Ingrid Luquet-Gad – Heterotopia

Text by Ingrid Luquet-Gad published in Heterotopia, exhibition catalogue, Pandore 2017


Is a space still a space if it is porous, reversible, atomized, or even temporary? To put it otherwise, what type of space could we assign to the skin, to a membrane, or to an interface? The first answer that would spontaneously come to a philosopher’s mind would be: none. Classical thought, which values depth over surface and essence over appearances, has always sought to pierce the outer layer of things. And yet, this outer layer does more than merely separate two environments: “it preserves the very balance and the exchanges between them; it acts as a hub where influences and reactions mix” (1). This first step towards a reevaluation of the concept of the surface can be attributed to the French philosopher of science François Dagognet. In the early 1980s, Dagognet, who was also a doctor, a chemist, a geographer, a graphologist and a seismographer, published Faces, Surfaces, Interfaces, an ambitious endeavor to reexamine peripheries. A “dermatologist of things”, as he liked to call himself, Dagognet set in motion nothing less than an epistemological revolution. We must stop lamenting the invisibility of a supposedly hidden meaning, as he used to say. Against idealists who see souls just about anywhere, it is imperative that all efforts to gain knowledge be directed towards a materiological investigation of living beings. For everything is accessible to those who know how to open their eyes: “I merely have to recognize the invisible, although we miss quite often what is near and what is available” (2). The surface would therefore be the only depth that we could study – and thus acknowledge.

Over 40 years later, the scope of Dagognet’s research has become more radical. Where it once concerned only living things, it now applies to any kind of reality. A striking example of this is the meaning of the word “interface”, which condenses these very mutations, as it has gone from being used to abstractly describe a separation between two environments, to its current meaning, which characterizes a reality per se. Thus, a technological interface, the most accepted meaning of the word today, now refers to human-machine exchanges. Once a simple separation, it has become an apparatus. Thierry Fournier’s solo exhibition Heterotopia acknowledges this recent transformation of the surface and the essence, and explores its different visual consequences and its emotional ramifications through a constellation of seven works. In the chapel of the Saint-Denis Art and History Museum, the artist has set-up these fictions whose human scale contrasts with the monumentality of the space. Created in 2015 already, Ecotone, around which the project hinges, is a networked installation where the boundaries between past, present and future, conscious will and mechanical activation, are liquefied. In a video projection, a radioactive-pink rendered landscape ebbs and flows along with the inflections of hazy synthesized voices. Slightly slowed, these voices from beyond the grave read live tweets in which users express their desires: “I’d like so much” or “I’m dying to” fuel the algorithm.

Ecotone, network installation, 2015, exhibition view

The users’ emotional investment in the network – made up of singularities that may be isolated, but are nonetheless part of an entity that transcends them – is addressed again in I quit. Facing their web cams, individuals who have made the decision to give up social media discuss their choice one last time – through the very social networks they are leaving. Pulled this time towards its unconscious side, the same emotional burden also appears in Oracles. Using Apple messaging’s auto-suggest function, a series of texts were semi-automatically generated and printed on plexiglas plates. The user’s idiosyncrasies are blended with suggestions culled from the most common wording choices, thereby illustrating the entire palette of the 2.0 standardized emotions. In order to pursue François Dagognet’s materiological investigation, one would have to treat this particular type of living entity as an augmented living entity, and connected interfaces as singular, full-fledged places. Like a membrane, the interface ensures the exchanges between the two environments it separates – in this case, the world of humans and that of so-called artificial intelligence – can occur. At the edge and the combination of these environments appears a new register of desires: the human being and its mechanical extension begin to share the same pulse, the same dreams, the same words.

I quit, installation, 2017, exhibition view

Oracles, installation, 2015, exhibition view

By saying that these interfaces are places, the Greek etymology of “topos” comes to mind. From the outset, they are re-integrated into the long genealogy of counter-spaces, utopias, dystopias or heterotopias so dear to the type of modernity that wants to move away from an excessively burdensome reality. Heterotopia, as a concrete materialization of utopia, immediately recalls Michel Foucault’s writings. More so than the “Other Spaces” he developed theoretically during a conference in 1967, it is the analysis of another type of space that must interest us here, such as hospitals and clinics. As they integrate surveillance and data-collection technologies into their primary functions, these epistemological and economic machines are already preparing to produce a future humanity that will be shaped according to specific criteria, taken as standards. Foucault was among the first to consider the possibility of an infiltration of political and economic power into individuals’ very flesh, and to develop a theory about what is known today, put plainly, as biopolitics. But when it comes to reflecting upon the overlap between architecture and social entities, philosopher and activist Paul B. Preciado goes one step further. Published in 2010, Pornotopia reveals how gender was manufactured and how masculinity was redefined in post-war America through the lens of a very particular construction: the Playboy Mansion, built in 1959, and later reproduced across the country with the Playboy Clubs of the 1960s. Born in the wake of the invention of the birth-control pill and of the market roll-out of medical derivatives of the types of amphetamines that were used during the Vietnam War, Playboy magazine and the architectural ideal it conveyed brought about a redefinition of sexuality. From the single-parent family living in a suburban house, the model of heterosexual masculinity shifted towards the trope of the bachelor in his urban garçonnière. For Preciado, Hugh Hefner highlights the transition from a biopolitical disciplinary – Foucauldian – regime to neoliberal pharmacopornographical economies, in which communications and electronic surveillance systems, along with the regulation of sexual hormones, are the norm.

The invasion of such techniques into the domestic sphere continues today with their epidermic infiltration. Manipulated by users, the interface provides them with information and directly contributes to the production of their subjectivity. There is no longer any need for architecture or chemistry: when we are in its presence, the digital membrane brings us blissful serenity or wrenching loss when it is missing. At first, we figured we were using this new tool as any other – having clearly heard Hannah Arendt’s lesson, which taught us that the tool was merely an extension of the hand. We then realized that we were its addicted subjects, rather than its masters and owners: a specific set of gestures had been added to our body language, as demonstrated by Futur Instant, with its casts of hand gestures frozen during swipes or scrolls, which become completely absurd when removed from their context. What happens next is nothing more than the outcome of the prophecy foreseen with the Playboy mansion. Regarding the Mansion’s technological setup – which involved telephones, alarms, surveillance and loud-speaker systems – Beatriz Preciado stated early on: “In the Playboy Manson, we are closer to the technological assisted organism of John McHale, Buckminster Fuller, or Marshall McLuhan: The screen-eyes of the house are no longer organs but media prostheses” (3). The display of skins in flesh tones seen in the installation Nude – where the synthetic and the organic appear to have taken part in some unnatural alliances – seems to support the author’s observation. We move from the biopolitical – which is dissolved in the body – to a re-localization towards the surface of the skin, the contact zone that leads to both addiction and pleasure when we connect with the matrix-machine. The “body without organs” of the modernity has become a set of organs without a body. Or rather, it has become a single, last organ that is the sum of them all: the interface.

Ingrid Luquet-Gad, June 2017

(1) François Dagognet, Faces, Surfaces, Interfaces, Paris: 2007 (1982), Vrin. Foreword to the second edition, p. 7.
(2) Ibid., p. 10.
(3) Beatriz Preciado, Pornotopia. An Essay on Playboy’s Architecture and Biopolitics, New York: 2014 (2010), Zone Books, p. 116.

Nude, installation, 2017, exhibition view

Futur instant, installation, 2017, exhibition view

Nicolas Feodoroff – In Progress

Nicolas Feodoroff, In Progress, in Last Room / Dépli, Pandore 2013

Considering a tablet and a film, Last Room, by Pierre Carniaux: eluding the finiteness of the film-object and its imposed progression in time, Thierry Fournier proposes with Dépli another way of comprehending film matter. Somewhere between the film and the interactive installation, the idea – apparently a simple one – proves to be as delicate to implement as its stakes are overwhelming: to make a film and its unfolding. That is, in the words of Thierry Fournier and Pierre Carniaux: to create two pieces of a single diptych.

Admittedly, the history of cinematographic forms teaches us that we have often dealt with the fundamental principles of what we usually refer to as cinema: some have chosen to liberate themselves from the movie theatre, and move to museum- or other spaces, while others have sought to undo the projection’s continuum. These experiences have constituted opportunities to break away from the ritual of the showing and of the progression, which both belong to a previously determined temporality, with multi-screen installations for instance, where a process of mental editing is left to the discretion of each viewer.

Dépli fits into this system, by appropriating itself the very same material as a film, but in a new way. Indeed, the project has another ambition: to take on the entire film and move within the very matter from whence it came, its raw footage, in an apparatus that engages a new way of watching and practicing images – particularily in the case of the theatre version of the installation, in which the viewer/user must stand, and cannot surrender to the comfort of the seat. These rushes, therefore – the raw material used to make the film – can be watched and experimented with at one’s own pace. Materiel that is usually invisible (what Chris Marker referred to paradoxically as his peelings), often rich, but that the film must extract itself from in order to assert itself as a film, through choices (aesthetic, ethic, their nature is of little significance in this case) made from recorded data. Here, the viewer is offered other options, as he gets a glimpse of the material that was set aside during the final editing process. But this is not about (re)making a movie by simply reediting it for one’s own account. Rather, it is about reclaiming and reworking these images in a different way, with broader matter, since the lengths of the shots in Dépli are 30 minutes longer than the ones in the film. Finally, beyond these conditions stipulated for play (which can be played individually at home, or in a movie theatre, live and in public) the Dépli apparatus leaves no trace of the viewer’s passage through the images, other than bits left in the memories of those who witnessed it. Herein lies the singularity of this experience, different every time, couched in the present of its execution, like a performance with no record.

