Textes d'Eric Corne / Eric Corne's texts
12 décembre 2015

The space of our lives is neither contained, nor infinite, neither homogenous, nor isotropic. But do we know precisely where it breaks, curves, disconnects and unites? We confusedly sense the fissures, hiatusus and points of friction, we sometimes have the vague impression that is gets stuck somewhere, or that it shatters, or jolts. We rarely attempt to know more and most of the time we pass from one place to another, from one space to the next without dreaming of measuring, taking control or taking into account these lengths of space. The issue is not about inventing space and even less about reinventing it (too many well-intentioned people are currently there to think out our environment…), but one of questioning or, more simply still, interpreting it; for what we call commonplaceness is not clarity, but opacity: a kind of blindness, a means of anaesthesia.1

Georges Perec, “Prière d’insérer” in Espèces d’espaces

Non Lieu brings together three artists, Miriam Cahn, Laurent Pariente and Romain Pellas. Between architectures, installations, environments, sculptures, paintings, drawings and photographs, these three artists define works that are left enigmatic, in terms of both the viewer’s perception and in their respective temporalities. They suspend and condense space, and define a journey from threshold to threshold, from one to one, where seeing is defined as a solitary, interior experience of non-fulfilment. Non Lieu is presented in a series of folds and returns, to echo the terms used by Gilles Deleuze, with its abrupt transitions and absence of geographic and temporal reference points. It is the dismissal of an experience which can not be controlled, a “beyond oneself (or the external) which is abyss and ecstasy, whilst remaining a singular relationship”2 as Maurice Blanchot wrote.

The works of these three artists require our immersion in them, in their proliferation and contraction, and thus we are conveyed by and in the wall (Laurent Pariente), the constructions-assemblages (Romain Pellas), the faces-landscapes of paintings, drawings and photographs (Miriam Cahn). Here, seeing is to walk and to wander in the legend within ourselves, this envelope of the infinite, of the unfinished, to always apprehend, revisit and comprehend. To cross with no aim nor path, to walk towards the crossing point of a space, where everything is constructed, built and monstrously displayed, not to fill or constrain the space, but to empty it and retain the nothingness in all its reality. “Our desire would be to see ourselves translated into the stone and plant, to walk around within ourselves3. »

What is seeing, if it is not waiting to be perceived, esse est percipi, according to Berkeley’s formula. This is what has provoked works of art at all times, enabling every viewer to interpret their intimate perception of the world. It is an incommunicable experience, sometimes made up of darkness and contre-jour, apprehension of the world, paths which lead nowhere, but also slow circumvolutions impregnating our gestures. Gestures of thoughts which can neither carry weight nor be appeased. “We are all innocent, enough. Innocent of what no one knows, of wanting to know, wanting to be able, of all this noise about nothing, of this long sin against the silence that enfolds us.”4

The works of Miriam Cahn, Laurent Pariente and Romain Pellas require us to lay aside all certitudes, and make us withdraw and advance in a single movement, strike us even, as seeing here loses its ability to control distances and has to strain and wait, with no other prospect than that which things can show to us when spread before us. Here space is designated as an interval, and speech is in the inter-diction. Existence thus becomes impregnation of space where we show ourselves to things as much as they show themselves to us. “Truly being in the present is being in a future memory”5 as Heidegger said.

The works transform the exhibition area, diverting it more than describing it, dissociating its interiority from all exteriority. Wandering in the space, between and inside the works, losing one’s way in the sometimes contradictory perceptions, as in a landscape with the ubiquity of view and its distortions of spaces: from close up, from afar, from above, from below — facing it. These three works determine pre-occupations of open spaces, which disintegrate all territory, with no horizon or perspective; they are interpreted by passing through them, works of passers-by who stopped there on their journey. The visitor is encompassed within them in a continuum of intensity, displacement and elongation of space for Laurent Pariente and Romain Pellas, whilst the three small rooms chosen by Miriam Cahn are suspensions and concentrations, describing blocks of memory. These three works draw circles of reminiscence and trails, gaps in the space of time.

The condition of du regard

And if the sun does not return”, said Louis Soutter in 1942, with his fingers coloured by black paint, and what if the sun returned to me from where it is silent, Là dove ‘l sol tace6. Through painting, drawing, photography and performances, Miram Cahn’s works convey the proximity of bodies and faces, with the plants, animals, landscapes and places (houses, factories and camps); also the proximity of the body’s blood with the sap of plants, menstrual blood with that spilled by wars, of the night with the fog.

