Autumn issue « Un coup de dés

Un coup de dés

Hiatus

Parc Saint Léger is located in a rural area and sees itself as a laboratory, fully committed to its artists and concerned with establishing effective dialogue within the territory. Multi-role artist Aurélien Mole has collaborated with the centre d’art for several years now and was invited in two capacities: he has worked as an In Situ exhibition photographer since 2007 and contributed to the Minusubliminus Hors les Murs project in 2011. Also a critic and art historian, here, Aurélien Mole ponders the role of rural centres d’art in a unique and prospective way, seeing them as producers of knowledge on the fringes of society.

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My name is Aurélien Mole; I am an art historian. I am currently finishing my doctorate, which I must present to the jury in September 2075. I am engaged in the international campaign for the retrieval of digital archives following the Great Crash of 2055. What differentiates me from my peers, who were involved in the same operation half a century earlier, stems from this act of cyber terrorism that caused a hiatus in human progress.

Just like Gutenberg’s invention in its time, the profound change in humanity’s relationship to information was nonetheless a fluid transition. The power of computers had consistently increased, while their components became increasingly minute. In the early 1980s, this growth, combined with telecommunication networks, had allowed remote workstations at distances of several hundreds of kilometres to become interconnected. Consequently, the pass-band had increased in conjunction with the power of microprocessors and the office computer had become a family tool, with individuals thus becoming their own typists. While the slow speed of the early Internet connections now makes us smile, the amount of information that could be exchanged increased to light speed with the advent of fibre optics. In less than twenty years, communication habits completely changed, allowing each individual to become a potential transmitter of information. Hence the quantity of data produced exploded. Data centres, discreet buildings containing hundreds of thousands of interconnected servers were multiplied, without ever coming close to saturation point. Virtual storage, then known as “clouds”, allowed individuals to own an online space in which to accumulate their data. Naturally, the media of the 20th century suffered from this IT infatuation and in 2030, Le Monde published its last paper edition. Soon after, Google and its robots decided to undertake a colossal digitisation campaign. Whosoever wanted to get rid of their home library could call on their services. Movers came to your house and packed up your books, they loaded the cartons into a white truck and, within a few weeks, you received an address via Internet, where you could access your digitised and classified library: all this was free of charge. Advertisements showed fleets of immaculate vehicles unloading the cartons onto conveyor belts in huge warehouses on the outskirts of cities. Each book was scanned by a Google robot capable of accessing its content without even opening it. What became of the books after that was not shown.

The few reservations that had accompanied the publication of this offer of services were summarily swept aside. Whosoever inherited a library preferred to consult it in digital form. In around 2040, Google announced that it had digitised most of the books published since 1950. In 2045, another announcement informed the public that it had digitised all of the books published since the Gutenberg Bible. Of course, this gigantic digitisation campaign had its blind spots: lesser-known books, fanzines and artists’ books slipped through the net. So what! The work that had been accomplished was gargantuan and the quantity of the works present on the Google servers was immeasurable. Faced with this new accessibility of data, governments were forced to modernise their disparate forms of copyright legislation. Several international meetings were held and, following bitter debates, it was decided that authors would be given lump-sum payments in exchange for free access to the data. The first global tax was thus added to Internet subscriptions in order to finance this ambitious project. Several years later, the reliability of the service encouraged certain national archives to merge with the giant of the digital industry. The access via terminals had already reduced the audience attendance of these institutions, whose conditions of conservation were severely degraded owing to budgetary constraints. All of this paved the way for the Great Crash.