With Dépli, the viewer’s place is revisited, and an additional tool is taken into account: the tablet. This quintessentially personal technical object is, in this case, engaged in a paradoxical use. At the crossroads of a collective space and a type of contemporary hyperindividualism that is exacerbated in this object, echoing the possibilities currently offered by different media and networks within this mass made available by the Internet, Dépli offers a means of updating experiences that have aimed to remove cinema from its current set-up, a form which was inherited from the theatre and has gradually prevailed as the norm.


The unfolding manifests itself as fabric, a combinatory of the present images. Through a very concrete gesture that involves moving one’s fingers, Dépli indicates this paradox between the distance that is particular to images (amplified in this case by the geographical origin) and the tactile proximity of these images, conveyed by the sensation of possessing them by a simple touch. By grazing them with the tips of our fingers, we invent a world that offers itself to our gaze. We move from the gesture to the projected image, to the actual manipulation of the images. Where we play on lengths, overlays, creating forms that also unravel possibilities, from the film to the tablet and the DVD. Wandering, drifting in a maze-like space, in which the viewer/manipulator is invited to lose himself, to dig through the visual matter, to develop his own desires, offer his own extensions from shot to shot, experiment his own associations, Borgesian possibilities of infinite junctions within a closed space.
This constitutes, according to Umberto Eco’s expression, an open work, a feat that is never necessary but always possible, challenged time and time again. It is about playing, like in a card game – but beyond the possible combinations in a given hand, the cards in this case can vary according to the associations and lengths that we remember, the mode and the degree of the dissolves between the images, the speed – slower or faster – the reversal of movement, the superimposition… There is no going back to before, but rather, to differently. A multiplicity composed of stops, suspensions, chance meetings made possible by this gesture. The unfolding that is operated does not involve taking the film apart, or leveling it. Nor is it about returning to some initial form that preceded the editing operation, like an origami that would regain its original shape after it is unfolded. Matter made ductile by the hand’s gesture, between two fingers, like a fold. As Gilles Deleuze notes: “The un-fold is never the opposite of the fold. (…) To unfold means that I sometimes develop, I undo infinitely small folds that keep disturbing the background; but doing this in order to draw a large fold on the side, from which forms appear”; he goes on to point out that “I always unfold between two folds, and if to perceive is to unfold, than I always perceive in the folds”.


To unfold is also to fold, and in this space, the image is no longer a window, but offers itself as a surface, an infinitely malleable preexistent matter. The status of the images changes: from their relationship to the implicit (but no less problematic) world with a preexisting reality, we find ourselves with the images as they are. From a type of verticality, going from the world to the image and back, we find ourselves in a horizontality of images subjected to our gestures, in which they function in relation to each other – as cinema does with editing. Close at hand and at a distance, we are therefore in a relationship of surfaces. The images become a surface that is replayed, doubled by the tablet’s own surface, over which our fingers slide, between video gaming and drawing, with this world at the tip of our fingers, a world that we are drawing. Nothing but images where we can operate by detail and in detail. Change of nature or degree? Change of gaze? A cinematographic langage, surely, and cinema, if we consider that it remains pure movement: not of the world and its beat, but of images and their breathing, that build worlds according to a renewed poetic. From the editing table and from the viewer’s seat, a short circuit has occurred in the relationship of the parts to the whole that is a film. Not total submission, but an overlap, a superimposition of the two moments.

From the film to its manifestation in Dépli? One that belongs to cinema in its historic form, the other would perhaps be one of its future forms? It would be vain and futile to attempt to make such a prediction. However, it opens up one of the possibilities of a cinema that encounters what Bernard Stiegler calls (in order to critique it) temporal industrial objects that give rise to this singular form. History has taught us that artists, like film-makers (coming from within cinema as a constituted space, and from without) have played with the finished form of the reel as it unrolls behind us and with its reception space, the theater. Let us keep the theater, the projection, its viewer, and unfold this reel which has become a digital stock, not of images but of sequences, of varying and unknown lengths.

To make a film, in this case, is to elaborate possible fragments of a non-existent film, and, to a certain extent, construct extension to the world that is the matrix film, organize our own meanderings that might emerge from it, belong to it, come out of it, without ever disconnecting form it. Like a reel that draws infinite interlacing -the image of an expanding film. Open up its possibilities, short, long, contemplative, random, calculated, systematic, dream-like… an infinite amount of possibilities, sustained by the intensification of its fragments. The pleasure of making and working with a particular matter, playing with chance and accidents, inventing, handling the images in their carnal thickness.

Nicolas Feodoroff is an art and film critic, and programer at FIDMarseille.

Anne-Lou Vicente – The Fabric of images

Anne-Lou Vicente, The Fabric of Images, in Last Room / Dépli, Pandore 2013

Dépli originated in an encounter between artist Thierry Fournier and director Pierre Carniaux in Japan, during the filming of Last Room. This encounter resulted in a fruitful collaboration where duo, dialogue and diptych are closely associated. The number two is of particular significance here: indeed, the very essence of Dépli, from the point of view of its origins and of its operation, lies in the interstices.
As with the “intermediary apparatus” designed by Thierry Fournier, Dépli summons an important network of relationships: between the installation and the film Last Room (and their respective authors), between the installation and the viewers/players, between the viewers/players themselves, between their bodies and the space/environment in which they find themselves, etc. To a certain extent, the inter-human dimension that is literally put into play is a matter of “relational aesthetics” (1), especially in that it pervades existing social and cultural forms, such as the movie theatre (2), a paradigm of the ritualized experience that is at once individual and collective.

Presented as a “playable cinema” project, Dépli addresses the viewer/visitor while it also requires his participation. As he is invited to trace his own path through the film, or rather, through its interspaces (shots), the viewer combines observation – which is by no means passive – and action, emission and reception, in an alternative logic that varies between watching as others do and making others watch. While, as Marcel Duchamp famously put it, “It is the spectators who make the pictures”, in this case the spectators do not rewrite the story, they are invited to make their film, and become actors to the fullest extent, in this context in which a film is extended, not so much in its rewriting, but rather, in its reinvention through the prism of a person, a spirit, a voice in itself.

Sustained by practices that lay at the crossroads of contemporary art and traditional cinema, such as experimental cinema, video art, and multimedia art in particular, a broadening of the cinematographic form (3) occurs, in the case of the installation Dépli, on different levels: beginning with the very places it may invest – a movie theater, home video set up, or exhibition space – and as a result, on the level of the users, and with them, of the usages. These are related in more than one way to post production, as the installation involves “treatments applied to recorded material” (4), pre-existing or even preliminary, insofar as, at least in movie theatres, it follows the projection of the film Last Room.

“Cinema is both the source and the paradigm of new media. It is the source, insofar as it is the instrument that enables us to understand how representation is transformed by the very screens that condition it. There is a move from the classic screen (a rectangular surface, a window onto the world, as André Bazin sees it) that offers a frontal vision of a fixed space, to a dynamic screen on which images are in motion and lead to other systems of vision, where questions of viewer immersion and identification are prominent” (5). The dozens of sequence-shots extracted from the film, stored in the interface’s timeline, appear as samples, from which the player may compose his own music. He is invited to clear a path feeling his way along, to navigate – even to drift – until he feels the breath of images turned porous, which he may freely slow down or accelerate.

In this manipulation of images and sound – on a formal, temporal and kine(ma)tic level – the viewer uses a tactile tablet that makes touch the experience’s driving force. Offsetting (or rather, in this case, complementing) the classic viewing scheme of cinematographic projection onto a (large) screen, which, while it prompts the viewer to delve into the film, almost keeps him at a distance, Dépli offers to engage in it physically, sensually, to touch the images in order to affect them (and be affected by them). “The different kinds of relationships that exist between cinema, film, sensorial perception, physical environment and the body can be represented as a series of metaphors, dichotomous concepts, that, in turn, can be “mapped” onto the body: its surfaces, its senses and methods of perception, its tactile, affective and sensory-motor faculties”, write Thomas Elsaesser et Malte Hagener in the introduction to their book Film Theory: an introduction through the senses (6). In reference to the fifth chapter, entitled “skin and touch”, the authors add: “We will be dealing here with theories based on the idea that skin is an organ and that touch is a means of perception. From them, ensues the understanding of cinema as a tactile experience, or, conversely, as one which endows the eye with “haptic” faculties that go beyond the usual “optical” dimension”.

Who plays (and what is playing out in) Dépli? This interactive installation, where participants share what they perceive through their senses, renews the cinematographic experience and, like an invitation to travel within the images and listen to them, the viewer is invited to move them (physically and emotionally) by drifting through the infinite folds of their fabric (7).

Anne-Lou Vicente is a contemporary art critic and independent curator. She co-directs the publication VOLUME – What You See Is What You Hear, a bi-annual contemporary art magazine devoted to sound, distributed by Les Presses du réel. She is co-curator in residence for the year 2013 at the Maison populaire art center in Montreuil.


1. See Relational Aesthetics (1998), a cult essay by art critic Nicolas Bourriaud in which he exposes the way in which certain contemporary artistic practices contribute to the emergence of a “relational society”.

2. Exhibition spaces are another example of public spaces in which Dépli might appear; the installation can also be experienced at home.

