Martin John Callanan: Data Soliloquies

Essay written for Martin John Callanan‘s solo exhibition Data Soliloquies at Argentea Gallery, Birmingham, May 2017

In his short story “The Library of Babel”, published in 1944, the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges imagines the whole of human culture brought together in a labyrinthine library. The books it contains represent the obsessive organisation of all conceivable human thought, in every language and from its beginnings. The concept harks back to the idea that knowledge could ultimately be grasped in its entirety, leading to mastery and omnipotence.

The work of Martin John Callanan (Birmingham, 1982) inevitably recalls this literary allusion, but it is immediately clear that it illustrates the way in which our relationship with technology has exactly reversed the terms of its argument. In contrast to Borges, who imagined that all knowledge could be made visible in one place, Callanan acknowledges that today we live in a decentralised information network that irrevocably determines the way we live. When he describes himself as “an artist researching an individual’s place within systems”, the “place” he refers to does not describe an aesthetic relationship in the traditional sense, in which the observer is dissociated from the things observed; it assumes that we are inextricably connected with them.

The exhibition Data Soliloquies establishes a relationship between three works that are clearly complementary in this way. The sculpture “A Planetary Order” features a 3D scale model of the earth, on which a series of satellite data is combined to show the exact state of the Earth’s cloud cover on a given date. It stands on the floor, making it seem vulnerable, and demonstrates that a phenomenon that is so transitory, while at the same time represented by “hard” data, is fundamentally impossible to grasp, and always beyond complete human perception: technology has not overridden what is incommensurable. The printed series “Text Trends” is a statistical comparison of Google searches for pairs of words, from 2004 to the present. The self-referential nature of the relationships between the chosen words (winter/summer, buy/sell, etc.) and the fierce humour that emerges from them, reflect the expectations embodied in these statistics: they represent actual searches of users. Something that might be taken as a single measurement reveals itself to be also an oracle, whose performativity determines our behaviour. Lastly, “The Fundamental Units” is a series of images each of which shows the smallest value coin used in various national currencies, photographed using a 3D optical microscope at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, UK. These images are then expanded and printed in extra-large formats, so that they show the all traces of the handling they have undergone, and thus the paradoxical physicality of money, whose exchange is now entirely dematerialised.

Despite their power and clear visual precision, these objects sometimes appear cold, as if placed at a distance: the white earth, statistics, coins. They are the product of a conceptual, minimalist approach that emphasises protocol. In addition, they contain no trace of the artist: unlike other recent conceptual works which compare human physicality with repetitive systems, as in the case of Roman Opalka or On Kawara, Martin John Callanan does not introduce his own actions into his work, or only very rarely. Moreover and strictly speaking, it hardly matters if we know the positions of the clouds on a given date, the development of Google searches or the way in which the coins in our pockets have aged: in themselves these facts and these objects include nothing that would give them the status of an artwork . In that case, where do we get the feeling that these works speak so profoundly about ourselves?

It is at once clear that what these artworks have in common is that they talk about value, and its direct connection with the way generalised quantification has become the dominant paradigm and the universal criterion for representing and evaluating human affairs. Callanan also addresses the idea of value from a very specific point of view, namely an almost deliberate focus on representing totalities. An overview of his work reveals the consistency of that approach, seen even in their titles: every flight departure, every internet search, every war waged during the artist’s lifetime, all his commands when I using a software, every telephone number, the number of people who have ever lived, the number of days of his life, every newspaper headline, every cloud present above the earth at a given moment, to see the whole of London, and so on. This approach may seem simplistic but it selects precisely those phenomena to which our sensory experience never gives us complete access. Given that the world of data is characterised by the very fact that the global calculations performed by systems are beyond human perception, can artworks reverse that relationship?

We then see that each of these artworks takes a specific physical form, which reflects a profound knowledge of coding, networks and computing, applied to a wide range of forms: sculptures, prints, artists’ books, objects or performances. Using this vocabulary, Callanan offers a parallel set of “ aiming devices” that connect the various totalities in order to show more clearly that we can never have complete control over them: having departure times appear briefly on a screen or a town crier proclaim the dates of wars; printing the clouds on a 3D sculpture that cannot be seen as a whole; demonstrating the performative nature of statistics and opinion polls and the physicality of money, or creating a publication that cannot be read due to its enormous scale. Each of these situations creates a paradox: they open up a divide between, on the one hand, the promise of omniscience and a totalising vision, and on the other, its impossibility, due to the inevitably fugitive and local nature of human perception. It is in this gap, this falling-short, that the agency of Callanan’s works resides.

In this way, by creating a very specific relationship between these successive stages –value, totality, promise and falling-short – Callanan reveals what we expect from these representations. It is a question not so much of value itself, than the desire for value; less one of totality than the dream of totality, less one of control than of what eludes it. All of these issues bring us back to the human condition, its desires and its limitations. This is where we find the poetic but also the profoundly critical aspects of a body of work that brings us face to face with the multiple manifestations of the infinite, only to assert our inability to embrace it. The work also emphasises the radically futile nature of all approaches that place an excessive emphasis on technology. What differentiates us from the “systems” invoked by the artist is that we also find meaning in things we do not understand.

This brings to mind the writer and critic John Berger, who showed that one of the specific characteristics of art is not to represent things in themselves but to identify the way we see them, enabling us to interrogate the ways in which that experience is formed and determined, including politically. At a time when many projects facing the issues raised by digital cultures fall into the trap of the figuration (of data, artificial intelligence, surveillance and so on), Martin John Callanan assumes the vain character of such an approach and positions himself at a point where his research leads us to a vertigo. With his characteristic modesty, with his works, their “data soliloquies” and the way they suggest that we would never seize them, he illuminates the specificity of the human’s condition vis-à-vis the immensity of the world.

Thierry Fournier
Aubervilliers, April 2017

Thierry Fournier is a French artist and curator. He also co-directs the curatorial research group Ensad Lab Displays. He lives and works in Aubervilliers.

Translation Imogen Forster

Données à voir / Data on view: Introduction

Thierry Fournier, artist and curator

Introductory text to the group show Données à voir (Data on view), La Terrasse, espace d’art de Nanterre, France, October 7th – December 23th 2016, Curated by Sandrine Moreau and Thierry Fournier. Text translated by Clémence Homer. Photograph : Martin John Callanan, A Planetary Order, sculpture, 2009.


As the concept of data has become ubiquitous and seems inseparable from the contemporary era and from the Internet, a broader look back on recent history reveals works of art that were already challenging that very notion several decades ago. Yet between these artists from the seventies and the contemporary works that address the issue of data, two points in common appear: a critical approach, which highlights systems of relations, of representations, and of power; and the use of drawings and of code (sometimes simultaneously) to visualize these systems, transpose them and question their stakes. This exhibited data raises multiple queries, both individual and collective. What is our place in these systems? How can artists discuss it? What do we expect from data? How does our freedom unfold in this context?

