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With two galleries, two exhibitions and four installations, French artist-researcher Samuel Bianchini pursues his experiments with viewers at work, exploring and challenging our senses.
Bianchini surprised us in Rennes by exhibiting the result of an original collaboration with two Breton university departments. By “refurbishing” three of his interactive works at a gallery in Paris (2), the young artist is claiming his place in an art market wary of technology and interactivity. This internationally renowned artist has shaped a sculptural and living body of work that any contemporary art museum should apprehend.
For the past 15 years, Bianchini has been questioning our modern-day confrontation with images. Interaction, games, installation and tactile interfaces are featured very early on in various pieces. As a research professor in reputed art schools (Nancy, ENSAD) and at the university, a member of innovative laboratories (CITU – University of Paris 8, Calhiste – University of Valenciennes), Bianchini belongs to a new generation of artists who exonerate the theory of their artistic activity through collaborative and inventive work, academic and technological research, as well as multiple showings. If image, projection and active viewer confrontation have consistently been a part of Bianchini’s work, On the qui vive, presented in Rennes, is an unidentified object. The installation was made in situ with the domotics department of the University of Rennes 2 for the school’s underground Art & Essai Gallery.
This intelligent installation, like a alien in the university, lives not only for us and by us viewers/visitors, but also from the activity of library users that haunts the floor just above the gallery. The sounds of footsteps and furniture noises, as an audio visualization of student researchers at work in the library, also breathe life into the piece. Associated with the movement of visitors in the gallery, a mechanical and luminous, sonorous and disquieting life takes form. In a persistent clair-obscur, visitors are confronted with a shambles of tables and chairs. It’s a surprising mess for anyone unfamiliar with student protest tactics. These sculptures are all-too-common, as these barricades of lean tables and multicolored tubular chairs are ubiquitous in a school on strike. Here, however, no strike, no stockroom, no revolt or barricades. These stacks of tables and chairs lit in clair-obscur roar through the mechanics that develop their faculties of movement. According to our movements in the silence of the gallery, punctuated only by the squeaks of heels and chairs from the upstairs “neighbors”, the monster awakens. But there is no obvious alphabet of moves dedicated to dialoguing with the beast. One can only submit to and observe the subtleties of the transformation… And stay on the On the qui vive alert!
In a nutshell, On the qui vive is a piece that celebrates a truly contemporary sculptor (1). Even the double meaning of its French title (Qui vive) alerts us viewers, just as it acts as an incantation to bring the monstruous installation to life, to gather the participative strength to play On the qui vive. After consideration, this work without images is not so far from the preoccupations of Bianchini’s shared work.
Already with pOlymic Games, exhibited in full-scale for the Maintenance exhibition (Poitiers, 2010), Bianchini questioned the legitimacy of an interactive piece that was shared by nine users over the image of the Olympic symbol formed/deformed by a crowd during the Olympic Games in Seoul. Currently, at the Ilan Engel Gallery in Paris, the artist is reinventing three of his previous pieces, among which an interactive installation from 2007: All Together.
But this new show in the heart of the Marais plays with the timing of viewers’ gestures and the movement of images with three old works revamped for the occasion. The installation has been adapted for factual display, using the triptych design of All Over, an online work featuring images rendered in dynamic ASCII art that fluctuate according to the stock markets, originally made for the website of the Jeu de Paume in 2009. What’s More With Many (2001), a wall representing a crowd performing a wave in real time according to the viewer’s gestures on a tactile screen, exhibited at the Centre Pompidou last year, is shown here in an appropriate version. And THE network piece, All Together, consists of a mosaic of black-and-white images (35 images), like a control dashboard of (identical) surveillance cameras, with the same viewing angle at different times, lone protestors to gather with seven mice (7 players) and a single cursor. A relational puzzle to play with your family!
This last piece is certainly the most complex and the most representative of Bianchini’s current research. It reinvents networked relational esthetics within a shared digital artwork. It invites us to share an experience among many visitors, as peers and rivals. This “shared network” concept of All Together and pOlymic Games is, according to Bianchini, very underestimated, whereas shared networking is one of the big contemporary challenges. Between politics and esthetics, activism and technophilia, Bianchini’s art allows us to share new experiences. If the role of an artist is to expand awareness as much as to break through relational, esthetic and technical practices, then on all fronts Samuel Bianchini is On the qui vive!
(1) Qui vive, Galerie Art & Essai, Université de Rennes 2 - January/February 2012.
(2) Opération Opération, exhibition through May 12, 2012, Ilan Engel Gallery,
77 rue des Archives, 75003 Paris. > www.ilanengelgallery.com
Samuel Bianchini > www.dispotheque.org/indexuk.htm
Published in Digitalarti Mag #9
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