3. The reference here is to expanded cinema, a concept theorized by Gene Youngblood in an eponymous work published in 1970.

4. Part of the definition of the term postproduction to be found in the first words of Nicolas Bourriaud’s essay Postproduction (2004) ; the term forms somewhat of a diptych with the concept of “relational aesthetics”, mentioned previously.

5. Yann Beauvais, Code source ouvert (Open source code), preface to the french edition of Lev Manovitch, Language of New Media (MIT Press, 2001 for the original english edition, Les presses du réel, Dijon, 2010 for the french edition).

6. Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener, Film Theory: an introduction through the senses, Routledge, 2009.

7. Etymologically, the term diptych means «folded in two».

Pau Waelder – Too much data is not enough

Pau Waelder, Too much data is not enough, catalogue Overflow, Pandore, 2015

The Internet has overflown. It is no longer concealed into a “cyberspace”, separate from our “real” world, our everyday existence. Nowadays, it does not take a phone call to hook up a home computer to the World Wide Web by means of a noisy modem. This connection is not temporary but permanent, and being online is not an option anymore. What happens on the web doesn’t stay on the web, as our online identities cease to be mere masks or fantastic avatars and increasingly become ideal projections of our real selves. Even when we are not browsing the web or sharing content on a social network, when we turn off the computer and go to sleep, our online presence is still there, and accounted for. The Internet has overflown from the realm of interconnected computers, smartphones and tablets, not only into all sorts of other objects, but also into our culture, our language and our daily activities. It might be argued that it doesn’t exist, since it has no shape, or that it has ceased to exist as it once was and has become something that we still don’t know how to define. The Thing Formerly Known As The Internet is not a space anymore, since it pervades all spaces and activities, but it is still a constant flow of data in both directions: towards the user, and from the user. As users, we are part of it, whether we want to or not. Because all of our actions are in one way or another registered in the network: as a search query, preference, time and date of access, IP address, hashtag, like, poke or comment; as uploaded or downloaded files, logins and user profiles. Now the data flow pours out of our devices and into our bodies: heartbeats, steps walked, hours slept and calories burned are also counted. In a similar way to what Robert Musil described in The Man without Qualities, it is almost impossible to live in a post-industrial society without participating in an exchange of data over a network, since every action can be recorded or quantified. The network is so ubiquitous that it has become invisible, as necessary and apparently non existent as the air we breathe.

The overflow is not limited to the circulation of data: our own role as spectators and users has overcome the passive reception of content and the limited reach of an individual’s voice. On the one hand, more people are able to produce content, be creative and participate in communities than ever before. Clay Shirky refers to this as “cognitive surplus”, indicating that audiences are not just collections of passive individuals, but groups whose members can use their free time to contribute to communal efforts. On the other hand, the actions or ideas of a single individual or a small group of people can quickly spark a revolution or generate a trending topic. In both instances, limits are overrun, demarcations become obsolete. It seems as if boundaries and hierarchies had lost their power in the age of the Internet, as the network allows anyone to connect to a vast resource of knowledge and tools and spread their ideas to a global audience. But this is not the case.


Alexander Galloway criticizes the generalized conception of the Internet as an unpredictable mass of data, without any form of centralized command or hierarchy. While it is true that networks are built on nodes that connect in a non-hierarchical, peer-to-peer mode, what ensures a form of control over the network is the existence of a protocol. Protocols define standards of action: on the Internet, the TCP/IP protocol enables computers to communicate between each other, thus facilitating the exchange of data on which the network is based. The network exists because there is a shared protocol. Furthermore, standards such as DNS are controlled in a hierarchical structure, which paradoxically makes it possible to access information in the apparently anarchical Internet . Therefore, a form of control and a basic hierarchy exists in the continuous and inescapable flow of data that feeds us and is fed by us, and it is embedded in the very structure of the network. This condition is not exclusive of data networks: following Galloway’s description of the protocol as “any type of correct or proper behaviour within a specific system of conventions”, we can see that in our daily life we are constantly following a set of protocols.

The sound installation Set-Up (2011) addresses the visitors of the exhibition with a series of messages similar to those of a public announcement (PA) system in train stations, airports or shopping malls. Some of these messages apparently respond to the need of directing the flow of visitors inside the exhibition space (“visitors are kindly requested to move forward, thank you”; “five people maximum, thank you”), while others reproduce quotations from literary texts which seem out of context and therefore nonsensical (“a shadow walks with me, reflections de-multiply my appearance, a horizon is projected in front of me, thank you”). Finally, some sentences express direct orders that evoke an emergency alert (“all visitors immediately stop, thank you”; “everybody on the ground, thank you”). The sentences are read by a female voice in a kind but authoritative way, all of them duly signed with a warm “thank you.” As a disembodied presence, the voice fills the exhibition space and turns it into the stage of a performance, one that is involuntarily played out by the visitors, whether they follow the instructions or not. A protocol is set, as the fictitious PA system demands the attention of the visitor by emitting absurd requests. Meaningful messages (such as “please do not smoke” or “do not leave your belongings unattended”) would be registered by visitors as guidelines of conduct and duly followed without questioning, but the lack of meaning of the sentences in this installation beg to question their purpose, as well as their authority: why should we listen to and follow the instructions of a PA system? Public announcements share with other forms of information flows in our society the fact that they are constantly broadcasted and become somewhat inevitable. They belong to a top-down system in which the public is a receiver of the messages sent out by a broadcaster. As there is no visual display, there is nothing or no one to respond to: the possibility of a dialogue simply does not exist.

In a similar way, EX/IF (2014), a series of three videos filmed by Thierry Fournier during a trip to Japan (Mori, Cool, Service), expose the way in which humans are subjected to flows and protocols in the largest megacity on the planet. Three views of Tokyo are presented as raw, objective, unedited documents. The gaze is suspended over a long time on what would usually just hold our attention for a brief moment. This lengthening of the gaze allows us to look closer, pay attention to the details, think about what is happening in these scenes in which apparently nothing is happening.

In Cool, the rooftop of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, the sixth tallest building in the city, is the domain of several machines: ventilation systems, security cameras, a wind gauge and a set of speakers humming elevator music. In this highly technified realm, far detached from the everyday activity that goes on 54 stories below, the smooth jazz music seems out of place. It is too human, and in fact it was installed to entertain the visitors who walk up to the observation deck in order to enjoy the views of the city. Instead of these views, we are observing the machines that climatize the building and provide information from the outside. They lead us to think of the building as an organism, traversed by flows of people, data, electromagnetic waves, electricity, water, hot and cold air. The calm stillness of this rooftop, bathed in the warm light of the setting sun and the soothing music, betrays the frantic activity that gives this building its reason to exist.

As the night falls, the city plunges into darkness. An elevated highway crosses the Roppongi Hills district towards Chiyoda, a broad artery of light that cuts across the buildings. The incessant circulation of cars and trucks stresses this analogy: the city appears also as a living entity, whose vital organs, veins and bowels are spread over a large territory. Still, the long, shiny highway seems to belong to a different time and space than the rest of the city: it brings to mind Haruki Murakami’s novel 1Q84 (2009-2010), in which an emergency exit on the highway, leading to the street below, actually takes the characters to a parallel dimension. It also illustrates the notion of a city governed by flows. As Roland Barthes remarked in his book L’Empire des signes (1970), Tokyo is a city with an empty center, its numerous neighborhoods being defined by the void of train stations, traversed by thousands of journeys every day.

In a tennis court, we see several players taking turns to hit the ball. They share a play field designed for up to four people, but they are far more numerous. One after another, they enter the field, hit the incoming ball with a racket and quickly leave in order to allow the next player to perform the same action. When a ball hits the net, four kids on each side of the field race after it. Only one catches the ball, while the others nevertheless feign the role of ball boys. Observing this protocol, we realize that none of these people is actually playing a match, but taking part in a fragment of the activity involved in a match. They are training for the game in a choreographed system that distributes the actions of a single player into a multitude of participants.

One could easily imagine a PA system such as the one in Set-Up broadcasting from the top of the Mori Tower, sending each citizen a set of instructions to carry out the proper actions in their specific contexts, be it at the office, on the highway or while practicing a sport in their leisure time. But such a system is not necessary: the protocols are already embedded in our daily lives.


Information flows and protocols also shape our perception of reality, particularly through the media on which we are increasingly dependent when trying to create an image of the world around us. As Hito Steyerl asserts, we are exposed to “too much world” and need constant editing of the information flow in order to make sense of it. This means not only that the content displayed on the media is a version of reality, but that reality itself becomes the product of an operation of editing and postproduction and can only be understood in these terms.

Thierry Fournier’s Precursion (2014) explores this relationship between the media and reality in a mashup of recorded video footage from the streets of Valence, music extracted from blockbuster films and news feeds culled in real time from the Internet. The familiar environment suddenly becomes a zone of conflict or the site of a memorable or catastrophic event as the text at the bottom of the screen describes situations taking place elsewhere and the film score provides an emotional atmosphere intended for a different set of images. Reality (both in the video footage and the news headlines) becomes a fiction through the combination of unrelated elements. This fiction, in turn, becomes reality as we watch it and try to make sense of the three different channels of information, one addressing visual perception (and our assumption that the things we see are real), another one directed to our knowledge of the current state of affairs and the last one affecting our emotions. Reality, as Steyerl suggests, is edited and post-produced in this artwork that leads to questioning the media and our own mediated perception of the world. Moreover, the title itself leads to thinking about reality as being created or anticipated by the media: an unsettling aftertaste of this installation is the thought that what we see, while not being true at this point, may become a reality in the future. The fact that Fournier updates the video footage to match the site where the piece is exhibited and that the news are constantly referring to current events adds to this confusion between reality and fiction and the need to perpetually renew the data in order to keep up with a changing environment. In this sense, the artwork itself is also subject to a process of postproduction every time it is shown and remains as an open system: as Nicolas Bourriaud would describe it, it is not a finished product but a “site of navigation”. As such, it offers us a window from which to observe our surroundings in the form of an endless newscast, invariably presenting a recent event that requires our immediate attention. Can we cope with this requirement?


