The Probe

Light projector, camera, screen, amplifier and speaker, computer, program, cables
L’Art dans les chapelles festival, Pontivy (FR), Notre-Dame-du-Moustoir, Malguénac, 18 July – 22 September 2020

Video capture (French version of the installation, with English subtitles) :

A projector turns on itself, slowly, exploring the space around it. It projects an intense rectangle of white light that it moves over all walls and objects. It also carries a camera, which films exactly what it illuminates. His image is shown on a large screen, placed nearby against a wall, like a painting: we see what he sees.

This apparatus speaks, in a synthesized voice, as if it was thinking aloud and trying to describe what surrounds it. It searches, stops at details, tries to understand space and objects, wonders about this place and its meaning but also about his own status and perception. Sometimes it seems to react to the presence of humans.

The Probe thus installs in a space the fiction of a non-human and living entity that inhabits it, like an artificial and panoptic force. The apparatus can also evoke the religious expectation that we have of technology, especially artificial intelligence, whose recurring motif is the surpassing of human capacities.

The language of the work calls up several registers, from surveillance devices to images of miraculous apparitions in classical painting, where the irruption of a ray of light often represents the emergence of the divine or a revelation. Here, the direction of the light is reversed: instead of coming from the outside, it emerges from the inside, as if the space had been turned upside down to become the theatre of an apparition and a questioning of the visible.

Coproduction by L’Art dans les chapelles
Engineering and programming Etienne Landon – thanks to Ben Kuperberg

Only Richard

Installation and film, 2018
Video (1:2.35 format, color, stereo sound, 1h40, loop), sound projection, dance floor, robotic arm, computer and program, wood, canvas, aluminum, 600 x 600 x 215 cm

The installation Only Richard is adapted from Richard II by William Shakespeare, who describes a king whose conviction to escape the laws of reality by his divine nature leads him to destitution and death. Richard here takes the form of a large robotic arm which dialogues on a set with a film including all the other characters – at the same time as he manipulates it: frame, blur, speed… Richard’s voice is interpreted by actress Emmanuelle Lafon.

The film was shot in a garden and a forest, with three actors and ten amateurs, mostly women. They face a subjective camera that is like Richard’s eye – replayed in the installation by the robot’s gestures. A confrontation then unfolds between the power and the people, the machine and the living, the divine and the profane. The project address multiple questions about power, technique and politics, gender, presence and absence in the world.

Video excerpts:

Credits

Translation: François-Victor Hugo (1872). Adaptation and direction of play Thierry Fournier and Jean-François Robardet. Performers: Emmanuelle Lafon (Richard’s voice), Pierre Carniaux, Eloïse Chabbal, Aurélie Claude, Charles Gonin, Mathieu Guigue, Sophie Jaskierowicz, Marianne Kaldi, Emilie Legret, Alexia Mérel, Claire Moindrot, Judith Morisseau, Tram Ahn Ngô, Sandrine Nicolas. Installation’s design with Jean-Baptiste Droulers, in dialogue with the Fresnoy, programming Etienne Landon and Mathieu Chamagne, sound editing and mixing with Marie Léon. Film production (2008-2009): Pandore Production, Ensad Nancy (Electroshop research and creation workshop), with the support of the Lorraine Region, the Chartreuse-CNES and the Dicréam / CNC. Production of the installation (2018) : Le Fresnoy – National Studio for Contemporary Arts.

Acknowledgements

L’Arcal Lyrique, Julien Arnaud, Avant-Rue Friche Théâtre, Franck Bauchard, Jean-François Chiama, Grégory Diguet and Bipolar, l’Ensemble Atopique, Juliette Fontaine, Antonio Guzman, Mains d’Œuvres, Florence March, Daniel Migairou, Giuseppe Molino, Frédérique Payn, Olga Pitarch, Benoît Résillot, Jean-François Robardet, le Studio-Théâtre de Vitry, Alain Fleischer, Eric Prigent and the whole Fresnoy team.

Ecotone

network installation, 2015

Network installation (2015)
Computer, internet-connected program, video projection or HD screen

Ecotone is an artificial landscape inhabited by voices that read in real time all the messages posted on Twitter about desires.