Voices had already been raised against the monopolisation of knowledge by a private group; in France the parliamentary group Anonymous became renowned for leaving the National Assembly, never to return. Petitions had been signed by millions of people, without managing to affect the progression of events. In the face of such powerlessness, some chose to go underground. Several small groups of cyber-terrorists thus emerged, and very soon one of these stood out from the others through the symbolic power of its attacks. The Archivist, as it was called, first attacked online data with the aid of sophisticated viruses inspired by Oulipo, a literary group from the latter half of the 20th century. Their viruses did not destroy the digital archives but imposed modifications to them that encrypted their meaning. But it was with the first physical attack on the buildings containing the servers that they really made their mark on the collective memory. With the help of ‘insider’ accomplices, they managed to place an EMP bomb inside one of the Google buildings. The explosion caused an electromagnetic pulse that made all of the electrical instruments within a perimeter of several blocks fail. The data on the servers was wiped instantaneously. Naturally, this data was not only present in this location, so 80% of it was able to be reconstituted. However, this hole in the IT grid caused an increase in traffic on several storage units directly connected to the latter, and these had to be disconnected while the network was brought back under control. Similar attacks took place in the early 2050s, and then they became less frequent, before disappearing altogether in the year 2054.

On January 1, 2055, a coordinated attack blew up 60% of the data centres around the world, while the 40% that were spared were closed down in an attempt to curb the flood of requests that reached them in an instant. We now know that the EMP bombs were hidden in storage units that all came from the same manufacturer, SUN YOUNG, located in Korea. This company, a leader in DNA storage, had managed to sign several agreements that accorded them a virtual monopoly in the field of data conservation. The confusion that ensued following the explosion allowed The Archivist to take control of several Iranian nuclear warheads that they exploded in the stratosphere above the 30 largest cities in the world, irremediably destroying all of the information contained on electronic media.

Such an event was only possible because an attack on such a grand scale had never been anticipated. It took several years to re-establish electrical networks, and in the meantime, most societies came under a regime of martial law intended to maintain order. It would not have taken much for the world to fall into total anarchy.

It was not the attack that precipitated Google’s demise, but the scandal that ensued when Xi-Lin, the CEO, announced that only the most important books had been preserved, while the rest went to pulp. Naturally the group’s conservation policy was highly erratic. Initially, the task had been entrusted to historians, but the amount of books immediately surpassed their capacities and, for economic reasons, it was then assigned to machines, whose choices were based on algorithms deduced from requests submitted online.

At this time, museums thus experienced a revival in attendance, since no images of artworks, documents or traces of knowledge now remained in circulation. Once a semblance of civil peace was restored and the most essential needs were satisfied, the European community favoured the professions related to history to attempt to recover and safeguard a maximum of information from before the Crash. The trades of historian and electrician were among the most well paid professions in the 2060s (by current standards). Since the attacked were aimed at capitals and megalopolises, the information available in these places was virtually nil. Therefore, places that were far from the big cities were suddenly considered to be great mines of knowledge.

Having embraced the career of art historian, along with several tens of thousands of my peers, I specialised in the digital archaeology of art centres. As part of the international campaign that aims to reconstitute archives, I was assigned to the Nièvre department in France, more specifically to the Parc Saint Léger, located in the village of Pougues-les-Eaux. Besides a few paper relics, I was able to extract damaged images (but images nonetheless) from the various media there. I travelled to the site several times and in addition to the iconographic and text documents collected, I was able to record oral testimonies from visitors to the art centre. By comparing this data to that of other historians, I realised that the impact of the exhibitions on visitors’ memories was extremely powerful. It was therefore possible for me to extract much more precise information from these testimonies than those obtained from the inhabitants of major urban centres.

Based on the documents and oral sources that I collect from the area surrounding the Parc Saint Léger, I am virtually able to reconstitute what the art centre’s whole programme had been, both inside and outside of its walls. Other historians will use this information to extrapolate a sense of what cultural life was like in Europe between 2000 and 2075, and thus attempt to rewrite history from its margins.

 

Further reading:
Parc Saint Léger
Aurélien Mole

 http://www.parcsaintleger.fr/psl/popups-prog-hlm-2012/area.htm
http://www.parcsaintleger.fr/psl/popups-prog-hlm-2011/musee-loire.htm
http://www.parcsaintleger.fr/psl/popups-prog-ca-2013/c-seilles.htm
http://www.parcsaintleger.fr/psl/popups-prog-hlm-2011/t-regazzoni.htm 

 

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EDITO

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.)

ABOUT

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…

CATALINA LOZANO

(Bogota, Colombia)

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).