April 13 - June 1, 2024
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10 impasse Saint Claude
75003 Paris France

Perrotin is pleased to present Panchronic Gardens, Julian Charrière’s first solo exhibition since joining the gallery. The artist will showcase new sculptures alongside signature works, such as the video work And Beneath It All Flows Liquid Fire, depicting the coexistence of opposing elements like water and fire in a burning fountain, and Panchronic Garden, and immersive installation evoking our intricate history of mining the lithosphere and the vast Carboniferous forests that covered the planet some 300 millions years ago.

Combining installation, sculpture, film, and photography, Charrière’s projects often involve fieldwork in liminal spaces, from industrial extraction sites to volcanic calderas, from remote ice fields to nuclear testing grounds.

Views of the exhibition 'Panchronic Gardens' by Julian Charrière at Perrotin Paris, 2024. © Photo: Claire Dorn. Copyright the artist; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany. Courtesy Perrotin.

Text by Stéphane Malfettes, director of the Subsistances, Lyon

Fossil fuels are so named because they originate from rocks buried deep in the bowels of the earth, formed over hundreds of millions of years from the decomposition of organic debris. Once extracted, these raw materials can be easily stored, transported, and burnt, making them a highly efficient energy source. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Europe experienced the Industrial Revolution, which relied heavily on hydrocarbon fuels for economic growth. The widespread use of oil, natural gas, and coal facilitated the expansion of factories, machinery, and transportation. Today, we are witnessing the adverse effects of our hyperdependence on this energy triad: its resources are far from inexhaustible, its distribution is subject to geopolitical uncertainties, and its combustion releases pollutants into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are the leading cause of global warming. Long ignored or neglected, the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment is now proving disastrous. Expanding deserts, melting icecaps, acidifying oceans, eroding biodiversity, megafires, and other climate disruptions: collapsologist fantasies, dystopian imaginaries, and eco-catastrophes à la J.G. Ballard have become a reality. As the author of The Atrocity Exhibition (1970) put it, today, we’re at the mercy of an “impending Pompeii.”

Fire Walk with Me

Julian CHARRIÈRE "And Beneath It All Flows Liquid Fire", 2019

In his video And Beneath It All Flows Liquid Fire (2019), Julian Charrière displays a burning fountain as a metaphor for this coming conflagration. Presented at the opening of his first solo show organized by Perrotin gallery, this emblematic work highlights the role that fire plays in his art. By transforming the fountain motif into a symbol of our vanities, the Franco-Swiss artist reminds us that Western society entered modernity through a baptism of fire. These fascinating blazes illustrate the concept of the Pyrocene, the age in which the combustion of fossil fuels and the fires caused by droughts are turning our planet into a furnace.

The same aesthetic of oxymorons is evident in Buried Sunshines Burn (2023), a series that explores the consequences of fossil fuel extraction in California, using heliography to transform aerial views of oilfields into a subtle play of appearances. Heliography, which means “writing of the sun,” is a process invented by Niépce in the early 19th century, during the prehistory of photography. The materials’ golden and silvery viscosity gives a luminous quality to the images of soil contaminated with heavy metals found in oil. There is a psychedelic sparkle in the mirages and maledictions of this black gold. Beneath the flashy surface, we are consumed by demons.

Millennia Watching Us

Julian Charrière is an artist who ventures into the field to better understand what’s happening to our planet. He seeks out places with ambiguous geophysical identities in the four corners of the globe, where different histories and temporalities overlap: former mining sites, radioactive zones, permafrost in the Far North, palm oil plantations, volcanic regions, and deep-sea abysses. Going back in time and into the depths of the Earth, his artistic investigations probe the speculative and narrative resources of the subsoil.

The volcanic rocks that make up the series A Stone Dream of You (2023) have been combined with orbs of black obsidian, whose glassy appearance resembles staring eyes. Arranged on the gallery floor, the minerals collected in Mexico bear witness to millennia-old geothermal phenomena: movements of the earth’s mantle, seismic tremors, and magma eruptions. These chimerical beings stand in our way, staring at us from the depths of time. The reflective sculptures on the walls create further visual interplay.