A program downloads in real time all the messages written on Twitter that express desires, searching expressions such as “I wish”, “It would be so cool”, “I dream of”, “I totally wish”, etc. He makes them read by synthetic voices, and each message generates a sort of wave or mountain in the landscape. A camera moves endlessly in this artificial paradise, like an addiction that would never stop.

Extracted from the context of social media, these personal and sometimes very intimate thoughts can express love desires or life dreams, but also the very mundane seek for a pair of sneakers… With these sentences thrown over and over like messages in a bottle, the artwork addresses how the persons expose themselves on the Internet, questioning the fluctuating boundaries between intimacy and public life.

Ecotone, exhibition view, Criatec, Carmel church, Aveiro, Portugal, 2019

Programming: Olivier Guillerminet. Coproduction: Thierry Fournier, Lux Scène nationale de Valence, with support from Scan Rhône-Alpes grant, Dicréam grant, with support from Synesthesie.

The right distance

performance, 2008

Performance, 2008
Text Noëlle Renaude / performance direction Thierry Fournier – Series of performances Outside Lectures

The Right Distance takes the form of a lecture, developing a wordy discourse by an unknown speaker about a person met in the subway, with laces holding his shoes together, and endlessly repeating the sentence: “I’ve got nothing to eat”. Deliberately ambiguous between a marketing course for the homeless and a semiological discourse, the work opens a questioning about the violence of language.

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Photographs by Frédéric Nauczyciel and Alexandre Nollet.

Residency

performance, 2008

performance, 2008
Series of performances Outside Lectures (Conférences du dehors) with Emmanuelle Lafon.

The circular motion of Febuary 21st 2006, voted by Interior Ministry of France, lays down the law on how to legally arrest conditions for illegal immigrants. Given they’re under arrest only on the outside, it thus legislates on what may be considered as a domicile or not: courtyard, yacht, operating theatre… A videoprojection displays the text of the circular motion like credits at the end of a blockbuster film, with its typical music. The performer faces the projection and repeats the text. Her behavior changes progressively, transforming itself towards an attack of the apparatus. The whole situation points out the warlike fiction suggested by the text, which gradually contaminates the performer’s mind, to the point of an extreme violence.

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Residency starts with the music of an American war film, all brass and drum rolling, that could be Independence Day or Medal of Honor: a ceremony stirring patriotic fictions from their slumber.

The set-up including laptop, amplifier and videoprojector starts up by itself, blasting out the music and projecting an image, a recording of the performance room itself. The performer comes closer, and finds themself faced with a screen, a teleprompter, and so takes the microphone and begins to read the scrolling text. Their face appears as a close-up on the videoprojection, the camera’s point of view is that of a computer filming its user—except that the face is entirely pixellated, like the privacy protection used on TV talk-shows.

The scrolling text also appears on the video projection, superimposed on the face, at the same time as it appears on the teleprompter’s screen. It’s made up of excerpts from the ministerial circular released on February 21st 2006 by the Interior Ministry, detailing the conditions of legal arrest for foreigners in breach of national borders and migration laws, stipulating the steps necessary to effect apprehension “on public streets, at government or police shopfronts, at home or within housing complexes.” (Circular NOR : JUSD0630020C – Crom.06.5/E1-21.02.2006).

Given that most such arrests are to take place outside, this circular is distinct in that it therefore legislates on all spaces considered to be a dwelling or not: apartment, building corridor, pleasure craft (yacht), abode destroyed by fire, operating theater, etc. It’s in this sense that excerpts were selected to underline this distinctness.

The performer thus carries out their reading of the text, in a literally “closed circuit” arrangement, as if the whole set up—composed of computer, microphone, amplifier and projector—composed all of the content, its transformation and its very own fiction. The text is processed like the opening credits to a blockbuster that might have stimulated its author’s imagination; it progressively contaminates the performer to the point of extreme violence. The actress’ voice slowly deepens and lowers as the text lists the possible arrest locations, and the calm balance is broken when, with a monstrous Darth Vader voice, she literally attacks the amplifier with the microphone, the audio feedback creating extremely violent sounds of fragging and explosion. After a short, intense attack, the music leaves the fields of battle to take on characteristics befitting redemption, that telltale register of a war film finale, and the spoken delivery of the circular ends with its two last moments: the statement that an operating theater is an acceptable location of arrest, and the list of administrative recipients for the circular.

