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.

Notes

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».