Coalface (2024) consists of large pieces of anthracite coal cut in half that function like distorting mirrors. Thus, the only human presence in the exhibition is the visitors’ furtive, ghostly, grotesque reflection. This optical device echoes the black mirror once used by painters. In keeping with its name, it reflected the world in black and white, isolating light intensities and enhancing contrasts. In addition to its technical properties, the black mirror has had spiritual and esoteric connotations from ancient Mesoamerican culture into the physiological research in the 18th and 19th centuries, and beyond. In the words of artist Odilon Redon, the dark yet brilliant material puts “the logic of the visible at the service of the invisible” – as if to reveal the dark side of our reflection.

The Vertigo of Infinity

Like the “nonsites” pioneered by Robert Smithson in the late 1960s, Julian Charrière collects soil fragments to conduct geological surveys of the material traces of the planet’s exploitation. “I’m very interested in the chemical cycles of materials, specifically the carbon cycle, which has been greatly affected by the burning of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution.” Inserted into a large metal grid, an imposing block of coal forms a surreal sculpture with a specially designed cavity where viewers can bury their heads.

Encapsulating multiple temporalities, the programmatic, spectacular, immersive Panchronic Garden (2022) gives the exhibition its title. The word “panchronic” refers to an animal or plant organism that bears a strong morphological resemblance to an extinct species. They are also known as relict species. Panchronic Garden brings to life a garden of the third kind, where ancestral ferns reconstitute a biotope from the Carboniferous – the geological era when coal was formed. Over 300 million years ago, our current fossil fuel reserves were lush forests. With its infinitely mirrored carbon fiber floor and walls, infrared light, and sonic maelstrom, Charrière’s terrarium embraces the artificiality of our conception of nature.

Sensors linked to computer systems generate soundscape that offer a glimpse into the sophisticated sensory environment of plants. The high-tech devices reveal how such living organisms perceive the stimuli of their ecosystem, a supernatural mode of communication that frees these heroes of planetary preservation from their customary silence. In the various spaces of Panchronic Gardens, time is suspended, producing a vertigo of infinity in the face of the incommensurable. Thus, for Julian Charrière, “art becomes a tool for exploring large abstractions.”

Julian Charrière, "Panchronic Garden", 2022
Panchronic Garden , 2022 Installation view, Controlled Burn , Langen Foundation, Neuss, Germany, 2022 Copyright the artist; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany Video by Fabian Eidt fabian.eidt

An Ecological Memento Mori

In the age of the Anthropocene, where survival depends on redefining how we live in the world, Julian Charrière’s art portrays our understanding and perception of environmental issues. His work, however, goes beyond the confines of so-called ecological art and stands out for its ability to bridge the gap between conceptual approach and sensory experience, science and fiction, archaic processes and futuristic forms. The ecological crisis we are facing is primarily a crisis of sensibility. Therefore, art can play a decisive role in enriching and transforming our relationship with nature and the living. We need artworks that add emotion, symbolism, knowledge, and imagination to our perception of the world in all its irreducibility and complexity. More than an exhibition, Panchronic Gardens is an artistic and cosmic expedition.


Born in 1987, Morges, Switzerland.
Lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Julian Charrière is a French-Swiss artist based in Berlin. Marshalling performance, sculpture, film and photography, his projects often stem from remote fieldwork in liminal locations, from sites of industrial extraction to volcanic calderas; remote icefields to nuclear testing grounds. By encountering such places where acute geophysical and cultural identities have formed, Charrière speculates on alternative histories and our changing ideas of "nature", often utilizing materiality and deep time as lenses for doing so. Seeking to deconstruct the cultural traditions which govern how the natural world is perceived and represented, Charrière's multidimensional practice frequently leads him to cross-field collaborations with scientists, musicians, engineers, and philosophers. From artistic expeditions to the staging of immersive installations, the core of his practice concerns itself with how the human being inhabits the world, and how it in turn inhabits us.

More about the artist
List of artworks