Outside lectures

series of 7 performances, 2008

Series of 7 performances and curating, 2008
With Emmanuelle Lafon

These seven performances were created with five invited artists: David Beytelmann, Juliette Fontaine, Noëlle Renaude, Jean-François Robardet and Esther Salmona. Each of them adresses a relation to an outside, by the way of a specific protocol and apparatus : following a TV flow word by word (Close Circuit), interview about immigration with a french/argentinian philosopher, absurd lecture about homeless people, landscape described in real time thru the phone, sonic simulation of a catastrophe (Frost), etc. The performer and the audience share the same space, in a global apparatus that is reconfigured for each venue.

This “theatre of operations” is part and parcel of an overall approach questioning the relations between writing, visual arts and performance: apparatus, relations with the audience, critical choice of performance venues.

The series Outside Lectures is composed by the performances: Closed circuit, Foreign Office (guest author David Beytelmann), The Right Distance (guest author Noëlle Renaude), Ready mix (with Esther Salmona), Residency, Frost (with Jean-François Robardet), Sentinel (guest artist Juliette Fontaine).

Closed circuit, performance, with Emmanuelle Lafon, Lelabo, Paris, 2007

Photographs by Frédéric Nauczyciel and Alexandre Nollet.

Closed Circuit

performance, 2008

Performance, 2007
Part of the Outside Lectures performances series.

Seated with headphones in front of a TV during the commercial break and the evening news, Lafon must respect a certain protocol that demands that she exhaustively repeat everything she hears and describe everything she sees, which is physically impossible. The flow of speech and resulting stuttering directly express the tension between the spew of information that is delivered and a saturated individual attention span.

Video documentation:

Recording, October 25th 2008 – TF1 live 7:50 to 8:03 pm

Photograph by Frédéric Nauczyciel

Siren

installation, 2005-2010

Installation, 2005-2010
Samuel Bianchini and Thierry Fournier
with the voice of Maryseult Wieczoreck

A white dot on a black screen is following the spectator movements while he/she is using a computer mouse in front of it. Without activity, the installation diffuses the sound of human breath, barely audible. When the dot moves, the voice of a woman appears: static, then beginning to grow and increasing rapidly with the hand actioning the mouse. As the spectator’s gesture develops or focuses on a point, speeding up or slowing down, the sound unfolds and develops itself. The voice shifts from breathing to whispering, from singing to shouting, from the tiniest details to burgeoning vocals. The voice is reacting to the gesture and requests it. The sound gradually gives a shape to an acoustic body that reveals itself through the tactile exploration – although its interpretation remains offered to the audience.

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Stories Machine

sound installation, 2004

Sound installation, 2004
Objects design: Zarko
Landscape design: Pascale Langrand and François Schelameur

The Garden of the Navel is a collective project based on an imaginary mythology that ironically names Pougne-Hérisson (a hamlet of 200 inhabitants) as the homeland of tales, where “all stories come from, and where they should come back”. The Stories Machine is an interactive sound installation which composes a soundscape with the stories that the visitors leave themselves. Several microphones are placed in the garden, in which visitors are invited to leave a story of their own, lasting anything from a few seconds to a few minutes, that will then be stored by the installation. As soon as it has been recorded, each story lives its own life and occupies the space. The lifetime of a story is unlimited: it is always heard immediately after it has been recorded, but it may reappear weeks or months later. The space of the Garden develops and grows with time: it is nurtured, visited and searched by the visitors themselves, like a talking landscape, organic and unpredictable.

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To Agrippine

music piece and performance, 2004

music piece and performance, 2004
Duration 12′. With the voices of Hiromi Asaï and Véronique Gens.

Performed as a solo piece on laptop, To Agrippine is based on the very beginning of Handel’s opera Agrippina. It experiments a situation of time depth: a real time navigation through the temporality of music. An extremely slow gesture produces a simultaneous navigation through three musical layers: the first orchestral part of the opera overture, the first spoken sentence in the recitatives, and the first soprano aria. This slow-motion movement within the musical materials reveals their lines of forces and details, as the aerial approach to a landscape.

Excerpt:

Photograph by Frédéric Nauczyciel.

