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Report at Scopitone festival, digital art & electronic music festival in Nantes, France
rAndom International @ Carpenters Workshop gallery, Paris
Innovations in Paris: Futur en Seine
Capture, by Gregory Chatonsky, presented in Paris
[Innovation] When technology serves human rights
[Call for project] Borders
Digitalarti Mag #13
[Interview] Peter Weibel, director of ZKM
Ars Electronica Price 2013 : and the winners are...
[agenda] Nancy celebrates Renaissance
A trap made of light : Isotopes by Nonotak Studio
[exhibition] Digital Africa
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More blog entries
Artist, teacher-researcher, 3D pioneer, video artist, stage designer, photographer, virtual reality artist… Maurice Benayoun needs no introduction. Refusing to be labeled, a supporter of open systems, he prefers the notion of “open art” to that of “digital” art. The use of digital tools no longer being a distinctive criteria in the art field, nowadays, the computer is the most shared item in the whole of human activities…
A double exhibition retraces his art trajectory over three decades, presenting archives, new works and unfinished or constantly mutating projects on his blog, “The Dump”… Low or high-tech, mixing the possible and the unlikely, his creations are like a “big game” with a perpetual questioning on the meaning, the value and the function of art.
The first exhibition, at the George-Sand multimedia library in Enghien-les-Bains, is going to show my video work, including, as a highlight, the series
I produced at the beginning of the 90s in collaboration with FranÁois Schuiten and BenoÓt Peeters: Les Quarxs. This is the first time I have gathered in a single space my video works produced in the 80s then the 90s. They were echoing a wonder, or even a kind of perplexity as regards the positioning of the artists of that era. It was a time when people started to get interested in Figuration libre, painting revival, post-modernism, the fact that avant-gardes were “dead” and that one could rethink art history by approaching it from any end …
This used to leave a bitter taste of general dissatisfaction in my mouth.
This exhibition starts with my very first videos, focused on the installation Daniel Buren made for the MusÈe d’Art Moderne de Paris: 935 mËtres de bande. This installation — I am calling it an installation because it was conceived as a video triptych — has never been presented in this way. On this occasion, the public will be able to see the triptych and its real meaning that only appears in this format which dates back to 1983. We worked hard on salvaging and restoration processes with INA (French National Audiovisual Institute) responsible for digitalizing my archives.
935 mËtres de bande (935 meters of tape) is not a completely finished work, because I was still young and hesitating then, but it shows how, at the time,
I was approaching the questions of temporality, framing and synchronicity… How I was gauging the legacy of some of the artists who influenced me more than others. For instance, Daniel Buren enabled me to think about the relation to space and the city in a different way.
PiËces of convictions
Amongst the other videos, one can see the PiËces of convictions series in which, in 1985, I was asking artists having taken part in the Paris Biennale to comment on the piece they had shown there. I used a way of working very close to what I did afterwards with virtual reality: I created situations. For instance, Bertrand Lavier, who I had arranged to meet in a bank on the Champs-
lysÈes, came into the bank that was operating as usual, with people at the desks, etc. Then he heard a voice that grabbed his attention: a fridge, a safe, does it ring
a bell?… The following question was: but is it a fridge or a work of art…?
Everything was built like this, with this ambiguity, in order for the situation to reveal a non-pre-constructed meaning, a non-pre-fabricated discourse of the artist about his work. Other artists including Jean Le Gac, Takis, Martial Raysse, Tinguely, Alberola, Bill Woodrow and Jean-Luc Vilmouth were also involved.
However, the major part of this exhibition will be dedicated to Quarxs. I met FranÁois Schuiten with the idea to create a bestiary made of invisible, omnipresent living beings totally defying the laws of nature. It was a investigation of scientific truth and, at the same time, a reflection upon the future of the image in its most realistic and its digital forms… perhaps, also, its most deceiving ones. This is how the likes of Elasto Fragmentoplast, Spiro Thermophage, Polymorpho Proximens or Spatio Striata were born on Canal + (French encrypted channel). It was rather quirky and unusual for the times, because they weren’t speaking animals, it was not Disney-like. It was shown as a scientific work. Besides, I was toying with the aberrations of realism: the Spatio Striata only exists once every two inches; the Partio Scopa Dextra is only visible on the right side… They all have slightly paradoxical physical, optical and biological properties. One could wonder whether or not they belong to a real physics that would have escaped us… Also at the time, people were not used to this type of images in fiction.
