The Plateau / Frac Île-de-France is developing several experimental projects in which the production and distribution of the collection are being combined in offerings made directly to the public throughout Île-de-France. Abitacollection is a roaming exhibition conceived by Xavier Franceschi, director, with Élodie Royer and Yoann Gourmel, guest curators for the 2011-1012 season. Taking place in an inflatable bubble that architect Hans-Walter Müller produced especially for the occasion, this project illustrates the position of an art venue that places itself resolutely at the crossroads.read
Since 2010, the Plateau / FRAC Île-de-France devises each year a new project of a migrant exhibition, for a closeness audience.
The FRAC Ile-de-France collection is setting off again on the region’s roads inside a new moveable structure.
For Abitacollection, the Plateau / FRAC Ile-de-France has invited Hans-Walter Müller, a pioneer since the 1960s of “architecture in motion”, to come up with one of his famous inflatable volumes to accommodate an exhibition of works from the collection. The event took place over several days in different communes of the Département of Seine-Saint-Denis. The project has been devised by Xavier Franceschi in collaboration with Élodie Royer and Yoann Gourmel, associate curators at the FRAC Ile-de-France/Le Plateau for 2011-2013, based on the collection of the FRAC Ile-de-France and that of the Département of Seine-Saint-Denis.
What Abitacollection involves is the presentation of contemporary works in a non-institutional context.
The Plateau / FRAC Ile-de-France has made a wager for this exhibition in an inflatable module: creating favourable conditions for friendly and passionate discussions and exchanges with visitors around the works on view.
The travelling show Abitacollection is thus taking as its point of departure an inflatable module, at once nomadic and ephemeral, made by Hans-Walter Müller, representing both an artwork and a space to experience.
The works thus reflect the interest of artists of different nationalities and generations in questions connected with architecture and design, and, more generally, with the fact of living in and using a space, be it public or private, real or fantasy. They offer us a line of thinking about our immediate environment and our patterns of behaviour as users, and they play with a discrepancy between use and representation, function and decor, in a circuit seen as an “inhabitable landscape”, to use Hans-Walter Müller’s expression.
With works by Stanislas Amand, Michel Blazy, Véronique Joumard, Bertrand Lavier, Didier Marcel, Gordon Matta-Clark, Mathieu Mercier, Bruno Munari, Bill Owens, Bruno Persat, Philippe Ramette, Josef Robakowski, Vladimir Skoda, Ulrike Weizsäcker & Joanna Borderie
In Villepinte and Romainville, October 2012
In partnership with the Département of Seine-Saint-Denis, the cities of Romainville and Villepinte
With the support of the foundation PSA Peugeot-Citroën and the foundation EDF
© Julien Crépieux
Abitacollection, interview with Hans-Walter Müller at La Ferté Allais, 30th august 2012
Yoann Gourmel: You’re an architect and an engineer, who graduated from the Darmstadt Polytechnic in 1961. You then continued your studies in Paris. Would you talk a bit about your career?
Hans-Walter Müller: In the 1960s, I was among the kinetic artists who experimented with the idea of movement in the work of art. That was—and still is—my main preoccupation, even though I describe myself as an architect. For me, architecture is the prime art. I make no distinction between art and architecture, they’ve always been one.
Élodie Royer: Since the beginning of your work, everything is connected: kinetic art, light, the projection of moving images, and architecture to accommodate these projections. To get back to the origins of your work and your research, what was the first inflatable volume you came up with?
HWM: In 1967 I took part in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art [in Paris] called Lumière et Mouvement/Light and Movement. For it, I constructed a room devoted to the projection of moving images based on a kinetic machine which I’d designed. That was one of my concerns as an architect, to be able to see everything in three dimensions: not looking at a wall to see everything in a one-directional way, but a bit like in front of frescoes, being in the image. I had the idea of making a ball, projecting on to it, and sitting inside it to see the projections all round me and being aware of being in the projection. So that was really the beginning of the inflatables.
