Ipotêtu: attempt, experiment, practice

On the screen, the virtual museum is simultaneously copying and differentiating itself from the college as architecture, the context of the visit. It is a realist envelop (templates, plans, volume arrangement) made unreal (laid on a white background, offloaded from the ground, from the sky, from its immediate building environment, etc.). The navigation follows the same rule; logical progression between plan and profile, a 3D stroll from the exterior to the interior, from one room to the other, from the courtyard to the patio, a pass to free oneself from the limitations imposed by buildings and walls. Thus, the visitor balances between represented reality and a desire of exemption from our gravity. The navigation is similar to a video game. It makes the visitor light, flexible like a drone in low level flight, with a subjective camera apt to capture the creative process mechanism of the artists with students.

Some of the works produced share common spaces, others occupy by themselves a specific enclosure. Made for the most part of images, of sounds and texts, but they summon other mediums and aspire to go beyond an online replica. The museum has velleities of turning them into 3D presences acting from the outside towards the inside; a movement; a movement of locomotion in this virtual territory, configuration of the exhibition spaces, navigation tools mouse/keyboard/VR headset, ability to pass through walls etc. This is a search for a spontaneous relationship between body, matter graphic presentation and sensory perception.

The other similarity of this collection of singular works is the persona of the student, actors, producers, in front of and/or behind the images. Through their movements, voices, games and objects, disguises, feelings, emotions and attitudes testify of their presence in the historicality of lived time: past, present and future.

Keep watch over the projected horizon

In front of the museum, as it happens, the visitor can make out figures in continuous motion, perched on the attic of the facades. The sentinels keep watch, on the perimeter of the buildings, turned to the outside, looking in the distance. Like most works in the project, the initial proposition evolved as encounters happened. The first intent of a portrait gallery, modified in its methods, kept interest in a living sculpture, close to the performance and physical model, starting from the idea of plasticity of a volume. Animated gifs, yet they present themselves in situ as three dimensional characters. These figures ground themselves in the link weaved by Jean-Paul Labro with students and Solange Chabasse, French teacher, and François Calavia, Plastic arts teacher. The aim of the first one was to write personal stories based on the study of the hero’s archetype and the values it represents in literature. The visitor will find these stories by clicking on the sentinels. The second one wished to put these autofictions in context, use the pupil’s ability to project themselves through the creation of costumes (masks, clothes, etc.) halfway between the every day hero and the superhero. These sculptures-images are living figures that contrast with the orthogonality of the volume of buildings. Their postures are reminiscent of the monumental statues of the saints and the fathers of the Church topping the colonnades, adorning the niches and facades of classical religious buildings. They also provided a counterpoint to the rigidity of the layout. Also, the appearance of the Sentinels exceed their presence as guardians. They look toward a perspective, something beyond the museum (or the high-school), and escape it by going on the lookout on the roof. A way to take position, to break conventions and established rules, to make one’s own way by force. They are the sentinels of the place but also of their own condition, present and future. Like the word associated with them, that appeared at the start of the 16th century, inspired by the italian sentire, feel, hear, listen. It evokes the senses in action, the old alert over the projected horizon.

