FRANCE - BERNARD POURRIÈRE
Bernard Pourrière interviewed by Enrico Pedrini
Enrico Pedrini: In order to live, we have to accept change, so we have to rely only on our own strength to solve our problems. This need for overlapping activity leads the individual to encourage change in nature in a sense that favours the survival, development and improvement of the species, and is expressed in the heart of the system of art by the extension of the horizon of languages, as though art had achieved a new dimension, which we shall refer to as an art of everything. The art system therefore appears as a place with no boundaries. In physics, apart from the Chaos Theory, another notion is gaining ground every day: the multiuniverse theory. The existence of parallel worlds allows a new paradigmatic vision, where one considers the possibility of existence of other universes. The category of possibilism concerns the whole universe, as the constants are not necessarily parallel all worlds and assume different values in the neighbouring universes. Your way of mixing and combining robotics and genetics, which allows you to create animaux-objets and biological objects, strikes me as being linked to these new possibilities that enable the artist to seek different environments. Do you think this is possible?
Bernard Pourrière: I too believe to some extent in the existence of parallel worlds, but I also believe that our way of thinking, our logic, our way of acting, and our culture keep us from realising them. They restrict our way of seeing things. Despite the constant progress of science, its theories are developed based on logical thought, on reasoning, and it is only very recently that other values have begun to be considered such as the random and the indeterminate. As regards the way in which thought has developed over time, I feel this is very limited and very similar to a single thought; I would prefer to believe in the possibility of multithought. Referring precisely to different fields of knowledge such as the new technologies, robotics, genetics, I find it interesting that these may be able to meet, interweave and mix. A comparison of progress and of the different points of view is inevitable and necessary. As an artist and creator of plastic forms I have nothing against working on a project alongside a biologist, an operator in robotics, a specialist in information science, nor against these people claiming the same creation, to be divided in equal parts with the artist. Some of the installations I propose remain open, they are neither fixed nor determined, and may be enriched at any time by values that then influence the evolution of the piece. These multiuniverses that you mentioned in your question inevitably make me think of multitimes, that is of times that overlap, penetrating one another. Ten years or so ago, a film director expressed the intention of using the new technologies to bring Marilyn Monroe back to life as an actress in one of his films. In this anecdote I found a parallel with my work as regards time (in the cutting and in the permutations of the sound sequences), where I placed the things that came first afterwards and, viceversa, where the cut sequences were arranged on the sameplane. The space-time fluidity of the network is a constant source of questioning for me.
E.P.: Can you tell me about your idea of the choséification and marchandisation of life? In your work you often use the category of deconstruction; what value do you give to this type of language and procedure?
B.P.: With genetic manipulation, man has now acquired the power to accelerate the natural evolution of the species, including his own. He can now create more resistant, more productive mutations in some plant and animal species. The next species on the list might by the human one. Are mutants perhaps the next stage in human evolution? Only the future can answer these questions which may seem surreal (only a few years ago it all seemed pure science fiction). The transformation of a living creature in the world of cloning, of artificial intelligence and of robotics, brings us face to face with a universe of hybrid mutants, of artefacts, where the body becomes an object. Tomorrow we may manipulate and assemble body parts without worrying about their functionality, seeing the physical body as something mutant and clonable. This opens up the possibilities of transforming the limbs into modular elements that will turn the body into an object that can be reconfigured at will, underlining the triumph of the body. I must say that the term deconstruction embarrasses me; I prefer to use the term fragmentation. This cutting into fragments can be found in my sound tracks. These fragments are isolated, they can work independently, but they are associated with others in a cutand-paste sequence, or by duplication. The fragment can become multiple, coupling with other species. Or it may split itself as a multiple. In this job, dismantling may be nothing more than taking down elements that try to stick together, that can be modulated, that are not fixed, that are extended, that may or may not be formed into groups, that may be diluted or deleted, that are not determined. These operations allow me to manipulate at will elements which become heterogeneous materials.
E.P.: In 2005, in the installation Aesthetic thoughts, you performed operations in which you created a device that shows the deconstruction of images and sounds. I would really like to know how you develop this interplay of interference, combinations and permutations that you call superimpositions.
B.P.: When I speak of superimpositions, I allude mainly to the means used, that is to a multitrack sound software and an electronic video mounting software, where it is possible to overlap different sounds and images, that can work by transparency, letting one or more substrata appear. I use this system of superimpositions to find new hybrid mixes. The way I proceed is based on scientific discoveries that have shown how birdsong is comparable to syntactic structures, as birds are aware of the order of sequences in song. I divide this birdsong into several numbered sequences and try to assemble them very simply, for example putting together two even numbers and one odd, or two odd numbers, an even one and two odd ones, and so on; but fortunately many imperfections always disturb these logical combinations. The sound material uploaded onto the net often shows imperfections (parasite noises). These imperfections appear at random in the song and reappear in my superimpositions, completely unintentionally. In Pensées esthétiques, alongside all these operations, I included a cut-and-paste of different human voices, revealing scraps of sentences that asked me questions and played with the rhythm of the phrasing. In one of the works presented in the Depardieu Gallery I use another procedure, always based on birdsong sequences, but this time computer-generated. A sound track of birdsong can be heard in the room. When a visitor steps onto a mat containing sensors connected to the computer, the positioning of the song sequences is varied at random, creating unexpected phrases. The presence of other persons accelerates the work of the computer, varying the frequency and tone of the sound sequences as they move about the room.
E.P.: In some exhibitions you supported the thesis of the search of the body which has lost its materiality, which has dissolved and been lost in the infinite space of the network. Can you explain how you expressed this idea in these exhibitions?
B.P.: Contrary to what I said about the dissolution of the body in the network, as I work I like to think of another presence of the body, another reading of the body. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see whether the network would present me with a new definition of the body, whatever traces electronics might reveal in the living creature (I mainly collected sounds). I wanted to understand whether the presence of any being was revealed. So I launched a search on different servers for several days and saved this sound material in a folder on the computer, collecting it and putting together what I found. Unexpected sound identities were created. The sounds were only slightly touched up (speed, duration, repetitions), while I accentuated the presence of a few imperfections. The idea of an absence of materiality seems to develop in this build-up of sound material, which may be considered as interchangeable organs. This body has no flesh, no suffering, no more faults, it is beyond all time, totally disincarnate, it comes from a non-place; it has no territory and is free to expand without limits. For this reason I chose to use many walkmans in this work (reproducing the sounds of breathing or of heartbeats, all taken from the Internet); visitors can move about the room wearing headphones, and this proposes a second reading which interferes with the original sound installation. These sounds, which reach us at random, propose other acoustic viewpoints of the installation, and this depends on the coming and going of the visitors using the walkmans. People can even borrow the walkmans to take them out of the exhibition area. The exhibition is not limited to the gallery alone, and proposes the idea of a work that is continuously expanding. This not only suggests the infinite space of the Internet, but also the idea of mobility, and the changing perception of the work with relation to the body. This absence makes us think of ourselves, proposing a new interpretation of a body whose limits are still to be defined, as it rejects the frontiers between interior and exterior. This wait for another body - indeed, why not call it a second body -leaves us in uncertainty about our own body, about its presence in the world and its confrontation with the other. All this leads us to rethink and reconsider the function of the body with respect to the work and vice versa, to reshape our references, in terms of action, concentration, moisture, movement and investment. Another time now inhabits the interior space of the work.
Text by Enrico Pedrini