YG: Could you describe the process of designing the inflatables?
HWM: Like any architect, I work to specifications. A theatre, for example, is going to need a certain height, there mustn’t be any daylight in it, and it must sometimes include transparent parts, along with plenty of other parameters. The specifications are the starting point of a line of thinking that will become something daily, and be developed by the work through different stages, drawings, models and computer tools. In my work’s praxis, you have to be acquainted with geometry, but above all you must always be curious.
ÉR: Could you talk to us about the choice of materials and colours, and the interplay you create between opaqueness and transparency?
HWM: That’s part of my work as an architect. For example, in the volume that I’m in the process of devising for the exhibition Abitacollection, the light comes from below. There’s something magic about it, which also enables you to see the works very well. As for materials, I have to be regarded practically like a tailor, a tailor of architecture. If I have a commission, I set off like an explorer, visiting factories to find a fabric. You need beautiful fabrics for beautiful dresses! Unfortunately, in the technical range of the fabrics I use, there aren’t a lot of colours. It’s always white, white, white! But I like colour and if I want to get a coloured fabric of my choice, I have to have it specially made, which is only possible if I buy a very large quantity. So there are different colour periods in my work. Like Picasso’s blue and pink periods, I’m currently in my yellow period.
YG: How do you define an inflatable?
HWM: I define it by its construction technique. It’s an architecture made of fluids. The construction is based on the principle of fluid mechanics, as defined by Blaise Pascal. In this architecture there’s more depth. A difference in pressure is created between inside and out. Inside there’s slightly more pressure than outside, and this slight overpressure produces a tension in the canvas. This tension provides all the construction’s resistance and stability. That’s what’s essential. In a traditional construction, you have to make foundations. An inflatable construction doesn’t have any foundation because it isn’t subject to the law of gravity. On the contrary, it wants to rise upwards, and it has to be held back. Contrary to what people think, an inflatable doesn’t need much energy. But it does require an electric motor which must run all the time, even if it doesn’t use much energy. Nowadays, however, nobody wants something to run all the time. Except love, in brackets. Now what’s even madder and more paradoxical—and it just so happens that Blaise Pascal revealed the paradox of fluid mechanics: forces are increased in relation to the surface—is that the bigger an inflatable is, the less energy it needs. I’m not giving you this explanation because I want to defend myself. It’s the reality.
ÉR: It’s also a paradox for an architect to construct ephemeral buildings. Was that also a decision in relation to classical architecture, to move towards a type of ephemeral architecture that can be modulated?
HWM: Yes, but hold on. Inflatables are often used in ephemeral situations, but they can also be permanent. They have both capacities. On the one hand, I absolutely don’t think that the inflatable is going to replace traditional architecture. It’s a complement that can be added to traditional architecture. It’s an architecture of our sensational day and age, which can rather emphasize the construction of the past, and vice versa. Incidentally, I’m in no way an inflatable specialist. I’m first and foremost an architect who uses inflatables. A very interesting phenomenon in architecture is to think about a wall which rises to the ceiling, and continues uninterrupted. In curves, the eye can move without being interrupted. In this way it can go as far as possible.
ÉR: Could you talk about the inflatable you’ve made for the show?
HWM: What’s very important in an art exhibition is that there’s a contact between the inside and the outside, a continuity. But without feeling that you’re outside. So the modular floor in the exhibition doesn’t touch the inflatable at all, it’s like an island.
YG: You were a conjurer when you were fourteen, and I was wondering what influence this had on your architecture?
HWM: Yes, of course, appearance, disappearance. I was a conjurer when I was a student, and on a professional basis, I was on stage every weekend. I like things that are almost not possible.
FORMS OF DISTANCE
Certain recent circumstances have led me to deal with the concepts of scale and distance. The former thought in methodological terms, the latter in moral terms, both from a historiographical point of view. As a curator, I have been involved in the research of topics linked to colonial histories that call for a constant reconsideration of where one is positioned, and from where one is speaking. Furthermore, a project (exhibition or else) is not autonomous from its conditions of production and reception and one cannot sublimate it from its contextual existence. The issue of distance becomes then crucial, but also its artificial sibling, distantiation (in Brechtian terms), which is perhaps needed as a form of translation and relation to reality.