In a cartoon by Robert J. Day, a young student is telling her friend: “It isn’t that I don’t like current events. There have just been so many of them lately.” The joke is reproduced in Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore’s The Medium is the Massage (1967), where McLuhan presciently writes about an “Age of Anxiety” in which trying to deal with the current flow of information by means of outdated concepts and tools leads to confusion and despair. This form of anxiety and the inability to manage the large amount of content produced by the media is clearly demonstrated in the performance Closed Circuit (2007). Actress Emmanuelle Lafon is asked to describe everything she sees and repeat everything she hears on a TV set in front of her. The audience cannot see the images nor hear the sounds emitted by the device, and therefore must rely on the actress as the sole mediator. Lafon tries to follow the instructions given to her, but before long she stutters, interrupts herself in mid-sentence, loses her train of thought. It becomes clear that the amount of information is too much to be processed while describing and repeating it. As a spectator, she is unable to respond to the flow of images, sounds and messages: she intends to produce her own soliloquy, but finally she is drowned by the information pouring out of the screen. Her Sisyphean task ends abruptly after fifteen minutes, when the television is turned off. McLuhan described this situation forty years earlier, indicating that we are flooded by information which is always new, and that there is no other option but to look for the overall features of this massive amount of data. Just as Lafon can only retain fragments of the images and words she perceives, we build our image of the world from scattered pieces of information: headlines, found images, short videos, infographics, tweets, posts and so many rumors. Where Précursion suggests how these fragments can build a different reality, Circuit fermé shows how the excess of stimuli blocks any possible processing of the data into a somewhat coherent discourse. Lafon’s exhausting experience suggests that it is impossible to cope with the flow of data, and certainly there is “too much world” to be aware of. But the flow can be edited and redirected in meaningful ways.

Ecotone (2015) captures tweets in real time and generates a virtual landscape with them. The selected tweets share their expression of desires with the inclusion of words such as “I wish”, “I would love”, “it would be so great”, and so on. Every time that a tweet is captured, it is read by a synthesized voice and visually represented by an elevation of the polygonal terrain. A camera flies over this imaginary landscape as mountains grow here and there with every new sentence. The voices tell us about the constant need for what we do not have, the dissatisfaction that drives our consumerist society, as well as the cathartic process of sharing with others those unfulfilled desires. Notably, none of the authors of these tweets wished to be part of this installation. Their words have become data that flows from one computer to another, as well as across different contexts. Here, they take a more human form as pronounced wishes, voices that do not spell out instructions as in Set-Up but express their fragility and their ennui by stating what is missing in them. This is particularly relevant in the context of social media, where it is common to present a positive, successful version of oneself, stating only achievements and support for the causes that are integral to the self image. As in Précursion, the flow of messages is constantly updated, which in this case is telling, since it shows that the discontent in our society is unremitting. Although we live surrounded by excess, we always want more.

In these artworks, Thierry Fournier unfolds an ongoing exploration of the relationship between the individual and her environment, in terms of a physical, social, and informational space. These contexts reveal their porosity as they are traversed by the flow of data that pours from one onto the other, affecting the way in which they are perceived as well as the actions taking place in them. The flow becomes an overflow as the boundaries are blurred (no more online/offline, public/private, virtual/real) and the massive amount of information cannot be contained or classified anymore. From protocol to excess, five different narratives expose the workings of our current information overload, stressing our participation in it and the fact that, despite being overwhelmed by data, we can’t get enough of it.

Pau Waelder
August, 2015

Juliette Fontaine – Testing the space

Juliette Fontaine, catalogue Step to step, Rennes College of arts, 2009.

In many of Thierry Fournier’s interactive installations, space is not so much a site as it is a material. Time and time again, engaging with one of his apparatuses means penetrating a singular if not peculiar audio material. The sound always retains a strong physical presence, it is almost organic, if not erotic (Electric Bodyland, Siren). The visitor’s movement through this space modulates the sound which is then “sculpted” by their presence.

In Step to Step, the visitor does not navigate a musical piece like in Electric Bodyland, nor do they insinuate themselves into the dark matter of troubling, animal sounds that constitute Feedbackroom, once again, however, experience space. Wrapped in darkness, the installation is presents a white block on the ground in front of a life-size video coach giving a step class. This face to face, the symmetry between step and block and stepping class, all of it encourages us to explore the set-up. Setting down your foot or climbing onto the block instantly slow down the music, the coach’s movements and his voice, as if kneaded by clay yet still comprehensible. Yet your control over the image is but a passing impression; as if through a conditioned response, visitors inevitably mimic the screen becoming manipulated by it in turn. It’s no longer clear who is biting and who is being bit—who is aping whom? This is the installation’s humorous side: the impossibility of imitation turns into an absurd and farcical game founded on denial, recalling the singular antics of Buster Keaton. In this way and with intelligent irony, the question who has a hold on whom is constantly replayed through role inversion.

Putting the spectator into play is worth remarking upon because he must cross the space, go to the middle of it, and climb onto a block. In other words, you’re asked to expose yourself. Staying away from the apparatus would deprive you of this particular experience of the work. You have to explore the piece, undergo the slightly upsetting experience of forgoing the reassuring familiarity of privacy,  the security and invisibility of self-effacement, and then enter into an exposed and collective space. Furthermore, each spectator is prompted to encounter their connections with the space, but also the otherness of fellow spectators and the coach, particularly since the latter is a projected image rather than a tangible body. Indeed, the body is focal point of the other’s gaze in this configuration of mutual acknowledgement. There are other ways that the installation raises these questions of the other and the gaze. The block that the spectator stands on is opposite the projection: face-to-face, step-to-step, and, ultimately, peer-to-peer. In his patent absence, the coach looks at the spectator; combining energy with gregariousness, he addresses, signals, and shouts at them. The mirror effect is almost flawless: the coach’s “step” and the one within the space are exactly the same size, and the coach’s distance from the frame is identical to our own. The image could be our own reflection—except that we’re face to face with another.

In Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel writes : “The now is precisely what no longer is when it is.” If we take this sentence to be an enlightened axiom, it becomes a striking aporia that creates a vast field of inquiry. And yet the territory it plots out is ultimately akin to an uninhabited clearing: a rich albeit overgrown garden, but one that, from certain angles, is utterly barren. The initial remark will not yield: the present is unsolvable. Testing present time, or better yet trying to formulate it, is like catching fish in the river with your bare hands. With Step to Step, we experience space-time empirically: it is inconstant, slippery and fundamentally indeterminate, improbable. Rebellious and subversive, space-time forming both immediate and imaginary time in a troubling relationship between the present and the presence of the body. My body is in the present moment, both what does it experience in this moment, what does it perceive through intelligence and feelings—both inevitably intertwined—and what will my body retain of this always already former present? The last aspect of this question underlies the installation as it purposefully submerges its spectators in pure present: standing on a block, their bodies move in front of another projected, moving body. Yet the distance and detachment necessary for this observation only comes from stepping out of the installation. This uncertain concurrence is established in the impossible imitation of the coach’s movement. The present therefore feels like an instant fleeing our feelings’ very present. Sébastien Le Gall’s image becomes the perpetual vanishing point for an unreachable horizon.

Though very different, the installation See you offered an equally unsettling experience of time. Through this installation’s startling temporal shift, our bodies—constant witnesses to the here and now—observed the goings on of the exact same location with a 24 hour delay. However Step to step produces a contradictory impression of present time: it exists only in as much as it rescinds itself. The metaphor which sees the present as the only point on a curve that we can intersect becomes a tangible experience, a brutal reality confirmed by the installation set-up. The weight of the body on the block slows down the image until it almost freezes it, yet it never quite stops : ever-elusive, ever-escaping, we either give up on grasping (at) it or we freeze it and are left powerless to experience and so to describe the standstill.

Juliette Fontaine

Interview – Paris-Art, June 2008

Interview by Evelyne Bennati for, June 2008. Edited to add the links of the works.

EB : The Cube Festival, held at Issy-les-Moulineaux between the 3rd and the 8th of June, gave us the opportunity to see See you, a work which was produced by the festival.

TF : Indeed, the piece was created within the framework of The Cube Festival. In part, the idea for <See you stemmed from the context of this urban-driven festival. The question of where a work is displayed and experienced is very important to me; I feel there’s a lot of work to do on this front. Furthermore, Carine Le Malet (programming coordinator and festival coordinator for The Cube) and I had discussed urban displays as a possible exhibition form throughout the festival. Lastly, I have been working with temporality for a long time now, in terms of the interaction between spectators and their experience of a particular piece. These three things intermingled very early on, grounding this extremely radical project. I even went through an initial stage where there was no shift in temporality whatsoever.

Could you start by describing the piece?