The poetic of life
In the entrance hall, which has become a black room, two series of suspended screens bear gilded inscriptions in italics : The Magician, Lantern Carriers, Inspiration… With the titles, rather than taking up the aesthetics and codes of early cinema, Fabrice Cotinat plays with our latent memory. Faithful to the idea that it is a performing art, he proposes a narrative that is partly real (the pupils in the school premises) and partly fictional (the images, this object of desire that literally absorbs the children), recorded and played back. Of course, the digital camera replaced the pioneer’s camera, but the spirit remains. The ten short sequences put together represent 14 minutes of a story that can be read in any order. We see pupils but also staff members acting in a strange way, carrying the pupil’s familiar schoolbags. It seems to be alive. It opens and unfolds to become a portable projection tool, right on the wearer’s back. It is one of the creative tools of La galerie du cartable /1, a three-headed artist of which Cotinat is one of the participants. This joint work envisages cinema as a polysemy and explores the technical tools, the spaces of creation and exposition, the possibilities of writing and directing. In the Fantasmagories, its power of attraction is such that some end up literally entering the images. The screenplay uses the romantic techniques of famous children’s stories, Méliès-style tricks, and random viewing order taken as an element of editing. He mixes imagination, humour and the absurdity of situations caught halfway between schoolchildren’s everyday life and the projection in a different, parallel and mysterious setting. It is that of the cinematographer, in Greek “to write the movement”. A poetry that the critic and filmmaker Louis Delluc had expressed very early on with the concept of photogenics /2, to underline his ability to reveal the poetic of things, life in short. It is the universality of this visual orchestra of modernity, which, thanks to the moving image, knows how to mix the story told with the ability of vision. Its perception produces feelings that make the world accessible to us.

Watch the rain
Every museum visit is the occasion for  a stroll through traffic and transition zones. It is these in-betweens, which belong to everyone but are not appropriated by anyone, corridors, staircases where one does not stop, that Olivier Toulemonde has chosen for the Space of sound. Five sound and video installations, with the primary aim of returning to the fundamentals of acoustics. Sounds are produced by the vibration of bodies that distort the fluidity of the air and propagate in the form of waves. For sound to be perceptible to our senses, solids must vibrate, emitting a frequency that travels through space. In other words, sound is not impalpable, it is all matter and space is not a vacuum. It is used here as a producer (steps, floors) but also as a vehicle for sound (volumes). This reminder allows us to pay attention to simple phenomena (falling ping-pong balls, dragged chairs) which produce singular sounds and duration. The introduction of Baschet type instruments and vibraphones allows an incursion into the “music” of sounds. This patient examination carried out during workshops recalls the words of Francis Ponge observing the rain: “(…) Everything lives with intensity like a complicated mechanism, as precise as it is risky, like a clock whose spring is the weight of a mass (…) The ringing on the ground (…) resounds at the same time in a concert without monotony, not without delicacy. When the spring has relaxed, some gears continue to run for some time, get slower and slower, and then all the machinery stops. Then if the sun comes back, everything soon fades away, the shiny device evaporates: it rained” /3. Video capture in still shots introduces astonishment by the discrepancy between what we see and the sounds that gush out. There resides, literally and figuratively, a sort of stretch between what is seen and what is heard, the experience of the manipulations and that of the resulting sound . An analogy of the distance between the shock of the bodies, the displacement produced and the progressive distancing of this wave. Thus, the rooms suggest that every space is endowed with possibilities, outside of its initial function. The Space of sound acts as a revelator of this reality to be listened to, seen, touched in order to transform it.

Musica mundana
To put in resonance short time and long time in the same movement. At the back of the museum, a courtyard houses what could be called a “digital sculpture”, the work of Jean-Paul Labro and Sébastien Garciaz. A set of coloured polyhedra rotate on themselves and form a sphere in height, self-supporting and rotating. It very naturally incites to the cosmic lexical field: particles, planets, universe, etc. The abstract forms are familiar with the three-dimensional Euclidean geometry and Plato’s five solids. These enigmatic figures come from a process of transformation of about a hundred objects collected from schoolchildren: telephones, video games, stuffed animals, bracelets, drawing books, boxes of sweets, etc. Their industrial, impersonal nature masks their preciousness in the eyes of the pupils. They are artifacts of relationships, exchanges and intimacy. It is their uses that give value to these choices. Scanned in three dimensions, then processed by software, they are no more than a formal idea aggregated with others in the sphere. This process of degradation, of erasure, a sort of “algorithmic ruin” to the benefit of an economy specific to the sphere, we explore its past and future traces through navigation. Each polyhedron reveals the image of the initial object, delivers a short text when it is a telephone, a sound for the others. This time probe in the present points to a double movement, back and forth, with these messages to the schoolchildren of the future. The mixture of the sounds of the objects, with which Benoît Cazaubon Saint Marty, music teacher, and his students have conceived a musical composition project, suggests the notion of celestial harmony or harmony of the spheres. A form of representation of the world inherited from the ancient Pythagorean tradition, musica mundana (music of the spheres and the world) became one of the three pillars of music. In The Musical Institution of the Philosopher Boethius (510) at the beginning of the Middle Ages, it is supplemented by those of men and instruments /4. The proper rotation of each element, of distinct shape and size, participates in the balance of the sphere as a whole. Sphaera magnetica, moved by this energy, therefore maintains a balance between the chronos – time in its entirety – and its necessary counterpart the movement – a fluctuation that exists thanks to the duration: one before, one during and one after.