Shadow of a doubt

installation, 2003

installation, 2003
Original title : L’Ombre d’un doute

Shadow of a doubt is a “controversy room”: a set of points of view about science, media and politics is confronted with the audience presence and actions. The silhouettes of visitors are projected in real time on the wall, under the form of white “ghosts”; they follow them and reveal videos of interviews, TV archives and philisophical texts read by actors. The relationships and proximity between sequences are constantly modified by the interaction between the visitors in the room. Each person faces two simultaneous collective experiences: one that is talked about in the video sequences, and one that builds up continuously, improvised by the visitors, in the installation area.

People interviewed are activists and association members (François Desriaux, Christophe Gérard, Anne-Laure Morin, Christophe Noisette), philosophers and sociologists (Marc Augé, Bernard-Marie Dupont, François Ewald, Pierre Lascoumes, Isabelle Stengers), a farmer (Hervé Touraquet), civil servants and politicians (Bernard Bachelier, Alain Claëys, Martin Hirsch), and researchers (Olivier Godard, Pierre-Henri Gouyon, Guy Riba, Jacques Testart).

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Texts excerpts that actors read are by Giorgio Agamben (Moyens sans fins), Gilles Châtelet (Vivre et penser comme des porcs), Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guattari (Qu’est-ce que la philosophie ?), Georges Didi-Huberman (Ce que nous voyons, ce qui nous regarde), Bernard Kourilsky et Geneviève Viney (Rapport au premier ministre sur le principe de précaution), Bruno Latour (Du principe de précaution au principe de bon gouvernement), Maurice Merleau-Ponty (L’oeil et l’esprit), Francis Ponge (Le Parti pris des choses), Armand Robin (La Fausse Parole), Clément Rosset (Principes de sagesse et de folie), Isabelle Stengers (Sciences et pouvoirs – la démocratie face à la technoscience), Paul Watzlawick (La Réalité de la réalité : confusion, désinformation, communication), Ludwig Wittgenstein (De la certitude).

Related to: Outside Lectures, The Life of Things, Ce qui nous regarde, Feedbackroom

Sweetest Love

film music, 2002

Musical piece (3 male voices and electronics), 2002
Composed for the feature film Ce qu’ils imaginent by Anne Théron

Sweetest Love has been composed on three poems by John Donne, the 16th-17th century poet and philosopher, a contemporary of Shakespeare (Song, Women’s constancy, A fever). Written for three male voices (tenor, baritone, bass) and real time electronics, the piece alternates solos and trios, with a cappella and electronic sections. It explores the most fragile register for each voice, while every section is written in the same tessitura for the three singers. This required a very special care and work on tonality for the singers. The electronics are mostly based on pulsations and oscillations. The electronic relation with the voices becomes principally organic, evoking both solitude and the constant presence of the body.

Excerpts:



Sweetest Love has been composed for the feature film Ce qu’ils imaginent, by Anne Théron with Marie Trintignant, Marc Barbé, Aurélien Wik, Anne Cantineau, Julie Gayet. Performers: Jean-François Chiama (tenor), Jean-Christophe Jacques (baryton), Jean-Loup Pagésy (basse), Thierry Fournier (electronics).

The Screens

music and sound installation for the theater, 2002

Original title : Les Paravents
Music and sound installation for the theater
Les Paravents by Jean Genet / Stage direction Frédéric Fisbach, 2002

Monstruous theater play taking place during the algerian war, involving 96 characters, many parallel narrations and simultaneous scenes, The Screens were directed in 2002 by Frédéric Fisbach who chose to display the casting between three actors for the 3 main characters and japanese bunraku puppets for all the others. The bunraku company is Youki-za, one of the oldest in Japan, founded at the XVIth century. Puppet’s voices were played live by two other actors.

The Screens seems to be a proposition for a total theater – a feast as Genet said – where the text accompanies a poetic action which takes place either on stages or screens. The Screens carry a dream or a vision of the theater which could be simultaneously a comedy and a solemn feast, dedicated to the living and the dead. A poem for the stage reviving the politics, in the sense it offers a vision of the world to the public” (F. Fisbach)

The music for live electronics, the voice’s amplification and transformation and the spatialization of every element was played live on stage by Jean-Baptiste Droulers.

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