to your final project and your legacy?
Christian Boltanski: I think this project will be my last, because it will not finish until I'm dead.