Subjectivity of living data
In two superimposed monochrome rooms, one being like the negative of the other, forms unfold somewhere between matter and image. In fact, we do not know what we are looking at: arachnid silhouettes, swirls of particles, slender foliage, pointillist drawings in space… These rooms, whose uncertain materiality seems to obey the laws of the earth’s gravity, are traces of life developed in space. Signs of a choreography of bodies. There are 36 of them, which Lyn Nékorimaté and Sébastien Garciaz have distributed in random mode. Their title, Acting echoes, suggests evolutionary reverberations, a sequence of gestures worked on by each pupil from feelings or notions such as friendship, anger, etc. The visual decomposition of the movements into outlines, triangles, angles and directions comes from the raw data of the software used. In other words, there is no interpretation of the movement by a line drawing. It is the data itself that generates this writing of the body and time at each instant. The visitor thus swings from isolated data to the sign in space, passing through the sculpture in the place. He is free to penetrate, to turn around, to choose his point of view and to detail the vanishing lines, the constructive logics of these organizations. This complex composition produced by the algorithmic data evokes what Wassily Kandinsky analyses about the combined elements of point, line and (original) plan of the canvas in painting /5. Irrespective of colour, he notes that they feed the subjectivity between orientations, straight or broken lines, sharp angles, isolated or grouped signs, up and down. They are an active force on the viewer’s inner experience. Comparison is not reason and we will not forget that here we have left the two dimensions of the painted canvas for the three virtual dimensions. Nevertheless, the remarks on the idea of living subjectivity seem to be a distant echo of what we experience here, as an astonished and active viewer.

The kuroko and the wonderful
The Ghosts of Paradise is certainly the most graceful set of works and one of the few with a double presence. It can also be accessed in the high-school through discreet QR codes scattered here and there. In these very brief scenes filmed in still shots, characters present themselves to us, evoking different cultures or temporalities, between the feast of the dead, science fiction, video games and pantomime, pirate figures, goddesses, forest spirits, clowns, etc. Who are these protagonists reminiscent of fairground theatre or Oskar Schlemmer’s theatre at the Bauhaus? Is there in each  a little bit of us, a sort of imaginary alter ego? Perhaps they are the ghosts of the students or of the places, those of the old school that was destroyed. Or maybe the many avatars of our digital lives, most notably smartphones ? Their brightly coloured paradise is just as much an enigma; a world analogous to ours, a time of childhood metamorphosed into adolescence, sometimes remembered with pleasure or envy? Still, they haunt the place, posted in the four corners of the museum, waiting for their time to appear before our eyes. The markers turn into screens in the manner of travelling projections. In black light, the actors disappear behind costumes, make-up and headdresses. The scenes appear in their spontaneity because the filming has combined scriptwriting and movements in front of the camera. This process gives a strange freshness, like a quickly evaporated appearance that the operator would have grasped on the fly. The meaning of the gestures, of the articulated/deformed sounds often remains ambiguous. YU-Ting SU conjures up the figure of the kuroko, a stagehand who is in the dark in kabuki or bunraku puppet theatre in Japan. The bodies dissolve in the darkness to better embody their character. The finery of the interpreted figures, sympathetic though vaguely anguished, do the rest. They are both the title roles and the kuroko, the one who in the shadows, invisible by convention, moves the natural elements of the sets, helps to change costumes, plays the animals, the will-o’-the-wisps, etc. In short, the one who, under cover of anonymity, has all the attributes and powers of the marvellous.

