The last wall, associated with the present and near future, is devoted to the principle of in- discernables. It is the element of fire and represents the old age of humanity in the digital era… This is the wall that contains the objects and images evoking deterioration and loss, dematerialization, as well as the will to remember (photography, hard disks, Buddhism, Oppenheimer, camouflage frogs, pornography, code, artificially resuscitated Celtic cultures, the exhibition’s own archives). However, the wall does communicate with and move back towards the first wall – the wall devoted to the principle of identity and associated with air, which contains possibility in its pure state. All these associations are intuitive and up for debate, of course…
To go back to Million Dollar Point, I don’t know if it makes sense to connect it to the Baroque through the image of the seashell, because there aren’t really anymore left on this part of the seafloor. There’s nothing left but military refuse calcifying and gathering algae. Maybe it’s the subterranean image that connects it to the Baroque? I hadn’t thought of that before, but it’s true there’s that moment where the image is cut in half by the horizontal of the water’s surface, then it dives down below to show all the crushed and wrecked military equipment turning to stone… So, yes, maybe there is a connection to the Baroque after all.
In your video Scope (2005), an Italian Orientalist epic is slowly compressed along the lateral axis, stretching the shapes until they disappear. We get a sense that a cycle is ending with this work, as a reliance on the vertical axis is a pattern we often see in the art of dying civilizations. Wölfflin also says it implies a “linear” relationship to vision, recalling the Mannerism of the late 16th century. But Grosse Fatigue and The Pale Fox would be more Baroque, if we were to compare them to a historical period. Do you recognize something of yourself in the description of humanity in the 17th century, observing Nature and passing time without nostalgia, indulging a passion for detail and spiraling forms?
Yes, it’s interesting because Scope is an anamorphosis, something that was in style during the Renaissance. I’m thinking for example of the The Ambassadors (1533) by Hans Holbein (1497- 1543), which made an impression on me when I was studying art history. I like the idea of compression, because not only is it the secret pat- tern of power, but it’s also what all technology tends toward (miniaturization, synthesis). Art on the other hand is always trying to develop, expand, unfold… And yet, miniaturization is a necessary step in any big project.
CinemaScope technology – used to generate a wide image – works by first compressing the image onto film. The goal of the CinemaScope was to “replace real life”. The technology used an anamorphic format on ordinary 35mm film stock. It was only at projection time that the process was reversed and the image appeared wide on the screen.
I don’t know if I see anything of myself in a society that doesn’t feel nostalgia; it’s an interesting question. First of all, I think the way in which Western history was written, to the exclusion of other population groups, forces us to question any notion of progress. I often think about loss, but I don’t like the fetishization of the past. I also think a lot about death and disappearance. I try to domesticate these ideas, to make them less dangerous, or maybe less frightening? That’s undoubtedly the reason I’m so interested in Eastern philosophy and have found both a source of reassurance and a method of auto-criticism (of my culture and my own difficulty in letting go). I have trouble knowing when to stop, when to give up. Everything always seems possible to me and this mindset is both a curse (I exhaust myself by doing too much and see my artistic activity as a sort of meditative panic) and certainly a way of soothing some deep-seated anxiety. But I do think Grosse Fatigue and The Pale Fox are Baroque works in their search for movement and non fixity. There is a kind of hypnotic power in any spiraling movement, which we can see at work in both The Pale Fox and The Strife of Love in a Dream.
Interview by Charlotte Cosson & Emmanuelle Luciani