Reading through the wealth of approaches represented in uncoupdedés.net and its celebration of institutional decentralisation experienced in France, I thought it would be useful reconsidering the implication of scale -or rather shifts scale – and distance in the production of contemporary art or in the way we think about art as a means to approach reality. Of course, I am not talking about this in absolute, all-encompassing terms, but rather as a way of offering a nuanced reading of how a decentralised network, to which uncoupdedés.net offers a visible existence, shows the relevance of these many ways of operating at different scales in the geopolitical entity called mainland France. In a way, all this has to do with what now seems a hackneyed expression: the production of knowledge.
Edouard Sautai’s collaboration with the Centre d’Art et Photographie de Lectoure offers an immediate consideration of the implication of a change of scale. By evoking flying, a situation that allows to see a reality at a particular level of detail, but also the making of models as another way of representing this reality at a different scale, Sautai reminded me of Bernard Lepetit’s considerations about the dialectic relationship, and constant oscillation between the micro and the macro. For Lepetit the fabrication of a model “does not distinguish between the different parts of the object but between the differents dimensions in which it spreads out” (Bernad Lepetit, “Architecture, géographie, histoire: usages de l’échelle”, in Genèses, 13, 1993, p. 129.) Likewise, Aurélien Mole’s fictional narrative about the future potential of research in the margins seems to reflect on the importance of considering particular micro-realities in order to recapture larger macro-perspectives.
But it is perhaps the question of distance that interests me the most here. In artistic research –and we may want to consider its modes of existence and qualities as in Jean-Pierre Cometti’s interview with Eric Mangion for Le Centre National d’Art Contemporain de La Villa Arson – distance is sometimes created and annihilated in a stroke, or perhaps created in one dimension of a project and obliterated in another one. Stephen Willats’ work offers perhaps an example of such dialectical interaction with a context where the artist is embodied in the photographic work, in the relative distance of the camera and what it points at which through composition, offers an immediate intimacy, and yet, paradoxically, a sense of estrangement. From a different perspective the idea of hosting as a form of offering a shortening of distance is dramatically staged in Berdaguer + Péjus’ intervention in the back building of the Centre d’Art Contemporain La Synagogue de Delme, where space is considered in it physical, affective and ghostly dimensions, materialising the multiplicity of directions in which distance operates.
Carlo Ginzburg considers and actualises the different moral implications of distance both in terms of time and space (Carlo Ginzburg, “Killing a Chinese Mandarin: The Moral Implications of Distance”, in Wooden Eyes: Nine Reflections on Distance, Verso Books, 2002.) For the historian the inevitability of distance in time (the past becoming ever longer and the future shortening its distance to us permanently), towards which he or she is impotent can be counteracted through the way the past is remembered or written about. Distance in time and space often operates as detachment or oblivion, but also as admiration or desire –or perhaps sometimes as a paradoxical interweaving of some of all of these possibilities. (And here, I find interesting Valérie Mréjen’s fictional account in La Chapelle Saint-Jacques’ intervention on uncoupdedés.net, where the contrast and complex interweaving between civil time and experienced time become evident.) Transposing this to the field of contemporary art, the time-space framework of the artistic project, operates at several levels of close proximity and distancing, often transcended or further materialised through memory and documentation – Elie During’s contribution in relation to visiting the Cneai attests to this in a diagrammatic way. But if experience is at the core of the artistic act, then form becomes a way of shortening or elongating the distance to that which seemed to be pointed at. Adva Zakai’s intervention on uncoupdedes.net –as a step forward in her collaboration with Le Quartier Centre d’Art Contemporain – is a performance that happens in the time-space of a website, an act of giving form which creates an experience of place where the subject is not represented but embodied through words.