It has to be placed it in its context…
it was shot in high definition 35mn, which was not customary, but nothing was customary then in the digital field, anyway… Technically it was too ambitious for such short durations and this is why we had great difficulties to do a sequel… Therefore, for the exhibition, there will be drawings by FranÁois Schuiten together with sketches and story-boards…
The other exhibition is completely different. It will take place at the Centre des Arts in Enghien and is called Out Of The Dump… This exhibition will show about fifteen displays of creations and installations that com from my project litter space The Dump. This is a blog
I started in 2006 that describes projects that I couldn’t, didn’t want to or didn’t know how to produce. It is like a sketch pad but one devoid of innocence:
I know that everyone can see it. In art history, nothing has ever been produced without first being inspired by something that has been seen.
The work of those who came before us is feeding us and then we grow and evolve out of it. Therefore, this project was about showing how and why an idea surges. For a long time I posted, on average, one project a day. This is very addictive! And indeed “unproductive”: I have only been describing a context and what I could produce from it.
What I post on this blog are real projets… and from the moment they are left in this dump, anyone can come and appropriate. It is totally open.
Thesis on non-works
At the en of 2008, I presented this blog as my PhD thesis in Art and art science, at Paris 1 University [Pantheon - Sorbonne] — even though there have been thesis focused on blogs, to my knowledge, this was the first time a blog itself was the thesis. What must be understood is that in the French arts field one can write a thesis on specific works, where one’s work is being described, with nevertheless, an accompanying essay of several hundred pages. Therefore, since my thesis was presenting non-produced works, it was indeed a thesis on non-works! The theme was l’intention artistique l’œuvre: hypothËse pour un passage l’acte [artistic intent at work, an hypothesis for acting out]… In May 2010, a curator from Gdansk, in Poland, invited 9 artists, from various countries, to produce works from projects coming out of The Dump!
The name of the exhibition was The Dump: recycling of thoughts…
I was invited to the closing event where I took photographs of the works. In the Enghien exhibition, I will show a few of these photographs of the pieces produced on this occasion, with the original descriptive cartel in real scale.
In each instance, the work has become autonomous from the initial project. This goes to show that it is difficult to own an idea — from a legal standpoint, it is impossible— Also, no matter what you do, it would be easier to find an anteriority but in this case you simply become responsible for it.
The categories of Dump help understand the approach of the artist and his work… There is also the idea of defining a profile… Thus, there is a section called “artist’s career plan”. For instance an artist that designs wall paper by inventing new patterns that make sense at an artistic level become a wallpaperist…). Notably, there is also the idea of a business model: an artist should be able to live from his/her work. In this case, therefore, the idea was for this project dump to be printed on a roll of paper, available to buy at various lengths to wallpaper one’s walls. Therefore there will be walls wallpapered by Dump as part of the exhibition… there is another wallpaperist work I like a lot called Appartement TÈmoin (test appartment). The concept is as follows: nowadays, one can practically own a car for free, provided it is covered with adverts. The same could be applied to an accommodation. The rent of the apartment is free provided you accept that every month, a mail order company such as La Redoute or Les 3 Suisses (French mail order companies), for instance, come and wallpaper the rooms with the pages of its catalogue according to every room theme (the “living room” pages for the living room, etc.).
In this exhibition, some items also belong to the field of installation and video. Particularly, Blind Love Ready Made that associates 2 ready-mades — that I might have done reflecting upon what Bertand Lavier said in PiËces convictions on his own work Brandt sur Haffner: A fridge on top of a safe is a ready-made on top of another ready-made which creates yet something else… in this instance, both ready-mades are an excerpt from a porn film combined with a Windows Media Player, only used to play sound. Obviously, if you use Windows Media Player’s curves and shaped generator and synchronize with the soundtrack of the movie, the image itself is having sex… This will be presented as a rather unique situation since there will be two versions projected on two opposite walls, in a small room, where two people can sit and listen to the pieces with headphones on but in such a way their backs are almost touching…
They will hear different things and I think the situation will be interesting. In the same way, there will be another display: Dildomatic Opera, which is a dildo tempered with in a Dorkbot and circuit bending fashion… There, the idea is to install sensors on the dildo and to connect it via USB plugs so as to produce music. It is destined for a performer— a male or female opera
singer— who could use this instrument for singing practice adapted to a live performance.
There will also be more recent works such as H2H Interaction.