A long history

Our culture is referred to as post-digital, not to suggest that the Internet is behind us, but rather that it is now ubiquitous, pervading contemporary society’s practices and apparatuses. The Internet is no longer separate from the everyday world, nor is it in any way virtual – rather, it is well rooted in reality, through its infrastructures, its energy consumption and its globalized labor force, but also because of the way in which it follows, fuels and records our own activities. Our relationship to the network has, in a certain way, taken on the part that electrification played in the 19th century. Data is the “current” that runs through its veins: simultaneously flow and measure, it qualifies and conditions this relationship’s intensities, as the mark and the mirror of our behaviors.


John Snow, clusters of cholera cases in London, 1854

The use of data, however, is grounded in a long-standing history of the measurement of collective phenomena and of exchanges, which began as early as the period of industrialization. As new media theorist Lev Manovitch reminds us, most of the basic data visualization techniques used today were invented at the end of the 18th century – and have actually remained unchanged despite technological revolutions. As an example, after several experiences on collective data, British doctor John Snow invented data visualization back in 1850, when he mapped cases of cholera in London, thereby demonstrating the correlation between the spread of the disease and contaminated water points: one of the first cases of public data mapping was born.

Quantification and surveillance

Therefore, from the very first instances of its use, by revealing a representation that individual perception cannot fully grasp, data is not merely a tool to interpret and transform reality, but it is also an instrument of power. Having become the dominant material of a networked world, its potential for collective action comes with a dynamic of ever-expanding capture: recording and trading personal information; polling and surveying; movement tracking, relationship-, opinion- and preference-mapping, deep-learning and artificial intelligence fed by users, browser histories, recommendation algorithms, enclosure of the web by Google and Facebook, etc.

This generalized quantification, and the surveillance that goes with it, is designed and generated by political and industrial powers. It is fueled by individuals themselves, eager to increase their visibility on the network and exploit it intensely – even if it means quantifying themselves: smart objects, sleep and health trackers, fitness, self-evaluation and the quantified self are replaying expectations of religious redemption. The type of control exerted over individuals that churches and totalitarian societies once dreamed of is now effortlessly obtained, thanks to the miracles of narcissism, the quest for comfort and the fear of missing out. Prophets of the “web’s technological revolution” had not anticipated how the network would channel people’s energies into a hyper centralized system of information, tightly controlled and designed to benefit a small group of businesses and their owners. The stakes involved in decoding, in citizenship appropriation of data, and the “watching the watchers” are becoming increasingly crucial as this situation evolves; they also overlap with the critical approaches frequently taken by artists. For this reason, it was only logical that the exhibition Data on view should present, alongside the works, a series of films and sites that deal with these issues.

The trace and the diagram


Hans Haacke, Shapolsky et al, Manhattan Real Estate Holding, 1971

The representation of data, of relationships and of power by artists first took off with the protest movements of the sixties, when the emergence of conceptual art coincided with the political engagement of artists. It was in 1971 that Hans Haacke’s solo exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was canceled, because one of his series of photographs and texts (Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings – a Real Time Social System, 1971) listed the names of all of the real-estate owners in Manhattan and revealed that one of the members of the board of the museum, and one of its main patrons, was among the property owners who were accused of being involved in a real-estate corruption scandal. It is this very approach that the drawings of Öyvind Fahlström and Mark Lombardi perpetuate – since well before the advent of the Internet: eminently political world maps, in a process that we will encounter later on in the diagrams created by Ashley Hunt and the collective Bureau d’études.

The concepts of the trace and the diagram are thus central to the Données à voir / Data on view project, as tools for visualization, projection and critique. The term “trace” is taken here in its double meaning, as the footprint that humans leave in data systems, and as the representation that artists make of it. Accordingly, drawing and code (computer programming) play a complementary role: by suspending flows that are usually invisible, they decode them, transpose them, open their black box and question their motives. Not only in the political realm, but also to demonstrate how individuals, with their desires, their imagination and their utopias, are caught up in these force fields.

Broadly speaking, most of the exhibited pieces reveal what Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari called “diagrammatic thought”: these works by no means limit themselves to recounting hitherto unformulated structures – rather, they make those very structures come into view. They precede and trigger thought, even before the existence of the drawings. In Foucault, Gilles Deleuze stated that a diagram “never functions to represent a persisting world but produces a new type of reality, a new model of truth. The diagram is not the subject of History, it is above History. It makes History by unmaking previous realities and significations (…). It doubles History with a a sense of continual evolution” (translated by Sean Hand, 2006). As Ashley Hunt himself explains, “I understand these maps as diagrams that might make discourse and action possible” (interview with Natascha Sadr Haghighian, 2008). It is in the creation of this history and of these evolutions that the exhibition is interested: the exhibition Données à voir / Data on view questions data visualization and the modeling of reality that it produces. It asks us what it is that we expect from data visualization and modeling, and how this data constitutes a representation of ourselves, individually and collectively.

The exhibition

When Sandrine Moreau suggested that I join her team to curate this exhibition, she had already laid the groundwork for it, by suggesting the works of Mark Lombardi, Öyvind Fahlström and Ward Shelley. It is this foothold in drawing and in a history that predates the Internet, as well as the two first artists’ strong political commitment, that gave rise to this project’s specific approach towards the relationship that artists have to data – in a way that is quite different from recent exhibitions devoted to these questions in Europe, such as Big Bang Data or Data Deluge. Here, a singular dialogue between drawing and code goes hand in hand with a political inquiry rooted in a historical perspective. This approach informed the choice of works and publications, as well as the selection of films and web sites presented in the documentation area, designed by Agora (Maison des initiatives citoyennes de Nanterre) and artist Benoît Ferchaud, who created an editorial interface.

Données à voir / Data on view brings these works together in one extensive landscape that implies a dialogue and a flow between the drawings – hung around the room – and the installations, publications, films and sites, placed in the centre of the space, on very low standing display units, thereby inviting visitors to pause and have a seat in order to experience the longer time-frames of the videos, networked pieces and web sites.

Two installations (Cracking Data Machine by Ali Tnani and Lukas Truniger, and A Planetary Order by Martin John Callanan), three screen-based works (Data Trails by Ali Tnani, Tracking Transience by Hasan Elahi, and Atlas du Temps Présent by Claire Malrieux), and a series of publications are set up in the exhibition space. The same unit, featuring a low stand, a screen and low seating close to the ground, was designed for the publications. This set-up encourages visitors to connect with the works, and promotes movement between each of these forms, precisely to experience the continuity that links the drawings, the code, the installations and the films, to the same issues.