See You is an urban video display whose screens show the view behind the monitor—but with a 24 hour delay. The goal was to retain the display’s traditional status as an urban device typically used for advertising. However, while preserving the display’s appearance, its position on the street, and all the other usual variables, it becomes emptied of its representation, drained in a sense, and replaced by pure temporality.

We chose the piece’s location very quickly, within a pedestrian space at Issy-les-Moulineaux. When on site, I experienced a kind of constant interplay, a palpable tension—people were examining the image, trying to understand what it was about. This was what I was really interested in, as well as the question of temporality. The whole thing also references 1970s systems called “closed circuits”, except that here the circuit can never be closed because of the 24 hour delay that separates the recording and display phases. This inability to close the circuit produces the range of possible interactions between spectator and image.

The piece made me think of wormholes in space, those theoretical passageways in the fabric of space-time related to folds in the structure and properties of matter. Were you thinking about this?

I’ve been interested in these questions for some time now. Though I don’t explore this field literally in my work, everything to do with the theory of time, such as expanding matter, is not only of great interest to me, but highly pertinent to my work. I was trained in the sciences, I am an architect, I have a developed dialogue with mathematics. The definitions of time and of space are central to my work.

By retaining this urban signage while drawing our attention to what we don’t usually see, you also raise the question of our relationship to the image. It’s like a transfiguration of banality. Passers by ask themselves what there is to see, in this game and mise en abyme, because they’re being filmed while looking at the work.

See you is a work in which space reveals time, and vice-versa. This utterly banal framework shows something akin to temporality. Indeed, time is the only thing that’s actually expressed—which is no easy task. Banality, of a fashion, must be produced, allowing for a fresh take on a banal image. Time reveals the image and the image reveals time in a reversible movement. It’s a sort of constant back and forth between the banality of this framework and this temporality, which calls for a different take on an image that’s usually produced for advertising. And yet advertising shows promises us what will be; it raises the question of access. In a way, this concept works the other way round here. See you thus links up with another piece, Outside lectures, in both a subversive and very personal manner.

Advertising is static, it’s a permanent image, even if it does provoke desire. See you is an opening, it creates a gap that makes us think in three dimensions.

In four dimensions: there’s depth and there’s time with this piece; it creates a sort of “temporal depth”, the coexistence of two different temporalities.

See you draws people to a halt. In this way, you really notice how much we’re moulded by the urban environment: there’s a display over there, there must be something to see. But there’s a need for an explanation, we’re not expected to pick up on the difference in temporality.

Yes and no. In keeping with a committed personal practice, I did not want an explanation to figure on the display itself, yet this was not the festival’s curatorial policy. I’m extremely committed to the idea that works of art are not accompanied by an instructions manual. For its spectators, the very nature of the questions raised by a work can vary depending on which path is taken. I do not want the process to be explained before it can be experienced. The way a work is received and kinds of connections made can be infinitely more open. This may of course lead to complete misinterpretations, but it’s all part of the way the piece works. All things considered, there’s no sign at the Pompidou Center next to a Beuys piece telling me where to look. It’s quite a pertinent curatorial debate, especially in the case of interactive work where the artist may want to either conceal or reveal their constituent modus operandi. I saw two six or seven year old kids who were looking at the display for five minutes. Their entire discussion revolved around whether the image was real or not. I have noticed the same maturity in their way of seeing among many of their peers.

The plaque short circuits the experience.

When it explains something, a plaque sets off a response mechanism in the viewer. In effect, it short circuits their perceptual entanglement with a work of art, and the relationship that they may make with it. See you does not rely on an instantaneous interaction, instead it produces levels of interaction, whether social, physical or other. We shouldn’t expect interactive works of art to generate systematic insight or simpler readings. Viewers aren’t expected to understand this kind of work more quickly than another. That having been said, I am expected to construct a situation that will construct the spectator’s perceptual entanglement straight away—without the need for an instructions manual.

Your work questions our relationship with immediate temporality, transformed today by the ubiquity of channel surfing. What frame do you think we’re willing to hang ourselves in?

This questions relate to the whole field (of art). How much time does someone spend looking at a painting in a museum? Between one person and another, there’s an infinite scope of possible answers. See you is about time, and so it rekindles questions like this.

The system leads viewers to think about visual perspicacity. It’s Daniel Arasse’s “we can’t see a thing!” Take a closer look, because there’s got to be something there and it’s time.

It’s within this “nothing to see here” that things are actually taking place.

My assistant on this project, Mathieu Redelsperger, a student at the Nancy Beaux-Arts and participant in the research and creation studio Electroshop that I co-run with Samuel Bianchini, has a reading of the piece that crosses Freud’s “uncanny” with Henri Michaux’ relationship to time.  I would really like to see this piece relocated in other contexts and other public places, to see how it can react-ivate a space. This initial experience was an experiment, a laboratory study.

I thought of Christo and his wrappings in terms of how you use an apparatus to draw attention.

You raise the concept of an apparatus, that can be understood through Foucault or through Deleuze in terms of an arrangement (agencement) that simultaneously gives bodies both possibilities and restrictions. This notion has also been explored within the context of media apparatuses. In “What is an apparatus?” Giorgio Agamben discusses how the concept can be recast as the “ability to capture, direct, determine, intercept, model, control and ensure the movements, conducts, opinions and discourses of human beings.” As he himself states, this includes not only the panopticon, the prison, and the hospital as defined by Foucault, but also cigarettes, mobile telephones, remote controls, advertising billboards… Recasting this concept generates an extremely fertile line of inquiry regarding how to interpret these apparatuses, their entanglement with perception and conditioning, the control they effect, and the system of thought that generates them. A+ questions one such urban apparatus and offers a reappraisal of its constituent power relationships. In this way, it rejuvenates how we see and the related questions of how we move and behave.

With Christo, the monument is abstracted. See you does not have the same message, nor does it use the same aesthetic. It takes up a preconceived apparatus in order to reverse its method of operation. This approach is not only about objects: for years, I’ve been creating works that are not exclusively displayed within traditional artistic spaces—gardens, museums, public events… Dépli, a work I created at the beginning of the year, was installed in a cinema but it overturns the cinematic apparatus and suggests another type of projection for and relationship with spectators. Outside lectures, a series of performances, was installed within the theater in order to explore various apparatuses such as the television. Each time, eruptions and emergences can be conveyed where they’re least expected.

The displacement appears to be the dictum.

I don’t really like this word. For me, this intention is resolutely political. It’s all about reassessing the way we look at objects or situations.

Displacement to the extent that it leads to a different point of view.

In See you, one representation is torn down and another built up. When you realize that it’s been built, you understand that you’re already firmly in the grasps of its operating mechanism.

What are your upcoming projects?

The installation Open Source is being hosted by the Monaco Pavillion for the 2008 Expo Zaragoza from June to September. It’s an interactive video installation allowing for a collective writing situation around a pool of water. This summer at the Avignon Festival, Outside lectures will continue in the context of the Rencontres de la Chartreuse in July. In September, a new installation, Step to step, created with a fitness coach will be shown at a personal exhibition at the Rennes École des Beaux-arts in September. And in November, the new version of Reanimation, a performance and installation for dancer and spectators that I co-created with Samuel Bianchini and Sylvain Prunenec in the context of the Electroshop studio at the École national Supérieure d’Art de Nancy, will be presented at the Espace Pasolini in Valenciennes.

Given my training as an architect, and my ongoing practice with sound and music, working with digital processes is but one aspect of my work. What I am most interested in is working with the “theater of relationships” that are not necessarily exclusively interactive. This is one of the issues we will be faced with in the years to come: constantly opening the lid on and being watchful of the term “digital art” which continues to produce a veritable ghetto. We should defend the need to explore and interrelate what is digital and what isn’t, within the same work, while institutions, curatoring, and funding tend, conversely, to limit and restrict this field. My work covers video, installations, performances. I never think beforehand in terms of digital or non-digital. This question is fundamental to me.

Interview – Poptronics, 2009

Interview by Cyril Thomas for the journal Poptronics (October 2009). Edited for the web version with links to the works.

CT : How do you think of your two exhibitions at Valence and Montpellier: are they complimentary or contradictory? One appears to be more geared towards touch and the other towards sight, or more exactly visual perception.

TF: The scale of the two exhibitions varies (one installation in Montpellier, and four in Valence, with accompanying performances in both instances), but they share a number of common motifs: about the notions of disappearance, temporality, the trace… Following different procedures, both exhibitions also involve participative situations for the audience. So I consider them to be rather complimentary. That having been said, neither of them were conceived with a specific action in mind, such as touch or visual perception. Fermata is not first and foremost about vision, it places the spectator’s body in a relationship with time for which the image acts only as a witness. The installations from Un Geste qui ne finit pas progressively form a sequence. From See you (exhibited here in a novel way, as a window display) through Siren and Infocus, both of which deal with the body and notions of presence, to Open Source, which involves the spectator’s touch and movement.

You called your exhibition at Lux (Valence) “A never ending gesture”. Yet far from unfinished, the pieces that require spectator interaction seem quite concrete indeed. Could you explain this title? Is it intentionally contradictory with your works?

I am referring to the gesture in general, not only to describe an action but also to qualify the involvement of sight and perception in relation to the piece—and therefore to the body. Gestures can result from either a spectator directly interacting with a device, which is the case with Siren or Open Source, or questioning their vision or presence as with See you or Infocus. However the situations that these works create do not lead to a resolution, rather they raise certain questions. It’s in this sense that the gesture “does not end.”

What are your definitions of touch and gesture?

