PRESENTATION OF THE WORK IN GENERAL
Some clips of older video productions :
It all starts in a small room almost empty, completely white, with no exit. In a corner, a suspended punching bag hangs over a floor covered with white tatamis. In the middle of the room, two men wearing striking gloves and protection helmets are training for combat.
Prisoners of an a-temporal loop, they tirelessly and mechanically repeat the same sequences, as if they had lost the sense of time. But little by little, then their training becomes harder and turns into a confrontation, strange phenomena appear: lights shake, walls crack, pieces of plaster fall from the ceiling.
The set becomes animated and transforms itself to finally self-destruct. The shock wave of the blows exchanged seems to reverberate onto the walls, they creak and crack as if they were subject to an invisible force, even supernatural. When eventually a large section of wall collapses, it reveals a new space behind it, a new arena doomed to an inevitable destruction.
" Man, all your life is an hourglass turned upside down again and again, and its content will pass an infinite number of times, separated by the interval of a long minute of time, until the cyclic course of the universe brings back all the conditions from which you were born. "
(Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, Tome 1, Book II, chapter IV)
Agôn is a hybrid project, a film of sculpture. It bears witness to a process of creation and destruction under the form of a fiction, by staging a singular fight in a scenogaphy in perpetual mutation.
The setting is envisaged like an autonomous entity that activated itself and selfdestructs at its own will. Several spaces are imbricated into each other like matriochkas (Russian dolls) and disintegrate successively, ineluctably, around the fighters.
Somewhere between the filmed performances of Bruce Naumann, the meticulously orchestrated studio experiences of Fischli and Weiss, Bruce Lee's films and those of John Carpenter, Agôn is a trans-disciplinary project that tends to open the borders between the media by fighting sculpture, performance and cinema.
" The old days ... a picture used to be a sum of additions. In my case a picture is a sum of destructions. "
(Pablo Picasso, Conversations with Christian Zervos)
On the left : Tchiuz - Sanda (Chinese boxing), Taï chi chuan
On the righ t: Kim Dong Eeg - Thai boxing, Taekwondo
40 seconds with Kim :
IN CONCRETE TERMS
Where and when ?
The shooting will occur from December 10 to 20, 2015, mostly in the great hall of the slaughterhouse of Nice, then in a car scrap yard in St-André: Cassauto 06.
We will use the hall November 12, 2015, to start the construction of several spaces dedicated for selfdestruction. Almost one month of preparation will be necessary to set up and finalize the set of approximately 1000 m², prepare the stunts and adjust the light. The fighters will be able to train on the premises, which will enable me to share by time between the construction and choreographic research.
Although the project is partially financed, we will need your support to make it come true. Indeed, the institutional grants received (help for a short movie in the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur region, DRAC, FNAGP, support of the POMPIDOU CENTER) represent less than 80% of the minimum amount necessary to realize this project. Now we can plan on shooting during the month of December (all the more as we have received all the authorizations regarding the use of the hall for the months of November and December), we do not yet have the funds necessary to launch the construction of the set within the time allotted to us. Although a large part of it consists in salvage materials, we will still quickly need to invest in construction material and workforce. We are thus counting on you to lend a hand to the project and enable us to see the end of this experience.
" We don't have the same perception of time depending to the species, which is what makes it that I can put my hand between you and me like that, because for oxygen, one second, it is maybe ten seconds, and for concrete, a second, it is maybe one thousandth of a second…"
(Jean-Claude Van Damme)
A FICTIONNAL EXPERIENCE
In art, the notion of experience refers to the idea of the studio, to the process, time, or even performance. The question regarding the status of the artifacts it produces is risen: are they works of art, residue, documents, archives? Here the film reports a sculptural transformation process (the self destruction of the set) as well as a choreographic and performative action (the fight). If in the end a testimony remains, it formally anticipates its documentary status to set the bases of a story telling.
Although performative, the fight is staged, cut and edited in parallel to the destruction process of the set, which has the effect of creating a story. The length of the performance ends up being indexed on that of the film, subject to a purely cinematographic time with its cuts, links, ellipses and parallel editing… The direction, sound and editing rhythm amplify the dramatic art to transport the spectator into a fictional experience.