Four thematic threads are interwoven in the exhibition: two run through just the drawings that are displayed at the edges of the room, and two others pervade the drawings, the installations and one performance.

Networks and power

One dimension that the drawings first put forward is the critical representation of patterns of power relations. Through his “heuristic drawings”, Mark Lombardi reveals the financial networks of a lawyer and those of the president of an American bank convicted of embezzling public funds (George Franconero, Bank of Bloomfield, State Bank of Chatham), as well as the connections between a state bank (Indian Springs State Bank), the mafia and Irangate funding – an operation directed by the Reagan administration, which involved the sale of weapons to Iran to fund the Contra counter revolution forces in Nicaragua. Öyvind Fahlström’s World Map and Column series of drawings, described by the artist as “world maps”, seeks to highlight the power relations that govern the world, and in particular the different components of American imperialism. In his drawing À la Recherche du miracle économique, Julien Prévieux takes excerpts from Karl Marx’s Capital and quotes from British economists, to which he applies the Bible Code, a secular encryption system said to reveal the hidden meaning behind texts – but in this case, the key words portend only catastrophes, crises and scandals. Finally, by showing all of the protagonists involved in the prison industrial complex, Ashley Hunt’s Prison Map drawings shows how the penitentiary system’s desire for growth sustains itself.

Collective processes

Another series of drawings represents collective processes – including those that operate in the art center itself – as does the work of Philippe Mairesse, who, basing himself on interviews and documents, recounts in one of his posters how the activities of the visual arts sector evolved in the city of Nanterre between 2013 and 2014. As for Marie-Pierre Duquoc, she explores the different types of dialogues and appearances of art that occur in various contexts and locations. Each project is part of an experience that she exposes through performed narratives and exhibitions of her drawings, diagrams or flow charts. American artist Ward Shelley deals in his own terms with History, and attempts to understand the world, by organizing a mass of interdependent facts on very large posters, in order to evidence the relationships that bind these pieces of information: the big, colorful diagrams Addendum to Alfred Barr, History of Science-Fiction and Leading Men respectively describe the history of art, the history of science-fiction and the hierarchy of male roles in cinema.

Capture and proliferation

Three of the pieces featured in the exhibition deal with the process of the proliferation of web-specific data, by questioning the power stakes behind it. Such is the case of Martin John Callanan, who challenges types of data visualization and asks what place the individual could carve out for himself in these representations. In Text Trends, pairs of words are compared in Google with the sole purpose of highlighting the user expectations that dictate the fluctuation of their value. The sculpture A Planetary Order shows a still image of clouds above the Earth at a given moment, a mass of data that reduces the planet to its own representation. Tracked by the CIA after September 11th, American artist Hasan Elahi created Tracking Transience, a site on which he posts on a daily basis photographs of every single one of his activities (dining on pizza, visiting restrooms, transiting through airports, waiting at bus stops…) in what amounts to a case study of obfuscation: overwhelming surveillance by saturating it with data.

Drawings and utopias

Through operations that involve the visualization and the transformation of elements extracted or collected from the Internet, other artists address the issue of utopias and of our expectations with regards to data. Since 2014, Claire Malrieux has been working on the series Atlas du Temps Présent (Atlas of the Present Time), by producing a daily drawing from code and scientific data, challenging a possible representation of the present moment. The series is presented here in the form of a video, created by the artist, that shows all the drawings created in the past year. Finding their inspiration in mathematician Grégori Grabovoï’s algorithms, the generative drawings Economie Vibratoire imagine a performative illustration that could utopically influence reality. Ali Tnani extracts data from the network to create, through installations or drawings, “counter-spaces”, which are both visual and political: the installation Data Trails question the transformation that a news story from Tunisia undergoes before becoming a political myth; the installation Cracking Data Machine created with Lukas Truniger transforms data from the network into sound vibrations; through the disappearance of the drawing, the series Blancs Documentaires (Documentary Whites) suggests the fragility of collective movements.

In parallel to the exhibition, by performing a fake Ted-like conference that deals with the compulsive quantification of happiness, French artist Magali Desbazeille brings together a plethora of statistics that measure feelings of well-being, in order to ironically question their meaning and their function.

Finally, and as for myself, having also been invited by Sandrine Moreau to show a piece, but wanting to make space for the artists that we were exhibiting, I chose to use the space of the center’s bay window, which opens out onto the Place Nelson Mandela, with the in situ installation La Promesse that refers to the utopian expectations of control through data about oneself, and about the world.

Artists’ books and films

Several artists’ books are presented in the exhibition – either in order to mention series that would otherwise have been difficult to exhibit in this particular context, or because the artists themselves chose to work with that particular format. In his book Where the F*** was I?, James Bridle published a dizzying series of aerial photographs resulting from (often incorrect) geo-locations produced by his smartphone; Bureau d’études’ (Léonore Bonaccini and Xavier Fourt) An Atlas of Agendas gathers maps of networks of power built at an international level to ensure control over the definition of the planet’s future; Martin John Callanan’s essay Data Soliloquies highlights the ambivalent and dramatized character of data representations; originally created by Eli Commins on the application Whatsapp and exhibited here on a tablet, the Seelonce Feenee project develops a narrative from the traces generated by stakeholders of the aviation community; a publication dedicated to On Kawara’s famous Date Paintings underscores the gesture repeating the same data every day – the date; in the artist’s book My Google Search History, Albertine Meunier ironically reveals the unintentional and frightening portrait that the history of her searches draws of her; The Outage by Erica Scourti is a ghostwritten memoir based on her digital footprint. Finally, and in a nod to History, he exhibition features Jacopo da Pontormo’s Journal: every day, in 1556, the portraitist recorded his meals, which he believed influenced his painting, thereby offering an extremely early form of the quantified self.

The concept behind the exhibition is completed by a series of films, in which documentaries address the violence of the political stakes brought up by activists, or reflected in socio-political situations: Mark Boulos (All that is Solid Melts into Air), Brian Knappenberger (We are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists), Laura Poitras (Citizen Four dedicated to Edward Snowden), Sandy Smolan (The Human Face of Big Data) et the portrait of Mark Lombardi by Marieke Wegener (Kunst und Konspiration).

Freedoms of perspective

Through the historical relationships that it explores, and through the permanent connection that it highlights between very different mediums, the exhibition seeks to address our relationship to data by means of a transversal approach, in the hopes of demonstrating that it is not in any way limited to a “digital” field, but rather, that it concerns the whole of art and society. The works, on the other hand, do not demonstrate anything: each one finds its freedom in a proposition that can be poetic or critical. They also invite a freedom of perspective and of interpretation.