As a possible mode of the interaction that I was just discussing, touch obviously interests me because it calls on the body, in the same way that hearing does. Amongst other things, this may be explained by the fact that my work deals as much with visual art as it does with live performance or theater. Being a musician and composer, I worked a lot with dancers, actors and musicians for various stage projects before developing an independent creative practice. When I began creating installations, working on gesture obviously drew on these experiences. With installations such as Feedbackroom, Step to Step or Siren, the spectator’s behavior is at the very limit of a dance or musical interpretation setting. Feedbackroom is reversible, as it can be experienced both as a performance scenario for dancers and an interactive installation intended for an audience. It is also for this reason that each other these exhibitions is accompanied by a performance: To Agrippine in Montpellier and Frost (part of the Outside lectures performances) in Valence. I’m interested in highlighting the relationships that I establish between these two forms, and in engaging personally with these performances myself, exposing myself to a certain peril.

Would you say that your works or your installations are a form of interactive art?

No, and for a number of reasons. The first is that I can’t see myself labeling my own work, and certainly not in this way. The second is that what interests me in the relationship with spectators is not interactivity in itself, but rather a much broader inquiry into perception and presence. Interactivity is one of the ways of achieving this, there are (and in the past there have been) many others. What’s more, See you and Infocus are not interactive works; one of the intentions of Lux is precisely to articulate a number of proposals to this extent and within the same space. Furthermore, it could even be said that referring to interactive art amounts to implicitly endorsing the notion of “digital art.” I feel, however, that it is paramount that we keep questioning this concept. It has meaning when referring to truly digital forms (such as network works), but becomes quickly quite ambiguous when qualifying works that make use of digital techniques. Indeed, today the term’s significance is above all linked to a trend (with certain artists, journals, places, journalists, festivals…) particularly in France where legitimization and labels continue to hold such importance. We should therefore keep in mind our ongoing ability to intertwine artistic production and research, develop technological innovations in the name of artworks, question the social and political facets of technology—without becoming disconnected from a general field of critical inquiry.

For all of these reasons, the physicality of a work and its relationship to space—two notions that maintain the spectator’s distance and free will—are of considerable importance to me. I prefer to articulate things. Outside lectures comes to mind, openly exposing its mode of display in a shared space with spectators (just like Frost in Valence). Or Step to Step which also relies on an archetypal spatial representation. Another example could be Fermata at Kawenga which only truly came together when the camera and the screen became material objects placed within their given space, and not just technical systems that one may not have been able to see.

Since when have you worked on processes or devices that involve spectator’s touch?

I had rather speak more generally of an interaction with the body, which goes back to my relationship with music, dance or live performances and in works created for over a decade. I was discussing this earlier.

How did you conceive the Open Source project?

The story of Open Source has two moments. I devised this project in Japan in 2005 during the Ce qui nous regarde project, thinking of a collective moment around a water surface, from written or drawn signs. I tried to produce it, before being invited by the Monaco Pavilion to the Zaragoza Expo. From that moment on, I worked more closely on the writing device, wanting to make it as immediate as possible. In particular, I had in mind those drawings you make with your fingers a frosted window. The sensitive aspect is instantly apparent because any basic contact with the surface produces a form that disappears from the console when finished only to immediately appear on the water’s surface. The set-up is highly simplified, thereby leaving greater space for this back and forth between the individual moment of drawing and the possible collective situation created around the water pool.

Does this work make reference to Piero Gilardi’s Biosphere piece, at least in the connections between drawing, projection and play with the drawn and projected forms?

I knew very little about Piero Gilardi’s work, and I was not in fact aware of this particular installation. If certain arrangements are similar (in particular the use of a water pool and the association between individual drawing and collective behavior), I believe that Open Source is much more immediate in its intended action. Gilardi’s work contains a figurative and narrative message that I did not share.

With this particular work, you appear to be interested in the audi connections produced by spectators, or their progression through the installation. What do you think about chance? Is it still something that you’re interested in (I have Dépli in mind, where the manipulation of certain video sequences led to clashes in meaning) ?

I don’t work with chance. My writing develops instead through certain conventions: I imagine fields of relationships that then lead to a general logic. In Dépli, the video installation you refer to, the matrix of the different possible combinations of frames was devised by the film’s director, Pierre Carniaux: these sequences of images are therefore generated through writing and not chance. Their particular mode of appearance, however, their speed, and their superimposing result from the particular quality of each spectator’s play and the sequencing mode that they establish.

Music and voice do not provide mere audio accompaniment to your work, they also act as catalysts, even multiplying the questions raised by various pieces. What relationships are you interested in exploring? Is this linked to rhythm? Gaps between sounds? Their cadence?

I started out in music and architecture, and my first installations were sound pieces. Musical or audio composition (particularly with the voice) often plays a key role in my work—Outside lectures could, for instance, be almost entirely described through this aspect. As I was saying earlier, sound always has something to do with the body and presence. It’s no doubt for this reason, that whenever I develop an installation or a performance, movement is interwoven with an instrumental approach (in terms of a certain sensitivity or atmosphere), even if its simply peripheral as with Open Source. I have never created a gap between imagery and sound—I always envisage my pieces through both these aspects at once.

How did your 2004 work To Agrippine come about, and could it be seen as a point of transition in your artistic career?

I would prefer to say that it is more of a shift than a transition. To Agrippine was created to precede the staging of Agrippine/em> theater performance produced by Frédéric Fisbach and designed with Handel’s Agrippina in mind, an opera that the latter had previously directed. So you get an evolution across these three forms: a performative object, the theatrical version of an opera, and the opera itself.

The project became a sound performance for a laptop, working from the opera’s very materials: the first opening orchestral phrase; the first recitativo, and its spoken French translation. I chose to “enter into” these three elements by completely unravelling their temporality, treating them like spaces within which I would construct a journey, sometimes in extreme slow motion. A useful metaphor is the aerial view of a landscape, where the viewing distance no longer allows you to grasp geographical lines, but simply to seize upon certain details. The most incredible thing was that the system itself meant that in order to play it, I myself had to invent a musical motion that was wholly conditioned by the slow speed of the recording heads that I had to operate.

This piece led to me work on the “depth of temporality” that then developed under other forms with pieces such as Réanimation, Siren, See you and of course Fermata: an exploration of the same object’s different temporal scales.

There’s a clear though not always explicit link between opera and architecture. Is this something that you wanted to investigate? (ps. I’m referring to the different meanings of the term ‘to compose’)

Yes, if you consider that when you begin to work on temporality, which points to modes of thought dear to architecture, then the very notion of writing is at stake. But today, its via cinema and the stage that I hope to explore larger scale forms (I’m referring to Dépli or Only Richard), whereas early on I would tend to display these aspects through installation. The relationship with opera is more complex: for a time, it was something I wanted to test out, with Nibelungen, Architecture of Paradise, or Sweetest Love, but I will come back to it later, differently.

From Siren (2006-2007) to Infocus (2009), you appear to build up a topology linked to a dialectic between touch and sight, action and concealment. Could you say a few words on this?

This is what I was referring to when speaking about appearances and disappearances. I’m interested in creating relationships between objects and phenomena whose modes of presence can be variable and sensitive, which then points to the very quality of the spectator’s presence—all of this can, of course, be quite disruptive.

Does Infocus point to a return to more visual work, unburdened with complex technological apparatuses?

Not necessarily, even though today I tend to look to pieces that, overall, are much simpler. I’m broadening the my work’s scope and toolbox, aligning different registers and scales. The complexity, however, is not where it appears to be. Films or video games rely on fifty times as much technology as any installation.

Fermata (2009) takes up previous projects on public space by establishing an alternate threshold between exterior and interior space. This production makes me think, amongst others, of Dan Graham. Is he an artist who has influenced you? Could you describe this work and the idea of dematerializing inside and outside that it brings to mind?

As far as a description goes: Fermata is an installation based on a screen looking out onto a street. Right behind the screen stands a camera on a tripod. Further behind this, in the middle of the room, a plexiglass screen is hung which, when no one is present in the room, simply retransmits the image recorded by the camera, creating a reflexion of the street just like a mirror. But when someone enters into the space, the speed of this image is visibly altered, according to the visitor (or visitors) movement. In actual fact, this slowing down is produced if the visitor slows down—a certain delay is created between the “real time” action of the street. If the visitor stands still, so too the image becomes a still. However the camera continues to record images of the street, and particularly passers by, and time “re-unfolds” itself when the visitor starts moving again, until it catches up with “real time” temporality once again.

You could therefore speak of a dematerialization insofar as the installation only makes use of time, the image being but a “witness” to the temporal variation. In this sense, the reference to Dan Graham is pertinent. However the device itself does not create desynchronization in a constant or invariable manner, it is rather provoked and modulated by the specatators’ behavior. What’s more, it is adjusted to their very movements, as if their bodies were gradually “sinking into time” the more they slowed down, like a spiral that simultaneously embraces the body, sight, and perception. The second aspect is found in the installation’s reversibility, which leads the visitors’ actions behind the window on the projected street image to also interact with the visual perception of passers by—the very same individuals who are caught in the image itself. As such, the whole process is not just about the visitor and the temporality of the image, but also the passer and therefore a triangular relationship. This tension between reality and artefact is one of the piece’s characteristics, linking up with other projects such as See you or the performance Closed Circuit from Outside lectures which works with television in real time.

