Depuis le 22-11-2007 :
Depuis le début du mois :
Ever wish you could be more invisible? It might seem an unusual desire amid the general esse est percipi clamour for more and more visibility (neatly summed up by Rayban's recent NEVER HIDE' ad campaign) but if you really want to stand out' from the it-crowd there is at least one school that is ready to help, L'école pour devenir invisible, which has just inaugurated its non-academic year in Paris at the multidisciplinary art and research centre Bétonsalon.
According to its founders, the School for Invisibility seeks to discover the possibilities of becoming less concrete, more diffuse, and of dissolving oneself without disappearing. Invisibility is an expansion of surface area. We will study the methods that permit us to pass through walls without requiring us to use doors. We will exploit in particular the possibilities presented by collisions, failures and misunderstandings.
The walk to Bétonsalon along the Left Bank of the Seine, through the recently redeveloped neighbourhood of Masséna dominated by the François Mitterrand Library and other glass and steel cages of global corporatism, provides some indication why a school such as this might gain a foothold in the education market but equally reveals a more complicated scenario than the post-white-cube, dispersed art scene, of which it is a part, would like to acknowledge.
As part of an emerging urban design culture that aims to erase, or reduce to an absolute minimum, the messier traces of the human stain, zones like these provide the paradoxical experience of feeling totally invisible while knowing you are completely visible, exposed to the dead gaze and affectless memory of round-the clock video surveillance and information transfer. Verifiable that is to say readable only through the kind of pure data that can be processed, the impure, machine unreadable actual' self becomes no more than a self-sustaining, self-deluding fiction.
Viewed in this light, a School for Invisibility' seems equal parts pleonasm and oxymoron. Certainly the quest of performance artist Jochen Dehn and his cohorts to become invisible has little in common with the smoke and mirrors trickery of the circus vanishing act. If the first conference/performance, FLOCKS, is any indication, the question is more of how to disperse and redistribute the singularities of one's being perceived, dissolve any unified notion of an event (or self) and its duration.
Crouching behind a plant-pot on one of two tables spaced about two metres apart and armed with a standard office striplight, Dehn tasks himself with breaching the defences of a fetchingly barefooted damsel seated on the other, which consist of two hand-held motion detectors that emit annoying slightly out-of-phase bleeps and activate Dehn's light-sword every time he (or she) moves a muscle, plus a further floor detector to pick up any involuntary twitches from the audience. By moving sufficiently slowly, Dehn reasons with a nod to Zeno's paradoxes he should be able to escape detection, even if experience proves otherwise as time and time again the bleeps go off and the striplight beams on, illuminating his face in a game-show grimace of feigned embarrassment mixed with the real pain of physical slo-mo. However, it's often difficult to say who among those present (knight, damsel or twitchy spectators) has actually triggered the alarm.
Binding to Heinsenberg's uncertainty principle scattered echoes of Arthurian legend, Mission Impossible and Duchamp's Bride Stripped Bare, the scenario is ripe with comic-surreal possibilities, especially when Dehn pauses to up the ante, rigging up a Heath-Robinson type circuit that pays his every failure by additionally blasting air into a giant balloon. Tripping them up each time he attempts to inch forward, these various detectors gradually begin to function in concert, melding in an oddly appealing art-brut minimalism of distressed overtones, while Dehn's fail-and-fail-again perseverance evokes a whole martyrology of exhaustion running from Kafka to Bruce Nauman, even if the effect is slightly dimmed by the somewhat knowing smugness of the participants. In the end, through the infinitely repeated pratfall of multiple exposure, it's as though Dehn were aiming to merge with the detection apparatus itself, turn himself into an intermittence du spectacle, which is a nice trick if you can manage it providing the consequences are no more serious or lasting than an audience split between amused indulgence and mild irritation.
This certainly isn't the case for Paris's real invisibles' for whom the struggle to obtain residency, rent a flat, open a bank account, have the right papers to send their kids to school to verify their existence in the social fabric and thus slip into the smoother, regulated currents of the universal data flow isn't so much a struggle to be seen in a different way as for a different class of invisibility. How else can society's way of dealing with its abjects' averting the eyes while at all times keeping watch be explained except as a reaction to this troubling excess of their unregulated bodies.
This double bind of bared life' which should be on any School for Invisibility's curriculum is strangely missing from Dehn's I have a problem with the clandestine he says mysteriously at one point which opts for a more cosily ludic, even pataphysical agenda. But one also feels a need for strategies of invisibility that go beyond this coyly narcissistic game of conceptual hide and seek. Perhaps the School could broaden its program to exploring tactics of withdrawal from the circuits of global cultural capital, becoming invisible (unregulated, unverifiable, unreadable) in one's visibility, rather than visible in one's invisibility.
In the meantime future lessons of the School include THE FLATLANDER (a performance-conference that proposes a reconsideration of perspective, dimensions and scale), TOTAL OSMOSIS (a conference-dance dedicated to membranes and transits) and NON NEWTONIAN LIQUIDS (a conference-performance concerning integrity, barriers, water-walkers, the capacity of flies to stick to the ceiling, surface tension and how we can take advantage of it).
Originally published by Cluster, written by Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni
foto by Graeme Thomson