Special thanks to the artists for their trust, their presence and their seamless collaboration; to Sandrine Moreau and her entire team for her invitation, her generosity and her complete confidence in the elaboration of this project, which managed to open between us – despite the rather short time frame we had – a true meeting space, where we were able to debate and research.

Paris, September 4th 2016

The Promise

installation, 2016

Series of prints (2016)
Installation version: print on canvas, modulated lights, 1500 x 370 x 250 cm

By displaying typical messages of advertising and the web in a static form, The Promise highlights expectations of control on the self and the world, and the suspension of the attention that results. Here, the installation displays three giant texts in three windows, lit by pulsations, their large scale addressing pedestrians and traffic.

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Installation created within the group show Data on View

Closed Circuit / Thierry Fournier

Thierry Fournier
Text about the Closed Circuit performance.

First of the seven performances that make up Outside Lectures, Closed Circuit suggests a spatial configuration and a specific relationship with the audience right from the outset. Audience members are invited to sit down in a somewhat circular arrangement, adjusted each time to the location. As with all of Outside Lecture‘s set-ups, Closed Circuit‘s very medium—the television set—is in plain sight. Set to TF1, it is on when spectators enter the room, and positioned such that they can only see the image when they enter the space, its back facing them when seated. An empty chair stands in front of the TV set. The sound is turned up; it’s 7.45pm. The audience waits a good five minutes, facing a television set that pumps out the usual pre-prime-time shows at an almost unbearable volume: artless miniseries, advertisements, like in a bar when it’s football time or in a retirement home’s common quarters. At 7.50pm, the performer quickly enters the room and sits facing the TV, followed by its guard cum technician who plugs a pair of headphones into the TV set and puts them over the performer’s ears. From this moment on, the only thing the audience will hear or see is the performer and their voice, deprived of both the station’s sound and image.

The performance lasts roughly 12 minutes, enough time to cover ads, the weather, ads again, and then the intro sequence to the 8pm TV news bulletin and presentation of the first item. During this time and in a continuous manner, the performer must repeat everything they hear and describe absolutely everything they see. The task is, of course, physically impossible given the audio and visual information’s density, ubiquity and simultaneousness. A simple protocol has been established, which in short means giving priority to the visual: don’t miss a single spoken message, describe visuals as soon as the voice cuts off, even if its only momentary; break off speaking as soon as a new shot appears to describe it, even if the previous description has not finished. It’s worth remarking that in this context and with this protocol, even the performer cannot hear what she’s saying, having been reduced to a mere reflex mechanism linking cognition and description. Perception’s central apparatus kicks in after this, to establish a spontaneous hierarchy of the most striking visual and audio elements. Via their description, it produces a kind of “perceptual summary” of this extremely dense and chaotic moment in the televised day: a constant semantic grinding, yet one from which ever-comprehensible voices, subjects and images curiously emerge. What’s more, talking with headphones on, the performer tends to scream rather than speak and thus becomes a sort of living loud-speaker, availing the public of the continuous chaos of stimuli that she ingurgitates, becoming the human relay for content that is always imposed from without. After a twelve-minute sprint, at roughly 8.03pm, the guard cum technician who had remained at his post on the chair during the performance, gets up and quickly makes his way towards the performer, breaking the exercise off abruptly with the press of a button on the TV remote. The flow ceases, the headphones are put away; the performer rests for a moment before going onto the next performance.

A form of “writing” is thus constructed on the fly, in real time, from the television’s raw content, in the absurd haste of live broadcasting, ousted with extreme violence onto the TV viewer. In turn, the mental and physical tension needed for this exercise produces a relatively accurate portrayal of the television vacuuming the performer’s “available intellect” (cerveau disponible—see note). The exercise could also be described as the converse application of Jean-Luc Godard’s adage (“The only thing to be done with the TV news bulletin is to play it twice”). By reducing the performer to a sort of funnel, shouldering all voices and images alone, the set-up also suggests that this general flow could be the product of one voice or in the least of one thought; as if the television itself was an author and therefore that the question of who is speaking could—and should—be raised.

(1) Who could forget the following statement from a 2004 interview of Patrick Le Lay, then managing director of TF1: “There are many ways to talk about television. But from a business perspective let’s be realistic: at bottom, TF1’s business is to help Coca-Cola, for instance, sell its products. […] For an advertiser’s message to get through, TV viewers’ brains need to be available. The purpose of our shows is to make these brains available, in other words to entertain them, relax them to prepare them in between two messages. What we sell to Coca-Cola is available human brain time.” Translated from Les dirigeants face au changement, Éditions du Huitième jour, 2004.

Thierry Fournier – Outside Lectures

Outside lectures is a series of seven performances for general installation, each of them deals with the notion of “outside” from different angles. The concept is broad, and I have often listened to proposed alternatives for a more concrete qualification, yet I am attached to this vacancy, this openness. I am also attached to the fact that it is by experiencing them that these seven performances that with very different situations (be they political, intimate, collective, fictional or media-related) outline a landscape, an idea, a proposal.

The relationship between inside and outside, the notion of access (to wealth, to borders, to representation, to work, to speech) cuts across all contemporary situations; it concerns both the political and the intimate. Generalized economic liberalism no longer allows anyone to live outside of its logic. The only remaining possibility is measured involvement from States and individuals—resistance, according to some. This system is increasingly grounded in the notion of access which has gradually replaced the concept of property as a divisive issue. “The logic of access is now considered to be the door that opens onto progress and personal accomplishment. It represents to today’s generations what represented to those before them.” The  direct consequence of this “world without outside,” paradoxically, is that the very notion of an outside has become all encompassing and fractal, which is to say constant on all scales. It simultaneously refers to relationships between individuals and their surroundings, their history and society; to fictions, myths and fantasies disseminated by the collective imaginary; to state political matters: globalization, policy and debates around immigration, the hang-ups and consequences of colonialism, etc. I have chosen to address this question with a deliberately limited proposal that, forgoing the question’s scope, allows us to seize upon its tendency to multiply and cross through a variety of fields: political, fictional and intimate.

All of these performances develop a relationship with the outside, spreading it out by way of a specific apparatus and form of writing. If they were stories, they would call on different voices: some would try to come inside, others would defend or test borders, would describe it from without, and others still would defend a territory or would have recently disappeared… The whole thing is carried by the same performer, Emmanuelle Lafon, an actress who agreed to go along with a project exploring the limits of visual arts, performance and theater.

The apparatus is minimal and mobile: television, conference table, amplifier, laptop, polystyrene… Given the lightness of this system each of the performances can be independently worked on, developed and presented—I’ll come back to this in reference to repetition and representation.