Net theory

Jean Cristofol
About Outside Lectures, series of performances, 2009-2015

When I think about Outside lectures, the first image that comes to mind is a net. It’s not quite the idea of the network though, at least not in a first instance, however important this idea is here.  Before becoming a network, nets are merely an aggregation of things: a housewife’s webbed grocery bag gathered in a ball, or the fisherman’s fishing nets clumped in a heap on the jetty. An aggregation of things, though always retaining a particularly malleable quality, a shapeless density allowing the housewife’s net to fit in her pocket, or the fisherman’s in the rigging of his boat.

The props needed for Outside lectures fit in the trunk of a car. The form is light, literally. Nomadic, if you will. In any case, it’s transportable and adaptable, it’s meant to be performed from place to place, set-up and bumped out. These different elements are then spread out (deployés) in a display (déploiement) that changes from site to site, depending on each location’s conditions and circumstances. The first act of Outside lectures consists in casting the net, distributing its various constituent elements throughout a given space. Something akin to a shape is thus drawn, loosely traced around a center point in a circular motion. Some of the crowd takes to this webbed circle, they’re captured by it, caught up in it.

This description, however, is not entirely accurate. A first reason for this is that the circular form is, by definition, closed. It draws a line that folds back on itself and splits the world in two: inside and outside. As it happens, what spreads out is a never-ending movement that does not fold back on itself, for it calls forth differing scales and carries over onto discontinuous planes. And, as it happens, though a loop is made, it’s hardly circular—even if you are left with the distinct impression of a stage or a playing field, even if something does indeed take place, spread out, and resonate. For, as the name of the Lectures suggests, the distribution of inside and outside plays out differently. The movement inherent in the theatre design gives way to another movement, or runs into a kind of displacement that penetrates this design, transforms it, articulates it in another dimensional register.

The net is thus an assemblage, an apparatus articulating a variety of elements linked by this journey. This system is made up of a sequence of situations that hang together, insofar as it is said that a work of art seeks an equilibrium where it “holds” according to the principles of composition, in the musical meaning of the word. There’s something in installation work that gathers up a variety of elements through the interplay of their connections, whether a movement, a journey, or, indeed, a crossing. It’s both stationary and in motion; stationary like a house of cards, in motion like a breath or a dance step. Add to this the fact that the appliances gathered here, and through which each moment occurs, are so utterly banal and common that they’re part of our everyday lives: a television, a table and a microwave, a laptop, a cellular phone, etc., all laid out around a chunk of polystyrene placed on a sheet of plexiglass. It’s a sort of modest sculpture, a ready-made taken out of its packaging, a blank and empty architecture that the sounds produced by a microphone’s audio feedback come to explore, transforming it into a block of ice, an iceberg, the detached and fragile fragment of an ice shelf. As things ice over in this moment of sonic decomposition, the movement stops and turns around, form fissures, and language breaks down in a static-ridden avalanche. In the progression of sequences that make up Outside lectures’, only this moment sees the sonic loop become the closed circle of the stage, reduced to the kernel of its presence, to the here and now of the scene—and, yet again, you get the sense that its on the inside that things are unravelling.

Outside lectures starts at a set time, with a sequence of words akin to an absurd challenge: plainly recounting what happens on a television screen between the end of the early evening shows, often game shows, and the beginning of the 8pm newscast—in other words, this rapid sequence of non-events blending soundbytes, advertising, weather forecasts, announcements, jingles and the opening spiel from the news anchor relating the day’s main stories. The actress, Emmanuelle Lafon, sits in front of a television screen with headphones on. Watching a screen that we cannot see, she gradually describes what goes on, what is said, what is shown, and all of this in a continuous stream while obviously unable to say everything given the onslaught of images that our minds conjure up, bubbling on the very surface, in an uneven race between voice and mere speech act when faced with the dull enormity, steadily flickering and churning away. The actress sits at the very heart of the TV apparatus, at the crucial moment when the premier private French television station sees its highest viewer ratings. This banal explosion of empty signifiers in an instant shaping and structuring the daily lives of millions of homes is precisely what is hidden from view and re-presented through the performance’s blueprint: a body, present and opaque in its encounter with the screen—the brain in its encounter with the televised stream. This particular moment, both fascinating in itself and in its spoken rendition—in which we have to recognize (though some spectators cannot) that what’s at stake in this very moment is what really occurs on screen, what we in fact do not watch because we are here, listening to the actress, watching her expend her energy as we would empty our minds—in this way, this particular moment is not reproduced, imitated, figured, represented, but, in a certain sense, “over-produced.”

The screen weaves a temporal field before it describes a surface. Indeed, it is constituted by way of a dynamic relationship grounded in the inter-actions of thought and image. What happens in Emmanuelle Lafon’s spoken performance, in the striated tension of her delivery, in her efforts to articulate words that are always already wrapped up in other words, is that a temporal vacuum is created—a difference in speed that endlessly attempts to conceal itself. In actual fact, there is no movement, no shifting synchronic mass, but rather a constant back and forth between lapse and recovery. With speech front and center, thought becomes unravelled. The gap widens between hearing and seeing, the movements of mouth and words, and holding them together requires effort, the object of the performance being this effort’s very limits, beyond the rest of the “show” that is Outside lectures—if, indeed, show is the right word for this kind of piece. To my mind, this ever widening gap—repeatedly covered over, always shifted, renewed, multiplied—is what founds a general dynamic, spanned by clearly identifiable extremes (technological, political, mental) that entangle themselves in a composite experience that questions the everyday realities of the network and the place that subjects such as ourselves occupy within it. Folded back on itself, reduced to the grainy decomposition of a feedback loop, this same dynamic drifts in realtime with the sound performance Frost.

“The brain is unity. The brain is the screen. (…) Thought is molecular. Molecular speeds make up the slow beings that we are. (…) Cinema, precisely because it puts the image in motion, or rather endows the image with self-motion, never stops tracing the circuits of the brain.” Deleuze wrote this in the 1980s, finding it to be the basis for a philosophical disposition. “One naturally goes from philosophy to cinema, but also from cinema to philosophy.” Around the same time, Fredric Jameson noted however the paucity of video theory, especially regarding its dominant commercial form, television: “the blockage of fresh thinking before this solid little window against which we strike our heads being not unrelated to precisely that whole or total flow we observe through it.” The flow in question is an uninterrupted discharge. In a surprising moment of cynical clairvoyance during his time behind the reins of the aforementioned television station, Patrice Lelay blatantly stated that it was his mission to create the conditions of sale for “available brain time.”

Jameson contrasts this televised continuity with the cinema, or the theater, in which movement is constrained within the limits of the spectacle or the film. Cinema is, indeed, a temporal art; it aptly develops what Deleuze patently recognizes as a flow, but a flow that ends with the ending of the film’s very form, and thus its narrative construction: “Turning the television set off has little in common either with the intermission of a play or an opera or with the grand finale of a feature film, when the lights slowly come back on and memory begins its mysterious work. Indeed, if anything like critical distance is still possible in film, it is surely bound up with memory itself.” Through the dual effect of this ending and editing, the temporality of cinema is not the same as the continuity of everyday life. It’s an independent temporality, just like cinematic space is an autonomous space, with its own laws and rules. It’s a time to which we travel, a moment up in the air, a moment apart. In truth, cinematic fiction is established through the specificity of this space-time, much more so than through a given narrative invention. Jameson deduces from this that much like we should concern ourselves with memory, and our ability to create and store memory, so too we should question the fictional abilities of video, or its particular means of producing fiction, insofar as video’s temporality can no longer be distinguished for the continuity of passing time.

Television’s flow, however, is the product of a concatenation of consecutive elements that vary in nature—entertainment, games, movies, current affairs, advertising, etc. Homogenenous, unilateral and levelling, it cannot be equated with the digital flow generated from the multipolar distribution of ever changing information that ebbs and flows with the distributed participation of its users. It’s worth asking if Jameson’s point of view isn’t beholden to the “outside” that he finds himself in, beset by the flow spewing forth his television screen. Today, in any case, this “outside” has become an imaginary standpoint, an unreal space, not so much because we now live in a world without walls, rather because we now inhabit and think in networks, the objective forms of our globalized world. The same thing has happened to what we used to call cities. Town and country differed like two opposite realities and this opposition was spatially construed in the objective gap between the dense urban habitat and its ring of fields and forests. Long ago, cities lost their form and were separated into zones of varying density, thereby ramified, making up megacities that have, in turn, taken over chunks of countryside. The straightforward opposition between inside and outside or of here and elsewhere has but a relative significance in a networked world. This is why we can say that a world of networks no longer has an outside. Further still, the material city is compounded in the texture of information networks. The flow’s dimension and form have changed. With the process of generalized digitalization, video’s place has not been taken by one single sphere of communication, but by the spread of interconnected networks, coupled to reality through specific exchanges, multiple mechanisms that activate behaviors, modes of kinship and communication, as well as various power relations and strategies.

Often, the image that we have of a network is overly simplified: a flatted, two-dimension representation that struggles to rid itself of a center around which it could still attempt to organize itself, something halfway between a maze and a spider-web. We forget the networks call on networks and thus proliferate within diversified dimensions where relationships with time and space play out differently—which also goes for what we typically call the here and now of the present. In this multidimensional universe, it is less a matter of centers—singular or plural—than of knots which, though they act as filters, feed on the energy provided by the network itself. The flow is no longer the product of a particular point of creation and dissemination, but rather what constantly circulates, what certain extremes congeal and mingle together, what they attempt to commercialize, and, possibly, what they control.