A MULTI MEDIA WRITING
On the border between several media such as cinema, performance or sculpture, Agôn is defined as a trans-disciplinary project staging a choreography of the bodies, objects and spaces.
No dialogues, thus no scenario, no side story in this project however charged with fiction, by a succession of events resulting from a given original situation: two people are performing on a set undergoing a multitude of transformations of which they do not seem to be the origin. Although there are no direct interactions between the confrontation and the material damages, they mutually influence each other all along the film by effects of connections. The pattern is thus thought in the way of a chain reaction that frames and orientates the choreography, shaking the fighters like two drifting bodies in a planed scenography.
To do so, the spaces integrate various tricks and mechanical devices in order to be able to, like the fighters, move and destroy themselves. These effects known as "stage effects", perfectly timed, programmed, sometimes triggered in real time by the technicians off screen, are added to the digital effects finalized after the shooting. The issue here is to work in close collaboration with a special effect supervisor and a key set decorator as early as the conception of the set, then on shooting, in order to anticipate as well as possible the integration of the digital effects in post-production.
Mingle digital and multimedia effects (treatment of the image, compositing, incrustation, tracking) with electro-mechanical effects programmed or piloted in real time (controls of lights, motorized actuator, hydraulic devices), combines both approaches at the same time opposed and complementary to the service of a singular writing, somewhere between tinkering and a new technology.
The cinema integrates my sculpture practice as a referent and as a form. The fabrication process filmed takes a filmic dimension by processes of direction and elaborated captions, inseparable from a perfect appropriation of the cinema techniques. The Agôn project suggests to go even further in this approach by bringing the direction of a film of sculpture the means of a short film. The choice of a light material, a Blackmagic Production 4K camera fitted with cinema optics, will enable us to obtain an optimal rendering to sublime the cinematographic dimension of the process.
As early as the first sequence, the environing clarity and the fluidity of the camera movements will give birth to a feeling of a worrisome strangeness, reminding the smooth and floating visual atmospheres that prevail in 2001, A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick (1968). But the atmosphere will continuously change, each new space generating a new atmosphere, a new type of image, to eventually convene assorted and unexpected genres. The destruction will become super natural, sometimes masterful, half way through the phenomena of Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, 1982) and the final explosion of Zabriskie Point (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1970). The more intense the fight will be, the more the film will alternate between a brutal and realistic way of filming the fight, hand held camera, from ground level, and timed and mechanized sequence shots, much more elaborate, to bear witness to the magnitude and the complexity of the spaces. Inspired by technical prowess such as the opening shot of Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958) or the final shot of The Passenger (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975), these sequence shots will play with the off-screen to serve the story telling by focusing on the planned sequence of operations of destruction, orchestrated with timing and precision.
The sound will have to report both on the fictional aspect (fantastic) of the situation and the realistic aspect of the combat. Close to the bodies, it will focus on the impacts and the race of the breath while installing a dramatic tension, possibly nightmarish. The changes in space will inevitably lead to an evolution of the sound environment, open or confined depending on the context, characterized by the precise works on the backgrounds and the atmospheres. A form of sobriety and essence, a sensitive capture, will be opposed to sometimes heavy atmospheres, burdensome, but always contextual (sizzling neon lights, cracking walls off screen, etc.).
It will be characterized by ruptures, changes in rhythms, oscillating between the rapidity of the fight and the inscription in the length of the surrounding destruction. The jerk of the editing will alternate with close-ups and dynamic shots (sometimes edited in jump-cut) on the action of the bodies, and large sequence shots giving all its architectural magnitude to the set. Some ellipse effects will episodically take place, creating breaths to make us forget a bit about the brutality of the fight in favor of the emergence of a "narrative" thread based on a principle of a chain reaction.
STATEMENT OF INTENT
My artistic practice spreads in the fields of sculpture, installation and even video, by staging some transformation processes orchestrated in a mechanical, choreographic and cinematographic manner. The video is for me a means to reinvent the testimony on the creation process, by transforming the construction phase of a sculpture into a fictional experience. These round trips between sculpture and cinema constitute the fundamental principles of my practices: the media meet, question and answer each other, around some work in becoming, that continuously renews itself, between construction, destruction and reconstitution.