One of the aims of Lectures was also to take over spaces whose quality and location also questioned the concept of “outside” : public places, schools, exteriors, residual theater spaces, apartments, … Each of these spaces is called upon in its ability to become a space of temporary representation. The performance’s form is thus defined at the last moment, according to the host space: quickly taking into account a given location’s characteristics, the system’s flexibility means it can be set up mere hours before the show takes place.

The performer negotiates the part of lecturer or mediator as well as actor, testing these changing roles: distance, immersion, interpretation, lecture, commentary. The spectators share the same space. The “outside” regularly intervenes: through television, sound, and the set-up itself.

Lectures is grounded in a curatorial principle. With the exception of one episode working with the flow of televized data in real-time, each episode calls on an artist or author who I have invited to participate in the writing process. The current list of sequences is a starting point, which is up for revision as these collaborations progress. No order is set, and all titles are provisional. In collaboration with the creative development team, the location (or locations) that host the performances could thus alter the project’s two operating levels: the choice and number of sequences that will be worked on and/or presented, and the performance site (or sites); a single space, or a journey, whether interior or exterior.

This project is part of a process of inquiry into the possible connections between art projects and live performance, particularly concerning the changes in the performer and public’s respective roles: spectator involvement, interactive systems, procedural writing. Lectures calls on codes from the visual arts and theater (narratives, systems, actors, performance time and place), et questions them in relation to the “outside”: varied source materials, heterogeneous empowerment, non-stage spaces, spectator involvement.

[1] Jeremy Rifkin, The Age of Access, The New Culture of Hypercapitalism, Where all of Life is a Paid-For Experience, Tarcher, 2001

Franck Bauchard – Outside Lectures

To develop library awareness of the recent inquiries of the Centre National des Ecritures du Spectacle (National Center for Stage and Theater Writing), to give an idea of what a stage at the forefront of today’s arts and technologies would be to territories directly concerned by the transformation of writing and reading. Such were our objectives when programming Outside lectures in the Gard and Vaucluse departments.

With a practice at the intersection of the visual arts, sound production and theater, and in collaboration with different artists, Thierry Fournier explores the question of writing in an unusual way for theater: with Outside lectures he offers a writing of the arrangement via materials taken from our political, technological and media surroundings. A light and mobile form that was developed to go right up to its audience, flexible and adaptable to all sorts of spaces found in libraries, and likely to provoke discussions and debates.

With the use of composite and ordinary materials—from television to cellular telephony, ministerial circulars to mongeese—so often expunged from the theater stage and through the role and presence of Emmanuelle Lafon, Outside lectures hooks up various recording devices to fragments of reality within one common space. The performances’ unity is woven from a common thread of inquiry: the question of access, or more precisely a range of scenarios dealing with “crossing” that demarcate inside and outside.

The only way to account for our technology environment, which has substituted nature for all intents and purposes, is to select fragments, juxtapose them, and have them commentate one another. The materials exist as such, yet are caught up in a new composition that both includes and surpasses them; they resonate and create new constellations of meaning. Outside lectures functions as follows: it is a non-linear, caustic, and sometimes abrupt account of the world through either live or pre-recorded devices, each conceived of to undermine political, technological or media-related levels of reality all rendered inconspicuous through daily usage. A reality of exclusion, surveillance and enclosure hides beneath the promise of access for all.

This art of writing for the stage requires its own reading modalities. Otherwise put: this creative process produces a new relationship between work and spectator. It is difficult to apprehend according to habitual judgement criteria, which, incidentally, it generally ignores or puts into perspective. It is presented as a crossing, a sensitive, poetic and cognitive experience that requires the spectator to make their way by free association between the proposed materials. On this particular level, Outside lectures sometimes intrigued spectators, even upsetting them. Yet it also created some magical moments where you felt a sort of public consciousness was gradually forming, an almost tangible clustering of questions, curiosities and perceptions on site.

When I think of Outside lectures, I think of a vigil around a fireplace that would both warm us up and enlighten us: a small assembly of spectators giving themselves over to the collective understanding of a world that was only more opaque for trying to become visible, where each and everyone’s participation was tested in the search for shared meaning.

I wish here to thank all of this adventure’s protagonists: first of all, the librarians who played this game with such enthusiasm, the Gard and Vaucluse departments who made it possible, and of course Thierry Fournier and Emmanuelle Lafon who crossed both departments recreating a space in each library where Outside lectures could be heard.

Franck Bauchard
Assistant-Director of la Chartreuse
Director of Centre National des Ecritures du Spectacle
January 2009

David Beytelmann – Foreign Office

David Beytelmann

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See also the performance page: Foreign Office

May Thierry forgive me, for not having managed to write a fully theoretical piece that does justice to his hopes for Outside Lectures. I’ve given into the charms of semi-autobiographical fiction and am wading in narrativity; this is no way to practice philosophy.

When Thierry Fournier first asked me to conduct the interviews that the scenes from Outside Lectures are taken from, I must admit that I hardly saw myself in the role of the witness, and much less in the role of someone having a human experience to meaningfully recount, of which the general or universal import, in being inextricably individual, would be the very dignity—the substance calling on speech.

The idea was to speak simply and express how I perceived certain situations, to describe my perception of a problem, because I had already described them and because he felt my opinions were interesting for this particular work. One of the most striking experiences of my life—and I’d told Thierry about it—was working for a cleaning company (I would recommend this experience to all apprentice philosophers in between two takes of Das Kapital tome I). There I learnt, both socially and bodily, what it means to be what I call “an invisible person” (the guy who comes to vacuum and clean the toilets, and who is often a woman). It’s banal and everyday, but nobody seeas you, everybody averts their eyes, nobody dares speak to you, all conversations, all social situations, everything is beyond you. One becomes a mere spectatorly conduit of social interaction, not “somebody.” All the more so for those working nights in the subway network. I’ve made it a matter of pride to say “Good evening, sir.” Social life evolves according to this invisible limit deciding if you exist or if you don’t; you’re there but you’re just utterly irrelevant. No one has anything to say to you, there’s just the need to communicate what you have to do. Instrumentum vocalis.

