Re: [-empyre-] forward from Maurice Benayoun

Hi everybody

Thank you Tim and Renate for the introduction

I've been wandering from post to post really amazed by the quality of the
discussion and a bit shy about what my contribution could bring to so many
inspiring inputs.
I've to ask for your leniency about my rough English.
When Tim and Renate kindly asked for my contribution on the topic of
"critical spatial practice" I thought immediately about the different
aspects of my work that involve artistic spatial practice and some of them
giving a certain meaning to "critical" side of it. The question of
"criticality" is somehow central in most of my recent works and belongs to
the very nature of any artistic engagement.

I've been working for years with immersive virtual spaces. Immersion was for
me an interesting way to create real and metaphoric situations. I mean the
possibility to experience the metaphorical environments in order to face
one's own behaviour. World Skin, a safari photo in the Land of War (1997) is
probably a good example of what I mean. But this belongs to the realm of
representation even if the activation of this representation results from
our actual action.
At the same time I was working on exhibition design that led me, through
different experiences of what I called "reactive architectures of
communication", to the concept of "organic scenography". I was questioning
the specific relation between an architectural entity dedicated to
information (the exhibition and its content) and the visitor considering
this relation as an exemplified relation and dialogue between living beings.
The behavioural model of this very specific piece of architecture that an
exhibition is was based ("The Membrane", exhibition "the Man Transformed",
Cité des Sciences de la Villette Paris 2000, "Cosmopolis, Overwriting the
City", 2005) was taken, like for Louis Bec's creatures, from envisioning
what a living entity dedicated to information would look like, how it would
provide this information, and what kind of response from the visitor it
could expect and interpret.
Even if confronted to the public although limited space of big exhibitions I
wanted to get out of the box and work on the space of the real city.
With some work outside the frame of art and architecture I came up with the
concept amazingly close to today theme: "critical fusion".
The concept behind the buzz words is that in VR we are immersing the body
into the fiction, visors become part of the fiction. At the same time VR was
developed the concept of introducing the real inside the fiction was
exploding: Reality Shows, Big Brother. Ordinary people play their role
inside a frame of constraints defined as the scenario. The information about
real events are introduced like feature films do:  it is enough to see how
titles on CNN for breaking news, catastrophes, wars, are 3D-CG-golden-plated
flying words competing with Star Wars opening title. This is what I call
"fusion", fusion of fiction and reality, playing with fleeting boundaries
actualizing the Guy Debord situationist statement of society of the

The concept of "critical fusion" -metaphorically referring to the atom
(critical mass + atom fusion) as something close to explosion, producing the
maximum of energy- this concept is close to what many of you mentioned as
introducing critical content in the public space, I mean outside of the
dedicated and authorised areas in a way that it seems to belong to the
normal physical space but help questioning its so called evidence.
Watch out! (Seoul 2002, Athens 2004) tried of this kind even if not at the
scale it was supposed to be. Boxes in the street covered by yellow and black
stripes look like street signs to say "danger". A small hole on one side
seems to invite passers by to watch in. Inside the bow as small display
shows a series of sentences and a call is written : Send a warning message
to the World. Thanks to their cell phones or by the Internet, people send
very concerned messages like "save the wales". This message will be
displayed in the box. It takes time to the visitor to notice a big screen
on one of the surrounding buildings that actually shows a giant eye, coming
from an outside that we cannot understand, watching the world as if it would
be a totally enigmatic world. We need to see the next visitor coming to the
box to understand that this eye is actually the one watching inside the box.
When networks pretend to provide a new form of direct democracy, we still
are in a situation that sends us back to our responsibility; we have created
Big Brother as we have created GOD, just after our image.
At the same time, and the difference of status is interesting, at the Art
Center Nabi, a big box, covered with the same stripes allows the visitor to
get inside to see screens monitoring the boxes in Seoul streets. There one
see blurry streets view, then a face coming and a very sharp eye staring at
us in a way that means "that's it?" and go away.

I see I'm already very long and they are so many questions that I would like
to rise on the topics of artistic appropriation of the public space and
their impact. Let's say that, at CITU, we are now working more and more on
the idea of the coincidence of the map and the territory exceeding very
often the last one.  The porosity of the physical space provoking,
suggesting irruptions of the symbolic becomes a playground either exciting
or disturbing for artist and I wonder if most works using locative media,
mixed reality are really aware of the need of active criticality.


This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.