Digital rock and coppice
The forest of Ipotêtu is a green area where the progression is reminiscent of game interfaces. All the proposals of the forest are nourished by the work with the pupils and the construction of a greenhouse at the beginning of the project. Damaged by a storm, it is here again in the form of a colourful greenhouse-shed. This tool/shelter enabled Lyn Nékorimaté to take up a preliminary reflection on the complexity of living things; plants and their characteristics, especially the pharmakon, the animal, mineral and plant kingdoms, and their interdependence via various communication vectors. Among them, sound is a privileged medium. Present in profuse forms, it constitutes by itself a possible path through the forest in multiple sound, musical or related pieces; Crystal rocks, Echoes of spices, Partitions, the sound of trees like fireflies from voice recordings. Placed in front of the museum buildings, which are the only physical landmarks, the forest rises between heaven and earth, whose boundary is not marked. Its trees immediately bring about the question of proportions, they have no trunks. It’s an idea of a forest. An extrapolation from potted plants scanned by the pupils. A curious approach to perspective makes us move from one world to another, small plants that became giants. The herbarium, a close-up slide show of drawings of plants made from natural colours of spices, vegetable juices and charcoal, already contains the seeds of this visible change in reality. The apparent organicity of the forest is a kind of digital landscape. Paradoxically, the abrupt yet sophisticated artificiality of the pixel points to the terrestrial environment and the intricacy of living things, such as the complex morphology of a leaf. Its cavernous shape suggests to get lost or find refuge, evokes a generative architecture, a fine texture of folded slabs, facets with three, four or five sides. The passage of the white fireflies, which twirl gently, is preceded by a golden yellow halo. It illuminates the forest and underlines these parietal geometries, halfway between digital rockery and coppice.

In short, the Ipotêtu museum attempts to put the works in a dynamic of crossed and stacked expanses. This is played out in the triangulation work/space/visitor. Through his activity, the latter makes choices, hesitates, persists, weaves and loses himself in the canvas of his curiosity with more or less constancy. Finally, the dynamic is played out in the unforeseen, when the technology does not yet respond to the artists’ desires, when the code generates errors or the network has weaknesses.

Perhaps the present era is more like the age of space. We are in the age of simultaneity, (…) of juxtaposition, (…) of near and far, of side by side, of dispersed. We are at a time when one experiences the world, I believe, less as a great life that develops through time than as a network that connects points and intersects its skein /6.

Ipotêtu is an experience, a device to be practiced. It aims to make the superimposition of distinct moments and the linking of different kinds of areas coexist in the same “place”. The whole makes plastic propositions of borderline objects, works on the threshold.

Gunther Ludwig

  1. La galerie du cartable, dossier documentaire sur https://aaar.fr/itineraires/artiste/la-galerie-du-cartable/, consulté le 3/07/2019
  2. Louis Delluc, Photogénie, Éditions de Brunoff, (1920) in Écrits cinématographiques I. Le Cinéma et les cinéastes, Paris, Cinémathèque française, 1985
  3. Francis Ponge, La pluie, in Le parti pris des choses, 1942, Ed. Gallimard
  4. Béatrice Bakhouche, Musique et philosophie : le De Institutione musica de Boèce dans la tradition encyclopédique latine, Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budé n°3,1997, www.persee.fr/doc/bude_0004-5527_1997_num_1_3_1890, consulté le 1/07/2019
  5. Wassily Kandinsky, Point et ligne sur plan, contribution à l’analyse des éléments de la peinture (1925), Folio essais Gallimard, 1991
  6. Michel Foucault, Des espaces autres, Conférence, 1967 in Dits et écrits, T. 2, 1976-1988, Quarto Gallimard, 2001