My job was to clean three floors of an office block as quickly as I could, in other words before 7.30am (I arrived at 5am by bicycle, as this was when the guards changed shift) “to avoid seeing the employees when they would begin to arrive,” said my supervisor. What was interesting, in this experience, was the aftertaste of serfdom it left; it’s a totally and utterly disembodied socio-economic relationship, and it’s accepted as such. Nobody feels the need to address you with the norms and modes of typical face-to-face interaction. Nobody will say to you: “Hello, excuse me, where has the coffee been put?” Instead they’ll say “where’s the coffee at?” This brief description is of course clumsy, given our more or less general awareness of the mild manneredness that maintains the pecking order. Here, however, I simply point to how naturally we inhabit this mode. One of the projects vindicating me and that I shall perhaps never accomplish is to account for the experience of cleaning workers, a manner of speaking the conflict created by being necessary to the reproduction of material life and yet allthewhile treated like dirt, like nothing. This is also and far too often an experience that only affects “immigrant workers.” I’m not quite sure how, but I would like to explore this experience, almost like an homage to to those anonymous souls having to turn the crank on part of the capitalist merry-go-round. An image from Patrice Chéreau’s 1981 production of Don Giovanni at the Théâtre du Châtelet comes to mind: while the action is taking place on stage, large teams of workers labor away, barely taking in what’s happening before them, as if absorbed in an all-consuming and never-ending task. During this time, those in power bustle about and have the time to wonder wistfully about whether they’ll get an erection or not. It seems to me that there’s a kind of ironic note to the fact that the cleaning sector operates under this same dynamic, and that the current French president won an election by campaigning on a theme dear to the extreme right: “national identity.”

But to return to these experiences… sure, well, yes, but I got out of it. It was a passing moment. Not my social destiny, I’m petit bourgeois. I’ve gone to university. There are many people, every day, who continue to survive in these conditions, they have neither face nor voice, their experience remains silent and mine has been a passing moment, I cannot manage to be their voice. These are some of the things that came to mind when Thierry asked me to speak in front of the camera.

But despite this, I could see myself speaking about what Thierry thought to ask me to recount. I think that this is because I trust him, out of affection and politics of a sort, and out of the understanding and affinities we share. He had previously let me know and so I already had an idea of what he was interested in, of what he’d been thinking about. We’d already exchanged a fair bit about political, personal or family stories, about minor events whose meaning is unavoidably political yet, paradoxically, only declared in the dramas of privacy. I’ve got to admit, it all begins with short anecdotes, around a table, a café, in the middle of a conversation, like when you associate a sound or smell to something that stops you dead, listening to a great piece of music in your apartment, watching the streets of Paris unfurl indifferently out your window. Yet the material of life-been-lived, the thickness of words put to describing experiences, seemed also quite intimidating to me. I felt something akin to uneasiness, embarrassment—this may ring a little false like false modesty, but it’s true.

In fact, I’m tormented by those folk that have “really lived something.” It begins early on in life, like when you’re told as a kid that your great grandfather saw half of his family knifed to death by porgromists and then left to Paris on foot. In this sentence, the person telling you the story emphasizes the words “on foot.” The same guy (his name was Aaron) sets up in the Marais area of Paris, learns a trade and becomes a tailor and, after great effort, manages to send for his wife, in the Ukraine until then. She settles down with him, but soon falls ill, she has to be sent to hospital, until one fine day when Aaron receives a letter informing him he can go pick up his wife (I wasn’t told what her name was). So he buys the finest cloth and makes a beautiful dress for her. But when he goes to the hospital to pick her up, he is told—or rather he’s made aware—that she’s dead, that he has to retrieve her body. In the only photograph we have of him, Aaron is serious with a Sicilian-style mustache. He has strong a jaw line and a sad look in his eyes; they’re outlined with kohl.

The moral of this story is that when you’re an immigrant, it’s better to learn the local language. (I’d add that failing having been able to enroll in the public school system, Aaron should have had a dictionary of administrative French on hand). My grandfather told me all of this and I’d like to make the most of this space to add that the bastard didn’t want to pass on Yiddish to me, because he was ashamed, and because evidently the emotional thickness of language does indeed exist.

But beyond the weight of such stories, I think it’s because I read too many personal accounts, too many narratives, because I listened to too many incredible words. Shmerke Kaczerginski and his I was a partisan (his memoirs as a jewish partisan in the soviet forests), Marek Edelman, the autobiographical texts of Jean-Pierre Vernant, Geronimo’s Memoirs, Hersh Mendel, the incredible Biografia de un cimarrón, Frederick Douglas or Booker T Washington, Joseph Dietzgen, Che Guevera, etc… the heroes’ hall is endless but retains a strange permanence, like the bent out goal posts of a football field long abandoned yet always taken up anew and trodden on by generations of players. I believe this is a permanence known to those readers who were taken off as children into the worlds and stories of Jack London. The merits of this secret epic can also have indescribable features, revealed in those almost anonymous encounters that we sometimes have. To this day, I can still recall a café in Buenos Aires, Avenida de Mayo, where exiled republicans would meet to talk and play cards. I remember that at the far end of the room they’d hung a Spanish republican flag (red-yellow-purple for those don’t know it). They would fight as they recounted the Battle of the Ebro. I remember one old guy who, extremely moved, told me: “You know, I killed someone back there. I saw him and I pulled the trigger. I heard him scream and I saw him fall slowly. He was just another unlucky guy like me. I still dream of him at night, I see his hand twisting on impact, like this. I was 16 years old.”

That’s some of the impossible tone that I’ll never correspond to, and that will always escape me. But I realize afterwards, and it’s the strength of the work Thierry made of me in some ways, his maieutics, that I still had something to say that was worth being shared. There’s no mystery to it, and I don’t think Thierry will hold it against me if I reveal the hidden secret of our interviews, but we laughed a lot about often tragic things.

I might be wrong, but I think that it’s from this experience, that I told him of, that the idea came about to speak of the inside/outside border through pieces of wallpaper coming off an old wall. I’m personally amazed by what he managed to do, the way in which managed to incorporate these ideas around a maté (seen briefly on the table), and I am also surprised by the depth that the problem of language takes with this question of ones’ emotional relationship to space and time as revealed through the migrant experience. I feel that it’s by speaking with Thierry, by trying to formulate what could unite a shattered experience, that I came to express a feeling which has followed me since childhood and which I had never quite found the words for. It’s the idea that you never really fit into the drawer. There’s always a leg or an arm sticking out (cf. “national identity”). Whether chance events or existential perspective, part of you is always foreign, outside, and strenuously resisting “national identity” which, after all, is just verbal lunacy: in Argentina, Argentinian but jewish; jew amongst jews, but with a mixed family, with the Irish, the Basques and the Indians; among jews, an internationalist, a cosmopolitan, not a zionist (which is to say nationalist); at school in Argentina, son of an exiled commie, under a military dictatorship at once catholic fundamentalist, anticommunist, Maurras- or Franco-styled nationalist; in France, a run-of-the-mill Latino (with all that goes with it)… etc. The list could go on, with various situations; you can see how certain “identity frameworks” seem to switch on, beyond your control, and with independent impunity, affecting speech and bodily characteristics.

