The Relative Size of Things and the Vertigo of the Infinite
Les Champs Libres
10, cours des Alliés
Tuesday to Friday 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Saturday and Sunday 2:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Closed on Mondays and public holidays
On the initiative of Champs Libres and 40mcube, Benoît-Marie Moriceau is carrying out an artistic project for Christian de Portzamparc’s building in two parts, one presented inside, in the exhibition room, and the other in the public space, visible from the privileged viewpoint of the library.
Benoît-Marie Moriceau’s work takes on particularly diverse forms and scales. From the minute modification of the exhibition space to the massive intervention in the public space, it is difficult to categorically qualify its nature. This in no way excludes the coherence that binds the artistic projects he has been developing over the past fifteen years. The common point of his works remains the consideration of the context in which they are presented or the environment from which they are visible, from its spatial configuration to its history and uses. Benoît-Marie Moriceau’s work therefore has to do with the site, whatever its typology. By extension, it addresses questions of proportion and point of view that involve the visitor’s physical experience as much as its possible readings and interpretations.
Each project gives rise to preparatory research based on multiple iconographic resources and stories from different fields of knowledge. This work of observation and investigation allows him to develop artistic proposals that are always polysemic, revealing certain aspects that are hidden or already visible but which are not necessarily paid attention to. If he leads us to look at the place in a different way, it is to give a large place to the sensitive and the imaginary.
For his project at the Champs Libres at the invitation of 40mcube, the artist brings together and puts into dialogue several distinct aspects of his practice and his artistic journey: an installation visible on the scale of a panorama and an interior exhibition that shows, in the form of a vast decor, a collection or inventory of works represented on a reduced scale. Based on the architecture of the Champs Libres and its location in the city, but also on the qualification of this cultural facility that brings together a library, a science space and a heritage museum, he is developing a two-part exhibition that brings into play multiple spaces and times.
The power of scales
The title of the exhibition refers to the disturbing sensation one can experience when trying to imagine the amplitude of the scales of things and time. Like the 1977 documentary Powers of Ten by designers Charles & Ray Eames, Benoît-Marie Moriceau associates a sampling logic with a systemic principle of visual grid or graduation.
The film he is inspired by takes as its origin and unit of measurement the aerial view of two characters lying in a park in Chicago. The camera filming them is placed one meter above them. It will gradually take a step back, allowing the field of vision of the initial scene to widen. The width and height of the framing of the scene are multiplied by ten every ten seconds, until we reach the observable limits of the universe. The camera accelerates and moves backwards, to return to the hand of the man, still lying on the grass. It then zooms in, this time to the scale of the smallest known element: the quark.
The short film evokes, by the simple illustration of an exponential operation, the abyss of the space that surrounds and constitutes us. To venture to calculate the immeasurable, to build the impossible or to understand the inexplicable, is to risk that vertigo that puts us back in the measure of what we are. Space, its measurements and representations have something irremediably enigmatic about them; they touch the limits of our senses, our knowledge and our intelligible consciousness. Mathematics, optics, geometry, associated with scientific imagery and art, are possible ways of approaching unknown dimensions and imagining, translating or making tangible what is, in essence, invisible or mysterious to us.
Upon entering the exhibition, one discovers a vast printed canvas that extends over almost the entire height and length of the space. Uniformly illuminated, the coloured surface serves as a backdrop for a series of four modules that take the form of a showcase or diorama. Structurally and proportionally identical, these modules are randomly distributed in space. Sporadically, building materials are presented stored or scattered in heaps, creating a sensation of accumulation or sampling and producing the effect of a synthetic landscape.
The exhibition is conceived as a whole, an installation in its own right, which the visitor approaches with an initial visual scan but which can also be apprehended in successive strata. The whole brings into play a succession of interwoven spaces and temporalities, as if one were to pick up books at random from a library and weave links by crossing information taken from here and there. One discovers a series of sculpted objects, representations of places or architectures invested with a particular history which, as in a curiosity cabinet, respond to no other logic than that of its collector – here the artist.
These models, typical of architectural exhibitions or museum displays, embody works scattered across space and time, whether or not they have already been created by Benoît-Marie Moriceau. Through this kind of inventory of fixtures, the aim is to show in sequence how each artistic proposal plays with its context of appearance, the experience of the work and its temporal games. It is also a question of giving new life to works that have temporarily existed or have remained at the stage of ideas, sketches or plans. As in a museum showcase, each project is projected into a reinvented space suggesting, by accumulation, a mise en abyme. The succession of pieces also recounts, in reverse, an artistic process made up of research, journeys, personal stories, a journey marked by ruptures and discontinuities. Works that intersect, juxtapose and echo, on a reduced scale, the artist’s parallel intervention in the public space of Rennes.
Signals in the city
In the library of the Champs Libres, Benoît-Marie Moriceau took the decision to overdetermine the point of view by acting directly within the urban landscape. If it is not a question here of an exceptional panorama such as a breathtaking view of a mountain range, a megalopolis or the sea, it is nevertheless a question of taking advantage of a wider view of the city. To intervene on the scale of an urban area is to experience the capacities and limits of our vision. It also means confronting the rules governing the occupation of public or private space and defining an infiltration strategy that produces poetic meaning.
The project consists of installing light sources perceptible in broad daylight for a period of six months. The devices generate a series of flickers that are both intense and furtive, creating a dynamic and random light network in the urban fabric. The light is visible but in such a fleeting way that it tests the observer’s retinal persistence. The artist applies to this luminous intervention the constructive and sequenced logic of minimal music, entrusting musician Pierre Lucas with the task of establishing a composition rendered silent that serves as the basis for triggering the light flashes. To this end, he has relied on the principles of visual scores such as that of John Cage’s Atlas Eclipticalis or natural phenomena such as the communication mode of fireflies. A frequency is integrated into each device and its triggering is programmed during the library’s opening hours. The frequency is played in a loop and it is the effect of the time shift that gradually varies the composition of the set generating a random effect.
Rather than defining the location of the light sources according to points of interest in the city or a visual composition determined in a purely arbitrary manner, the artist has chosen to rely on a circumstantial situation and a principle of chance. Thus, a call for participation was launched via social networks and through the dissemination of an announcement in the local press. Residents who could see the library from their homes were invited to come forward. Within a perimeter of 1500 metres, some twenty sites were thus chosen to install the devices that make up the installation.
From the Champs Libres library, the reader wandering in the shelves or the one whose gaze escapes distractedly from his book, will be able to discern this signal, a call intended to reach the viewer in his movement and perhaps even interrupt him in his activity like a punctum. These punctuations act on the public space, the perception of which is as much a matter of an individual act as of a set of contributions made in an orchestrated and silent way…
Anne Langlois / Benoît-Marie Moriceau
Check here to see the interview of the artist realized on the occasion of the exhibition. Realized by Margaux Germain. Coproduced by Réseau documents d’artistes – Documents d’Artistes Bretagne. This interview is part of the Interview Collection of Réseau documents d’artistes – 2018.
Exhibition partners: Bauraum, Groupe Legendre, Lendroit Éditions, Model and Co, My Lucky Pixel, PanoramaRoad, PierroTechnics, Polyrepro, Smart Machines, Stergann, Teschner – Sturacci, Tolila + Gilliland, Urban Maquette
Media Partner: Les Inrockuptibles.
Benoît-Marie Moriceau, The Relative Size of Things and the Vertigo of the Infinite, 2018. Curated by 40mcube. Produced by Les Champs Libres. Benoît-Marie Moriceau / ADAGP – Paris 2018. Photos: André Morin.