In line with this practice, halfway between contemporary art and cinema, Agôn is a hybrid project that could commonly be called a sculpture film. The hybridization between plastic arts and cinema is here crystallized in the collision of the two media, their history and their respective universes. A fantastic and anguishing atmosphere is grafted to the studio's aesthetics, in a film that unrolls a series of tortures inflected to the space, as if a supernatural force were coming to "work" (1) the matter. "The universe of science fiction and action films then meets that of processual sculpture, sculpture meant in the primal sense like a balance of powers, like a work in progress, like a physical exercise of form over matter." (2)
Symbolically, the staging of the fight projects the artist into a laboratory where he trains for the battle of art. It is a performative and cinematographic reflection of art on the conditions of art". The course of events transports the fighters from a white cube to a studio, going through spaces constructed with salvaged materials from my visual arts practice, such as cardboard, plasterboard, metal sheet, or polystyrene. The construction and the destruction of the set take part in a process involving the making and unmaking, the gesture, gestation, the sculpture in the making. The opponent is the studio itself, the sculpture, the other artist, the other self.
The making of the material and the staging give the impression of evolving between a manufacture studio and a theater stage, somewhere between the location of the process and the location of the show. And if in Agôn the spectacular provokes an exhilarating feeling, it is also tainted with an obvious irony. Of course, the action, the shocks and the explosions always generate something poignant when we look at them for a safety distance. Used to excess by the major entertainment productions, they excite adrenaline and act on the spectator stimulating their primitive nature.
But the echo of situationist diversions still echoes today, characterized by the whish to touch the largest number of people, rightly, by "identifying to the deepest whish existing among all, giving it any license" (3). The Situationnist International accepts the confrontation with the power by renouncing to no means of expressions, advancing the idea that "prohibiting oneself to use of a word is renouncing to a weapon used by the opponent " (4). As well, the artistic fiction opposes entertainment, and must understand the way the image industry generates codes of representation in order to be able to divert them and create forms marked with a singular thought, against the current.
In Agôn, the spectacular plays with the show, the artificial characteristic of the environment opposes the real and performative staging of the fight, and the violence poses an axis of reflection on human nature. The stress is made on the metaphorical impact of the fight, on its propensity to reflect our own capacity of emancipation in a film that, like the term Agôn and its polysemy, offers several levels of reading. Although silent, this fight refers to Man, but also to space, time, creation and destruction. It takes a universal characteristic, conferring an ontological dimension, but also enthropic and metaphysical to an argument that at first glance seems completely trivial.
The deterioration of the set accompanies the exhaustion of the fighters. It is, at the image of their suffering bodies, a material projection of our torments and of the whish we have to overcome them. The self-destruction of the spaces becomes a metaphor for the instinct of death, but also for the instinct of survival of the protagonists; of the agonal instinct in a way, in a Nietschean vision translating to as the expression of the will for power, the vocation of Man to transfigure its existence.
The film starts on the hypothesis of a loop that locks the fighters onto a relationship with time and infinite desolation. The possibility of a cyclic repetition of the fight reminds another concept dear to Nietzsche: The eternal return of the same. The philosopher offers us to imagine the endless repetition of events we have already lived, and to test our reaction in front of such an ordeal, in order to lead us to question the value of our existence in the inevitable tortuous path that life is.
" Everything goes, everything comes back; eternally rolls the wheel of being. Everything dies and everything blossoms forth again, eternally runs the year of being. "
(Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra - 1885, part III, The convalescent)
(1): From the Latin Tripalium, designating an immobilization and torture with three stakes.
(2): Jean-Max-Colard, Pugnaire et Raffini : massacre à la sculpture, les inrock (November 2011).
(3): Anonymous, Of the Role of the S. I., revue internationale situationniste num 7 (April 1962).
(4): Mustapha Khayati, Les mots captifs, revue internationale situationniste num 7 (April 1962).
Born in 1980.
After studying Art at Villa Arson (Nice) and Fresnoy (Tourcoing), I set up my studio in the premises of La Station in Nice. My practice oscillates between cinema and sculpture, articulating around notions of "process" and manufacturing the work of art. It appears in an individual or collaborative way, generally in the form of a fiction or an "event piece" keeping the trace of a performative action. In the duo we make with David Raffini, we try to define a syncretic practice, complex and protean uniting sculpture and painting, but also performance, cinema and some form of engineering...