For a long time, I wondered why it was that I had never managed to find the way to express, beyond mere theory, how much these various elements I’ve just spoken about formed an unstable whole. What I mean by this is that the political program of the nationalist normalization of social life consists precisely in destroying the categories of expression of these particular situations in order to slot them into an framework of experience that is prefabricated by a political discourse in which identities must be stable. Just like with the issue of national identity.

The fragment of Outside Lectures that I appear in bears a title: “Foreign Office.” I think the title’s basis is well justified: we spoke and laughed for hours when I recounted by anecdotes about the administration, and particularly my residency visa.

David Beytelmann
Paris, February 2009

Juliette Fontaine – Sentinel

Juliette Fontaine, 2009


« Nous n’aimons guère considérer les animaux que nous avons transformés en esclaves comme nos égaux »
(Charles Darwin)

Notre relation à l’animal a changé profondément, et inéluctablement. Cette modification questionne notre rapport au monde, lui aussi modifié. Les traces de cette modification vont bien au-delà de la domestication de l’animal par l’homme et de toutes autres exploitations violentes du monde animal. Par ailleurs, poser la question de l’animal engage une pensée de ce que veut dire vivre, parler, mourir, être au monde, c’est un profond questionnement de ce que Derrida appelle successivement « être-dans-le-monde, être-au-monde, être-avec, être-après, être-suivi et être-suivant ». Penser la question de l’animal élargit la pensée que nous pouvons avoir du monde, et de notre rapport avec lui.

Le mot sentinelle a une étymologie latine éloquente, au-delà de son sens militaire. Le mot vient du verbe sentire qui signifie « percevoir par les sens ». Le titre convoque un des éléments importants du projet, la notion d’Umwelt, un environnement perceptif, ce monde vécu par l’animal étudié par Jacob Von Uexhüll, car dans l’immense diversité de la nature, chaque animal a son propre monde plus restreint. Ce monde est un monde de signaux, signaux que l’animal capte avec son système sensoriel particulier, signaux auxquels il réagit. De plus, le mot est au singulier alors que le film met en présence deux bêtes. Par là, il devient la qualification d’un symptôme ou d’un état : l’être-sentinelle. Il souligne un comportement stigmatisé par l’enfermement, la captivité d’un zoo, rendant à peu près identiques les deux animaux du couple, deux clones muselés, qui, pour cette fois-là, nous révèlent une première version, 1.0, de cette charge que l’on donne communément aux soldats, de faire le guet. Ce sens suggéré est bien sûr symbolique, une sorte d’allégorie d’un état de guerre possible, plus largement d’une menace, d’une situation périlleuse, inquiétante. De même, la formulation 1.0 met en évidence que le couple des deux carnivores constitue lui-même un dispositif qui produit une protection mais aussi une surveillance. Tout comme deux soldats en faction qui, pour reprendre l’étymologie militaire du terme sentinelle, protègent un territoire et peuvent être amener à le défendre par une stratégie offensive.

Le choix de l’animal est important : ce n’est pas un singe ou un primate, le symbole aurait été trop fort et aurait réduit le sens de la proposition. Mais la mangouste se dresse sur ses pattes, elle sait la station debout, elle est en devenir-bipède. Elle peut regarder plus loin, observer à l’horizon l’apparition inattendue d’un danger, ou celle de sa nourriture. Cette question du regard rehaussé, élargi, nous rappelle aussi le « partage du visible entre les créatures du monde » (Jean-Christophe Bailly) qui est un des points de départ de ce travail. Le monde est regardé par d’autres êtres que les hommes, qui ne sont qu’un fragment d’une vaste unicité du vivant.

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Sentinelle 1.0 est le plan fixe d’un couple de mangoustes mis en boucle cinq fois. Il s’agissait tout d’abord de filmer l’animal comme le définit Gilles Deleuze : « l’être aux aguets », l’être qui émet des signes et qui réagit à des signes. L’animal est sauvage mais, même si volontairement aucun indice d’enfermement n’est visible à l’image, il est dans un zoo. Les mangoustes réagissent donc à des signes sonores qui ne sont pas issus de leur environnement naturel : le grondement sourd et lointain du métro parisien, le murmure urbain, le gloussement étrange d’un autre animal du zoo, les ricanements stridents de corneilles qui se disputent le territoire d’un arbre à proximité, les piaillements beaucoup plus discrets de moineaux. L’animal nerveux à l’affût, intranquille, se dresse, regarde de tous côtés, s’assoie gardant relevée une de ses pattes avant frémissante. Elle semble vouloir fuir ou se protéger à tout moment d’un prédateur potentiel. Puis la deuxième mangouste entre dans l’image. Elle rejoint l’autre, tourne sur elle-même pour s’asseoir à son tour, touche de sa queue touffue la queue de l’autre bête, tourne sur elle-même une seconde fois en repoussant doucement son compagnon qui quitte l’image. Elle a pris la relève de la garde du territoire. Le territoire est un sol de pierres et de sable blanc, une métaphore visuelle de la neige en pleine nature. Cette part de désert a été circonscrit et imposé par l’homme, même si le mammifère semble dans son comportement manifester tout son être réactif, instinctif. Un seul signe pourtant de déviance : tourner sur soi-même avant de s’asseoir, tourner en rond comme le fauve dans sa cage, comme l’homme dit fou répétant un geste compulsif, ruminant inlassablement une ritournelle. Le plan mis en boucle cinq fois vient souligner ce trouble.

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J’ai longuement observé le déplacement de ces deux viverridés dans leur territoire contraint pour choisir le cadre de l’image, lui conférant un sens précis : entrer et sortir d’une image comme d’un territoire. Au cours de mon observation, j’ai d’abord été stupéfaite par leur « chorégraphie » écrite, presque ritualisée comme on ritualise dans un espace dans lequel on n’est pas chez soi, pour inscrire ses repères, même si cette image reste anthropocentriste. Puis, à un moment, ce que je regardais m’a mise mal à l’aise. La répétition obsédante de cette « danse » élégante dans les mouvements et les déplacements m’a paru désolante. Elle m’évoque clairement aujourd’hui quelque chose de la survie, et de la survivance.

De la survivance d’un instinct malgré la perte du territoire natif, la délocalisation forcée. Si toutefois, ce comportement est peut-être le vestige d’un langage, ou d’un code gestuel entre les deux bêtes, que reste-t-il vraiment de l’instinct à un animal sauvage enfermé dans un zoo, dans un constant contact avec l’animal politique qu’est l’homme ? Et dans cette réclusion, lorsqu’il arrive que l’animal croise le regard de l’homme, comment perçoit-il ce dernier ? Comme un prédateur possible ? Un être étrange, imprévisible, déréglé ? Quel regard porte-t-il sur ce dernier ? Car je crois, comme l’écrit Jacques Derrida, que l’animal qui me regarde a un point de vue sur moi.