We also have difficulty recognizing the fictional and political issues raised by the systems that activate these network dimensions. Outside lectures pertains to this context. One could say that each of the show’s sequences unfolds by activating a pattern, a situation or a relationship that plays on one of these modes. I use the word “activate” because it is as much about inventing a system specific to creating a particular experience as it is using existing, everyday devices in the service of a performative situation. The show’s very script makes use of devices not in and of themselves, rather in terms of what relationships to speech and to others they conjure, or even the simple fact of their presence and the diversity of their modalities—hence the loss overcome in their just “being there” and recognized as such.

All you need to do is spin the television around and it becomes a monitor showing an honest, almost intimate interview that’s halfway between charade and critical account of a foreigner’s administrative adventures in France. The actress turns into a lecturer and presents us with a speech emphatically drawing an analysis of a homeless man’s speech act: “I have nothing to eat.” Or perhaps a telephone call is made to an accomplice, describing the space she’s sitting in, moving in, letting us simultaneously though remotely experience her presence elsewhere, in a similar vein to radio reportage. In each instance, it’s a matter of language and words, the way in which meaning is produced and exchanged. In each instance, it’s a matter of how what is said can establish a space: speaking space, listening space, communication space. And, in each instance, a relationship is made beyond the silence and the solitude, a reaching-out to the other, a possible experience of self, an encounter with what might make up a scene or begin a story.

The only thing is, each time the sequences also produce a shift, they create a gap between discourse and speech, status, weight, the reality that’s involved and the manner that it crosses the present’s net. Indeed these successive systems even shake the present. They reveal its complexity, how it is crossed by another moment, how it is porous and run through by an elsewhere that is barely identifiable and potentially temporary. If the “out of screen” is decisive to the narrative potential of both photography and cinema, it’s no doubt this particular movement, the interim crossing of the present moment, that augments the narrative potential of networked devices.

The last sequence, Sentinel, shows us something so obvious you want to call it out, despite the slightly paradoxical, mysterious or opaque effect. It’s a video on a simple loop: a mongoose shakes, turns around, stands up completely straight, in an almost feeble standstill, falls back on its feet and jumps out of frame while another, the same one, comes into frame, shakes, stands up, over and over and over again. One leaves and becomes the other, and both of them are just one animal, turning, shaking, standing, watching, reaching for an elsewhere we cannot see. A simple loop, with a match cut that, like a scratched vinyl, points to the slightly pixellized presence of the image. A figure at once direct, immediate and perfectly abstract, like the circular nature of the loop that produces it, that establishes its freedom of movement, its perpetual starting over.

Outside Lecturessuggests a communications space where memories of a recording slot into the span of what’s told, read, played or fictionalized. Strands of thought unravel in a space that’s made up of condensed layers, gathered up on themselves, dragged onto the folded heap of a net of which we’re ever constant interested parties.

Jean Cristofol, 2009

Interview by DigitalArti Magazine #5, Feb. 2011

Four centuries separate “Richard II”, the five acts play by Shakespeare from “Seul Richard”, (Richard Alone) of Thierry Fournier’s stage production inspired by it. It is well known, the great human wonders at the heart of the English playwright’s work are timeless, but the “context” in which they are re-presented makes it possible to highlight other aspects, other angles… To find an echo within the quite autistic technological modernity of certain forms of “traditional” expressions…

This is the very purpose of Thierry Fournier’ work on body and sound, gesture and narration, movement and space, transfigured by audio-visual techniques and devices which enable to establish new groundbreaking principles.


“Seul Richard” is a “work in progress”. Can you describe the stages which marked the development of this theatre production, since his beginning in 2006 up to its present form?

Last November, half of the show (45’ out of a total of 1:30) was presented at the Chartreuse theatre, following two consecutive residences. The process took place in three steps: a first sketch in 2006-2007, the adaptation and making of a film in 2008-2009, and rehearsals in 2010, with Emmanuelle Lafon, Juliette Fontaine and Jean-FranÁois Robardet. “Work in progress” means that we are currently looking for the last co-producer who will be able to host the project’s presentation. This is a common practice, today, for companies to complete whole stages of the work while still seeking partners.

For numerous reasons, our work on this project has thus been ongoing for five years. It was led at the same time as the ConfÈrences du dehors series of performances (which I directed), and RÈanimation, produced with Samuel Bianchini and Sylvain Prunenec – both in 2008. His research on the links between dramaturgy, cinema and interactive devices were conducted at the ?cole Nationale SupÈrieure d’Art in Nancy as part of Electroshop, the research and creation workshop – whose students also act in the film. Lastly, he directed Richard II translated by François-Victor Hugo, with a solo actress, an interactive device, a film with amateurs and musicians. The project does not evidently match the skills usually found in live performance networks. Its production thus requires more time than the average play and the possibility to show the work in progress.

Which “progress” and other developments can you imagine?

The form we reached by the end of November really is the one I wish to implement. Today we need to work on the light and on playing on a stage (until now we were in the rehearsal studio). We are starting collaborations with this in mind.

Why have precisely chosen Shakespeare (“Richard II”) for this type of “multi-media” production which mixes video, narration and interaction…?

It is rather the opposite, this is the core of the project. I was actualy attracted by this play for what it tells of the practice and loss of power. The text was presented to me by BenoÓt RÈsillot, an actor with whom the very first stages of the project were worked out. I then devised a proposal bringing into play this remoteness and this relation of control and loss of control, between a man and the outside world. Indeed an interactive device is initially and above all an instrument of control, in a relationship which is always exerted in a reciprocal way: one plays and one is being played, one controls and one is being controlled, by a console or by Facebook all the same.

In Seul Richard, these devices are accepted as such, forming an integral part of the logic of the character. To sum up, Richard II depicts the trajectory of a monarch convinced he can escape the laws of reality thanks to his divine nature. Faced with events he does not comprehend, his permanent questioning about himself and what he represents lead him to dismissal, prison and death. I chose to stage this relationship between Richard and the outside world by working with a film, which is manipulated and re-enacted by the character. The actress carries out control operations, but also is in command of distance or absorption in the picture, clarification, blur, etc One cannot tell whether the image is outside her or if it results from her own thought.
This relation is reinforced by the fact that the film is shot using Steadicam and point of view: the “gesture” of the camera is constantly reproduced by the actress on stage. Besides, I chose to work mainly with non-professional actors. The fragility of their presence on the picture is opposed to the apparent oratorical skills of Richard, at the same time as it challenges and contaminates it. The stage projection consists of several video events sometimes projected simultaneously, at different scales, which allow a large number of configurations between the public, the performers and the image. It is seen that the choices are not only made for digital devices, but also for writing logics applied to the film, the stage design, the actors’ direction, etc.

Could other “classical” plays or playwright also have been suited to this “play”?

Yes, of course. It is one of the major and constant challenges for theatre to be able to reinterpret traditional texts with new methods of performance. It is not because these methods imply digital devices that they are cut off from their heritage: History is ongoing, this is still stage production.

Conversely, would you like to resort to more contemporary authors like Beckett or Ionesco with such a stage design?

Yes and for the same reasons – except that these figures rather belong to the last century. All the co-authors of Conférences du dehors are contemporary ones (David Beytelmann, Juliette Fontaine, NoÎlle Renaude, Jean-FranÁois Robardet, Esther Salmona). I would also like to work with authors like Sonia Chiambretto, Philippe Malone, Eli Commins, who have a real knowledge of contemporary social and political issues and who sometimes develop their non-literary writing style from various networks. It was already the case with ConfÈrences du dehors which used texts from real time television, landscape reading… To answer your question in a broader sense, I think one should be careful not to confuse writing and stage production.

Writing is always contextual, therefore we can easily be attracted to texts in which we find our codes. Sadly, this is the current practice amongst producers. But it is precisely the job of a director to update issues, to make us hear what, in a text from 2011 or 1170, can be revealed as a permanent and trigger an essential question.

Your previous performances (“Vers Agrippine, Reanimation, Core”) also used images, glances, gestures, redefined spaces… Can you clarify the ongoing guiding principles in your artistic work?

I’d like to add Conférences du dehors, for the reasons I mentioned before. It is interesting you should refer to Core or Vers Agrippine (but also Frost) which are solo performances. Because one of the principles in my work is definitely to stage the body, almost in the sense evoked by Foucault: a traversed body, disseminated by the forces which connect it to the world, sometimes in conflict, exposed through situations and devices. I understood afterwards this had been leading me from music to architecture, then to my current artistic practice.

Which artistic devices or techniques, would you like to use or explore in the future?

I am increasingly interested in the relationships of domination at work and the transformation of nature. These two themes are widely displayed through globalization. Right now, I am also tackling questions about the genre which has been running through my work for a long time, in an underlying way. Lastly, I am getting closer again to sculpture and architecture, which started to appear in works like Frost, A+ or Point d’orgue.

Finally, apart from “Seul Richard”, are you currently working on other projects?

I am working on Hotspot, an installation made with the Electroshop workshop, which will be presented in April at the Contexts space, in Paris. Still in the Nancy area, the Cohabitation group show (which I co-curated with Jean-François Robardet) will be presented at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nancy from February 5th to February 25th. From February 27th to March 4th, Entrelacs by the choreographer Lionel Hoche, whose interactive video work I designed, will be performed at the CND in Pantin. Then the Futur en Seine festival in June, in Paris with a new installation, Augmented window, whose permanent version will be created afterwards in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

Interview by Laurent Diouf