On a more often dealt with topic, the relationship, and therefore relative distance, between an artist and a context is problematised in several experiences related in uncoupdedés.net. Apart from the above mentioned work of Stephen Willats, one could quite clearly refer to Claudio Zulian’s strategies of working with specific communities as a filmmaker (portrayed here under the notion of empowerment), or the experience and ethical concerns of involving oneself as an artist with the management of nuclear waste. Is there a normative notion of distance that can be appealed to and therefore a prescribed form of responsibility which can claim a definite response to a context? It seems to me that Dora García and Jean-Pierre Cometti address this issue by discussing what constitutes the work of art which for García is a form of relationship between the author and the audience, and therefore is non-prescribed or scripted in absolute terms.
But what about proximity? What about the physical, embodied relation to what one distances oneself from or moves closer to? What about affects? Producers are affected by those they address their “products” to. As in Matthieu Saladin’s text about Cornelius Cardew’s work, presented in 2009 at the CAC Brétigny: “It [the act of listening] acts directly on its own source and affirms itself as an activity that, in collective production, reflects on what is being heard. Listening is not simply the space of passive affections, for it affects, in turn, that towards which it is directed” (Matthieu Saladin, “Like a Cloud Hanging in the Sky”, uncoupdedés.net, 2013.) It might be that outer space is not that far when one invokes its distance as a form of proximity with one’s own thoughts, but also, it is by observing the sky that one can see into the past, annihilating the physical distance that separates us from it as beautifully out by Emmanuelle Pagano: “To think is to get as close as possible to the absolute present, but our thoughts, our emotions, our memories, take time to travel in ourselves, to be distributed between our senses. To observe space is to watch what’s already happened, observing space is always nostalgic.” (Emmanuelle Pagano, “Night-Light”, uncoupdedés.net, 2013.)
Bolstered by its success and visibility, uncoupdedés.net is restarting and subjecting existing content to new voices. In 2014 and 2015, several personalities from outside France will be asked to become our editorial writers for one season. Their task will be to place the contents of the whole magazine in perspective, presenting them differently through the prism of their subjectivity and their own work contexts. Catalina Lozano (Colombia), Zasha Colah (India), Moe Satt (Myanmar) and Manuela Moscoso (Brazil): each guest editor will reformulate the actions of the centres d’art, various aspects of which they will have been able to perceive through the magazine. Each editor-in-chief will “roll off” a cross-cutting text, presenting an original re-examination of the resolutely fluid geography of the centres d’art. uncoupdedés.net repeats the challenge from the poet Mallarmé, resurrected in the cinematographic art of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet (Every Revolution is a Roll of the Dice, 1977). The guest editors, coming from a variety of disciplines, will widen the circle of expression even more. Choral and fragmentary, uncoupdedés.net takes just as much after puzzles as it does after memories, and naturally calls for cut-outs of every kind…
Independent curator and researcher, born in 1979. En 2011, she co-founded the curatorial platform de_sitio in Mexico City. Catalina Lozano studied history (Universidad Nacional de Colombia), visual cultures (Goldsmiths College, University of London) the theory and practice of language and the arts (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris). At the heart of her work are minor narratives and the revision of dominant historical discourses. Her most recent projects include Une machine désire de l’instruction comme un jardin désire de la discipline (MARCO, Vigo; FRAC Lorraine and Alhondiga, Bilbao, 2013-14), Being an Island (with Kasha Bittenr, daadgalerie, Berlin, 2013), La puerta hacia lo invisible debe ser visible (Casa del Lago, Mexico City, 2012), ¿Tierra de nadie? (Centro Cultural Montehermoso, Vitoria-Gasteiz, 2011) and Everything has a name, or the potential to be named (with Anna Colin, Gasworks, London, 2009). From 2008 to 2010, Catalina Lozano was head of the residency program at Gasworks (London). She is a member of the artistic team of the 8th Berlin Biennale (2014).