L’animal a été sur terre avant l’homme, il s’en souvient. Il me semble que l’on peut percevoir cet avant quand on rencontre le regard d’une bête, ce qui crée un trouble étrange, difficile à expliquer, comme si devant cette sorte mémoire archaïque, la bête nous « rappelait » que nous descendions Cialis d’elle, que ce qui nous différencie d’elle n’est qu’une question de degré. En filmant avec attention les deux mammifères, même s’il n’y a pas eu vraiment d’échange de regard, j’ai ressenti très fortement être en face de cet avant, de cette précédence. C’est pour cette raison que j’ai filmé volontairement sans pied. De cette manière, mon corps qui portait la caméra était le prolongement de mon propre regard, avec les ondulations ténues des mouvements de ma respiration. Autrement dit, ce fut un face à face, paisiblement déroutant, augurant, naïvement peut-être, la possibilité d’une rencontre. Le cadre de l’image, qui est aussi un regard, a été pensé à l’amont, de manière à ce que lorsque l’une des deux mangoustes se dresse, elle apparaisse au milieu de l’image, et qu’elle sorte de l’image lors de la relève de l’autre sentinelle. Mais l’image a été recadrée par la suite pour le bouclage, pour que la « soudure » soit quasiment invisible, en d’autres termes, pour que la relève de la deuxième bête se fasse au même endroit que l’apparition de la première au début du rush. Cet aspect du travail est important. Si dès le départ, j’ai voulu ne pas montrer à l’image des signes de la captivité (barreaux, encadrement délimité de l’espace…), le bouclage recrée un enferment et une mise à distance. Ceci pour éviter tout d’abord l’empathie et sa contagion, pour objectiver ce qui se joue à l’image, mais aussi, en manipulant la répétitivité de l’animal, en l’instrumentalisant comme une machine, un mécanisme, la vidéo devient un dispositif de jeu de pouvoir, comme les autres dispositifs de Conférences du dehors. Le public qui regarde, espérant peut-être un croisement de regard avec les animaux, devient également l’humain qui a enfermé la bête.

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L’homme a perdu une intimité avec le monde animal comme la perte d’une provenance, d’une souche. Malgré cette rupture, il demeure un côtoiement possible. Ce côtoiement est l’expérience d’un seuil, d’un lien ténu mais survivant. « L’intimité perdue est indiquée par un seuil où la perte s’inaugure ». Ce seuil est évoqué par la projection du film en boucle sur un mur de l’espace. C’est une fenêtre sur un dehors mais c’est aussi un espace autre, inaccessible, dans lequel on ne peut pas rentrer physiquement. Durant la projection, la comédienne se déplace dans la salle au milieu des spectateurs, comme cherchant son propre territoire ou un refuge dans cet intérieur qu’elle partage avec eux. Deux espaces se frôlent à distance. Car s’il y a encore côtoiement, il y a une fracture, une limite abyssale entre l’homme et l’animal. Cette frontière n’est pas une et indivisible, mais elle est multiforme. Elle ne peut être dessinée, tracée. Elle ne peut donc être objectivée. L’ignorance de la vidéo par la comédienne est une nouvelle fois importante car regarder les mangoustes projetées dans l’espace aurait annulé la complexité de la frontière entre les deux territoires.

Cette tension entre les deux espaces (la vidéo et la salle de représentation) met en évidence la survivance de ce côtoiement avec l’animal, voisinage complexe fait d’évitements, de dissimulation et de méfiance réciproques, et non plus de continuité homogène. Par ailleurs, s’il n’y a pas d’échange de regard entre l’animal filmé et la comédienne, c’est aussi pour une autre raison. Si comme l’écrivait Nietzsche, l’homme est un animal indéterminé, l’animal devient l’Autre absolu, allogène, inconsolé d’un monde sauvage perdu et autrefois partagé paisiblement avec l’homme. Lorsque Derrida parle du regard de l’animal sur l’être humain, il écrit que son point de vue sur l’homme est celui de l’Autre absolu. Cet Autre absolu est peut-être une rencontre impossible, même s’il éveille justement le désir d’aller à sa rencontre – le désir n’est-il pas en soi ce qui tend vers tout autre chose, vers l’absolument autre, nous mettant en rapport avec l’invisible, c’est à dire avec ce dont on n’a pas idée ?

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La posture choisie selon laquelle la comédienne ne tourne jamais son regard vers les animaux filmés, ignorant totalement la projection durant ses déplacements, soulève cette question de l’altérité. Elle se déplace parmi les autres, pose sa tête sur l’épaule d’autrui, s’appuie sur celle ou celui qui lui est étranger. De plus, l’autre est celui avec lequel on partage, on agence un territoire, dans lequel on dessine des limites. Les déplacements dans le public de la comédienne sont ambivalents, car si elle recherche un refuge dans l’espace, elle le contrôle aussi, tout comme elle choisit de s’allonger près d’une personne en imposant la proximité de sa présence, de son corps. On retrouve cette ambiguïté dans la projection du film Sentinelle 1.0, car l’ignorance des regards est réciproque, les animaux ne regardent pas la caméra, et par extension ne regardent ni la comédienne manifestant son indifférence à leur égard, ni le public qui les regarde. Ce dehors qu’ils surveillent, qu’ils traquent est une partie du zoo, mais c’est aussi l’espace de la représentation.

Parce qu’il tend à disparaître de la surface de la terre, « par rapport à cette direction qui semble inéluctable, tout animal est un commencement, un enclenchement, un point d’animation et d’intensité, une résistance ». Autour de la question centrale de l’accès, le projet de Conférences du dehors parle également de résistance. Celle autant d’un positionnement politique (Ministère de l’intérieur de David Beytelman, A domicile de Thierry Fournier), que celle purement physique d’une performance dans laquelle le corps éprouve ses limites, se met en risque. L’espace de la représentation, un espace physique, devient un espace politique, ce dans quoi la question du pouvoir autoritaire se pose et se joue.

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Notre monde est un enchevêtrement à la fois de plus en plus complexe et de plus en plus cloisonné, compartimenté ; comme l’évoque David Beytelman dans ses entretiens, il faut pouvoir rentrer dans un des tirroirs fabriqués par la société capitaliste. Dans cet entrelacement, de plus en plus d’hommes luttent pour survivre et deviennent invisibles. Il y a cette nudité cruelle dans La Bonne Distance de Noëlle Renaude, jusqu’à l’abandon des forces (Frost de Thierry Fournier et Jean-François Robardet) où l’homme se suicide en se rendant à la puissance de la nature. Dans cette continuité, Sentinelle 1.0 réintroduit l’animal dans tous ces mondes humains, résistant et luttant lui aussi contre sa propre disparition.