A show for the sense

If I was to be told about Béthune, it would be told about the "Matière-Lumière" exhibition produced during Béthune 2011, Regional Capital of Creation. Three temporary or rehabilitated locations and an ambitious curator, Richard Castelli: Here is an itinerary through the Garage, the 360 and a dome set up on the main square.

An old garage converted into an exhibition space, the Garage welcomes two immersive installations inviting the spectator to become aware of his perception of the environment. In a semi-dark room, waves run across the water of a basin and are reflected on the walls of the room. The movements of the water reveal the sound vibrations coming from loudspeakers dissimulated under the basin. A synesthetic experiment, Ondulation by Thomas McIntosh, makes the sound visible and the image audible. It is a meditative experiment; the gaze is lost in the contemplation of this virtual landscape. With his disturbing Zee, Kurt Hentschläger invites us to experience a total loss of reference points. Deep in a dense fog, the mind no longer knows whether it is dealing with reality or a fantastic notion. Distances are blurred. Are these fleeing forms, created by the projected light, close or distant? Even our body disappears in the luminous and vaporous matter surrounding it. This unsettling experiment, which draws from optical research in kinetic art, is particularly well transcribed in a set of conversations with the public, published on the website of Epidemic, Richard Castelli’s production company < www.epidemic.net/fr/liens/index.html>.

After being immersed in two virtual universes, Du Zhenjun < www.duzhenjun.com > leads us deep into globalisation. A 50ft wide inflatable dome of has been erected on Béthune’s main square. It is hosting Global Fire by the Chinese artist who shares his time between Paris and Shanghai. There is an apocalyptic aspect to this work, an apocalypse of nations the visitor can interact with. He can alter the image by burning flags which, in turn, ignite other ones. Are we faced with the representation of the tangle of conflicts or the end of national territories? I feel a phenomenon of globalisation, which is testified in this work. On the one hand a globalisation on the Inter-net which prefigures the era of the single territory, on the other hand, the growth of nationalism. But I am trying not to judge, Du Zhenjun explains to me. Thus this work must be perceived as a portrait of what is being done. The disappearance of nations leading to a Great Whole. To burn flags, it is to burn nationalism but also one’s own national identity. Each symbolic system thus contains its opposite, which is very Chinese, explains Du Zhenjun, laughing. Work reaches its climax when a group enters the installation and decides, together, to ignite the dome. Is this the apocalypse? Is this resurgence? The meaning relies on the state of mind of the viewer.

The third location named Le 360 gathers the majority of the works produced for Matière-Lumière. 14 pieces are displayed in a 165ft long building and in a dome. The itinerary begins with two installations by Julien Maire. Exploding Camera, represents an agonising camera, with broken components, projecting the last images it recorded during a war, apparently the Afghanistan one. Reference is made to the death of Commander Massoud following a suicide bombing, the sign of an era. Consequently it means the end of this period and the beginning of another one. As the remains of a history in the making, it continues to inform and testify. Death also underlines Jean-Michel Bruyère/LFKs’ monumental work < www.lfks.net >: 21 hospital beds are displayed side by side and lit by suspended neon tubes.

They are moving mechanically, like captive bodies, which adds a sonic dimension to the work. The dead leaves spread across the floor are the only living element of this installation. They highlight the cycle of life. The title of this piece, Le chemin de Damastès, clarifies the symbolic system of the work. In Greek mythology, Damastes was welcoming travellers whom he invited to rest on a bed. If their body was longer than the bed, he would cut their legs, if they were too small, he would stretch them. To relocate Damastes into the contemporary society symbolizes the imposed standardization and conformism. Besides, the French Jean-Michel Bruyère moved to Senegal as refusal to be confined to a circle, (the art one), and an identity, (the Western contemporary artist one). The idea to spend one’s entire life in these archetypes, knowing from the very first day everything that is going to happen to us, is an unbearable idea, which does not relate at all to the artistic experiment and adventure, he specified in the Mouvement magazine.

After the walk on the floor covered with dead leaves and the feeling of absence, Li Hui presents two pieces with enticing visual qualities, but behind these unhappiness and absence can be sensed. Amber, bathed in a blue light, represents a futuristic car made of transparent resin revealing its skeleton. At first, the spectator focuses on the perfection of its production. Then interrogations arise: Amber, the petrified tree resin makes it possible to rediscover long extinct living organisms, by casting them into matter. By creating a car skeleton, the artist humanizes the robot and by preserving it in amber, he approches the question of time. Are we in the prehistory of technological change? Li Hui explores one of the major human anxieties: disappearance. Réincarnation also toys with this dual approach, first of all by coaxing the viewer by means of a seductive installation which then reveals its tensions: the idea of death, the ghostly presence, the loneliness, the impersonality and the coldness of this impersonal bed belonging to a prison or a hospital environment. Along the exhibition, lighter respites have being designed, such as the one proposed by Erwin Redl Matrix II < www.paramedia.net>. Using LED, this light artist uses the architecture to underline its forms, gaps and to challenge its space. Richard Castelli explains that his light installation creates virtual unreality. Erwin Redl confirms that the light medium is a direct reference to the aesthetics of virtual reality. Far from seeking to imitate nature, his works enhances the absence of humanity, linearity and formality.

A large 85ft of diameter dome is hosting the installation by famous composer Ryui chi Sakamoto <www.sitesakamoto.com> and by Shira Takatani, one of the founder members of the Dumb Type collective < www.dumbtype.com>. The nine aqua riums of LIFE - fluid, invisible, inaudible (2007) in which images are being projected is floating inside the dome. The installation can be perceived as a whole, or through each aquarium screens which constitutes it.

The perception of these suspended shapes evolves according to our body positioning, the clarity of the water but also the sound environment. The perception and shape of the world, symbolized by these aquariums, are thus dependant on external, light or sound data controlled by man. This idea echoes the involvement of Ryuichi Sakamoto into environmental issues, notably with the creation of his moreTrees foundation. To round up the course of the Matière-Lumière exhibition two displays, designed by Jeffrey Shaw are staging projections. AVIE, the advanced visualization and interaction environment installed in a 50ft wide dome presents La dispersion du fils (2008-2011) by Jean-Michel Bruyère. In ReACTOR, a set up including 6 projectors, two works toy with the perception of the same scene from various angles, Fragmentation by Robert Lepage and Double District by Saburo Teshigawara. The artists in this show do not impose a vision nor an idea. Their works are initially apprehended in a sensory manner. They stimulate the senses and then the imagination in order to prolong this experiment while reflecting beyond what is being shown, in order to discover what is being thought. This is a spectacular exhibition for a broad audience.




from April 2nd to May 31st, 2011, Grand’Place, Béthune.

Le Garage,

169 boulevard Raymond Poincaré, Béthune. LE 360, 360 avenue du Maréchal Juin, Béthune.


< www.bethune2011.fr >

Published in the Digitalarti Mag #6.

Digitalarti Mag, the international digital art and innovation magazine.

Read the magazine for free online. 



Artificial Imagination: Is it just an illusion? (1/2)

As present time felt obsolete compared to the new realm of AGI everywhere

Green fingers: digital and botanical art (2/2)

Artistic practices involving video, robotics and biotechnology have completely

Artificial Imagination: Is it just an illusion? (2/2)

As present time felt obsolete compared to the new realm of AGI everywh