It is my response to B2B [business to business] and B2C [business to consumer]:
I would just like us to keep in mind that what we are doing is also l’humain vers l’humain [human to human] … The process is extremely simple. Somewhere at the FIAC (contemporary art fair), at the Grand Palais, there was a manhole cover under the worn-out wall to wall carpeting which looked like a target. I grabbed my camera and took pictures of people just as their foot was touching the mark of the slate. Therefore, this is strictly human: no cable nor Bluetooth…
Additionally, I am showing another piece that has several names because it belongs to the “titrisme” (titleism) category — i.e. an art category where the work gains its meaning from its title only. For this piece, I placed two red targets, on a white background, perforated by bullets. One with a kneeling pin-up, the other with robot-like, all straightened up man. Consequently this work has been given various titles: sometimes it can indeed be Sans Titre (untitled), at other times Constellation / Concentration or, my favourite, Discrimination Positive (positive discrimination)… All of these are thoughts in progress, things that could be left unfinished but that generate tangible results such as large scale photographic prints, etc.
There will also be a display called Stolen Life. You enter a small room with a window through which a tree can be seen… As you get closer to the window, the white daylight is being switched on. And whenever the soil dries up, the rain starts falling. It is difficult to understand straight away what’s going on but a photograph of our face is taken as we get near to the window and another one is taken when a leaf falls from the dying tree. There are two screens outside.
One shows a sped up flow of viewers reaching for the window. The other one shows the tree dying out. This creates a kind of synthetesis of what nature would be if it only existed though those who look at it… On the whole, throughout the exhibition, there will be
17 different types of works: objects, photographs, drawings, sculptures, videos, installations… and a little amount of virtual reality too. Regarding videos, one of them is more significant and has already been exhibited: Falling Pixels. There you can hear an urban music, with sirens, and you can see pixels that seem to fall like in a Tetris game, but as you look further, you see something else that is left for the public to discover…
Calling the People
Sans Armes Citoyens should not be left out. It is a call for people in January 2011 to re-write the lyrics of the French national anthem. Towards the end of the 90s, I was commissioned to work for the Year 2000 celebrations. I suggested that if we wanted to send a strong message to the world, we should change the lyrics of our national anthem. For many people France stands for the country of human rights and revolution, and it is difficult to bear this role with lyrics that are totally unsuited to our current values… The ideal would be another message, another vision…
a national anthem more fair and “international”, that would be relevant beyond our borders… I launched this project, which is available on the Internet [via Arte Creative]. You can send in new lyrics, but also sing the ones you or someone else posted, just like in a karaoke… As part of this exhibition, the best performances will be projected onto a Marianne effigy (French National emblem), such as the ones found in French town and city halls…
At the same time as the exhibition, we will publish Dump as a book. The reason for this paper publication is simple: the blog is now 400 pages long and no one can read such a long blog! Besides, at the same time, the first monographic book on my work will be published. In it, contributors often talk about their experience of the work. I am really interested in this since I created many installations to be experienced— and they not only describe them but tell about their own understanding of them… — and I am working on projects that try and make our relation au monde more humane. For example, Kitsun is an urban browser that uses GPS together with the participation of users in order to bring highly sensitive and personal answers to what we are looking for. I am working a lot on anything to do with symbolic representation of the world’s emotions. In the exhibition, there will also be one of my last projects derived from MÈcanique des Èmotions: Emotion Forecast. This is the World’s emotional variations forecast.
I am currently able to predict the emotional state of the world 2 or 3 days in advance…
Another project, Last Life, is my answer to Second Life; meant at those who could have forgotten this is their last one… The idea is not to be present in the shape of a substitute object whether it be an avatar or anything else, but to stage one’s life directly. It is a 3D white city in which you can open a window looking onto your life via your webcam…
This game is entirely based on the economy of attention… When someone pays attention to our life, they spend seconds of life, which is the currency in Last Life… The more of this you get, the higher your score. For this purpose, you can choose your aim: either to attract attention or on the contrary, to remain as private as possible. All these projects are part of Dump… In some way, this projects’ dump was a way to get rid of this restricting image that tends to label me as the “virtual reality artist” or the “digital artist”, “he who uses heavy technologies”, “he who makes large scale installations “, etc.
Of course, this is a great part of my work but what I mainly regard as important is the way in which our practice gets integrated into the world, what kind of impact it produces…
What I call Open Art, is the idea of an art open to others, in which others can get involved, in which others can re-use what we produced in the same way that we can re-use what others have produced. This is also an art freed from categories meant to entrap artists… As far as I am concerned I would prefer artist to be judged according to their positioning, the way they relate to the world. In fact, art is integrated into the world as a deciphering key, as an index for interpreting the world. This is also what I am developing, in my analyses, as part of the “fusion critique”(critical fusion) theme… Therefore, my project is not and never has been a technological one!
On the other hand, it used, will use and is not afraid of using technology; in order to push the latter as far as possible, to understand its limits, to overcome them and perhaps, act as an antidote…
interview by Laurent Diouf
Published in the Digitalarti Mag #6.
Digitalarti Mag, the international digital art and innovation magazine.
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