He was the guest artist at this year's 2010 Monumenta at the Grand Palais in Paris. Earlier this year, he created a cavernous display described beautifully by British art critic Adrian Searle for the Guardian:
"First there is the noise, a clamour that fills the echoing vault of the Grand Palais like a great and distant crowd. It shifts as one wanders about Christian Boltanski's Personnes, his new project for Monumenta, the annual Parisian equivalent to Tate Modern's Turbine Hall commission. The roaring, sonorous boom of white noise separates into deep, regular thuds, and above it the croak of frogs or the alarm calls of unseen jungle birds. There are disco squelches and native drums.
These sounds are all human heartbeats. Visitors can make their own contribution by having their heart rhythms recorded by white-coated technicians in booths off the main space. Boltanski, one of France's leading artists, is compiling an archive of heartbeats that he intends to be housed, eventually, on a remote and inaccessible Japanese island. He has already collected over 15,000 individual recordings. One day, these beating hearts will all belong to the dead. If Boltanski's art endures, one might also imagine that the visitors who make it to the island in the future have yet to be born.
Boltanski's art is filled with tragedy, humour and a sense of the absurd. It's a hoot. It is also exceptionally cold. Monumenta usually takes place in late spring, but Boltanski delayed the opening to take advantage of lightless days and winter chill. Personnes is filled with intimations of the dead. To begin with, one is confronted by a long, high wall of stacked rusted boxes, each of them numbered, the contents of which are unknown. Beyond lies a field of old clothes, lain out in a grid running the length of the building, like municipal flower beds or a field of remembrance. There are old coats and anoraks, once-fashionable things and shapeless things, bright cardigans and children's sweaters, tatty jumpers and forlorn skirts – a rag-picker's field or the last day of the spring sales.
Rusted vertical posts divide the grid, supporting striplights slung between wires, whose thin glare gives the space a dismal carnival air – or the feel of some stadium in which detainees have been rounded up and sent to their doom. It is hard not to think of deportations and genocides, a recurrent theme in Boltanski's art.
A great mechanical grab suspended from a crane plucks at a mountain of more old clothes, repeatedly lifting quantities of wretched sweaters, dresses and coats towards the roof of the Belle Epoque building, only to drop them again in a flurry of flailing garments and clouds of dust, back on to the 50-tonne mound. The process is as pointless as it is interminable. Boltanski has said he thinks of the grab as the indifferent hand of God, or one of those fairground amusements where you try to grab a particular toy, and always fail.
Platitudes about death and absence are easy, however close to hand and present death always is. There are more people alive now than ever before. Ghosts have been crowded out and their voices drowned by the living, WG Sebald remarked somewhere. This thought also permeates Boltanski's art, which has insistently returned to the subject not just of death but of the anonymity death confers. He deals in traces rather than ghosts, with shadows and lists, photographs of the dead and piles of old clothes. His art, ultimately, is a memorial to nothing, to everyone and no one."
Boltanski himself is quoted as saying:
"We are all so complicated, and then we die. We are a subject one day, with our vanities, our loves, our worries, and then one day, abruptly, we become nothing but an object, an absolutely disgusting pile of shit. We pass very quickly from one stage to the next. It's very bizarre. It will happen to all of us, and fairly soon too. We become an object you can handle like a stone, but a stone that was someone."