Her work is described by the principle of nature, where the total impregnation of the being with its transmissible marks and traces is merged within the body and the landscape; where the within is the uncertainty of presence. Miriam Cahn’s aim here is to trace and hold what is visible in its destitution, just as in 1979 in Paris, she drew with charcoal on the city’s mute, smooth, concrete walls; with this solitary gesture she blotted out the fixedness of these closed, collective, powerful spaces. Seen from above — from a plane, seen from within — from the body, ubiquity of the thought which infiltrates all things, in their nature which she deletes. Crossings out of the here and now, where the plant thrusts its roots into the deep soil — tomb and humus. Her half-man, half-beast figures in fact describe landscapes, landscape figures where the eyehole becomes the crossing of the horizon and existence. In its impulsivity, the image resists being rendered visible, like turbulent storm clouds surging up from the immediate gesture, an apparition which is neither calculated nor suggested. The forms come to her in a principle of astonishment. Co-habitation of the world, of her sensitive forms, woman is not a nourishing goddess, but the resurgence of life. In her work, Miriam Cahn describes the intervals of the forms and beings, intervals of the space of what is visible, these suspension points like a horizon line where the here, whether it is seen from Basel or Maloja7, stand alongside Sarajevo. The earth is presented as a continuum of intensity and eternity, where everything is but a superficial scratch in its hidden folds. Declivity of landscapes, mountains and the world in which we live and which is not constrained to any habit, except in the stupor where the now is not interrupted but becomes a wave of time and where yesterday (the every close yesterday) merges with the today with no promise. Species of Spaces by Georges Perec, a complex echo, double interior of The Human Race by Robert Antelme, literary space, sealed and left in the “silence of the ashes scattered on a plain […where] the pressure of that which is no longer apparent […] makes these few fragments of light and darkness burst out8

Through the television we see, like a pilot (abstraction from above, like those bombed cities from which no sound reaches us), men and women abandoned, killed and injured, televised images whose only aim is to show us that our expropriation of the world is possible, empty our eyes and our bodies. How does one become a bomber, bomb and bombarded, and perceive that the tanks in Iraq or Sarajevo are often turned against us? We are their objective, their target and their object, but we are also decommissioned soldiers in landscapes in the making. One’s view is culture and its misalliance with nature. Plants grow, the river flows; impassive and with no view, they are reproduced in infinite time. We are all immemorial, immoral molecules of time. There is no moral lesson to be learned from history. Miriam Cahn captures the snapshot of time, of all times. How can we find the expanse in the mystery of the apparition?

Woman-plant, man-woman, the surging up and branching of the organ, of the organic even, where the last view, the last thought of being in the world is nestling. These faces, these bodies in their nudity are impregnated with all the murmurings of the world. Her hand, which we imagine gripping the paintbrushes or charcoals, urgently covers the papers and canvases in order to preserve the display of the experience of what is visible, sensed and anticipated within the body. The indiscernible in apparent forms, faced with the indiscernible of the infinity of dust and bodies, blood and pistils. Light irradiates from the depths of her paintings, from where the forms emanate, from the landscapes to the plants, from the bodies to the faces. The feminine figure is recurrent, with the diaphanous or iridescent breasts on the brink of obliteration or apparition. The sexual organs are lines of opening and rupture. Sex, origin of the world, always too close, too far, which from the organic to the in-effectiveness of seeing all, becomes incomprehensible. There is a definite fragility in these bodies, coloured like the light from which they seem to come. Women of war, men of war, dogs of war, the same trepidation of the intimate is described, with these resolute bodies in their dissolution of organs. Becoming a plant, becoming a woman, or a man, who are represented in obliteration, the penis surprised in the irresolution of the image. Miriam Cahn works by series, series of times, confrontation, projection and sliding, where the photo of a landscape is connected with the drawings of a tank and a house, the painting of a body, (Architekturtraum, 2000-2001).

Being a work of urgency and precipitation, it is constrained by light and time, components of the bodies and landscapes, which are also presences of architecture sensitive to memory.

And there is no thing in nature that does not reveal its inner form outwardly as well; for the internal continually works towards revelation… Each thing has its mouth for revelation. And this is the language of nature in which each thing speaks out of its own property, and always reveals and manifests itself… For each thing reveals its mother, who therefore gives the essence and the will to the form.”9

The condition of space

The inscription on the wall of a 13th century cloister in Toledo: “Traveller, there is no path, the paths are made by walking10, delivers the message that all space is that of meditation, without predestination, leading to Utopia. Perception of space in the movement of the body, but also the spirit, together they animate the materiality of the place and its heaviness. Walking, inventing paths and projections of space which oppose its delimitations and passages, isn’t this measuring space inside and by the yardstick of oneself?

Laurent Pariente creates arrangements of open intervals, suspensions of meanings, it is a work of errancy in all of its solidity, from the place of being nowhere, which forces the limits of the apparition. It is pro-vision of the visible, it conceals as much as it points out. Nomadic structure inscribed on the ground, without roots, it is traversed and discovered, with no entrance or exit, in the dispossession of the place and its geographical reference points. It only encloses to become pure prospective space, where memory is described as a drawing of the future. No place is of the right scale for the wanderer, it is always too big to be a shelter and too small for the vague nature of his search, which is always a migration without anticipation. A nomadic structure includes within it the destruction in its construction, its flow in the ebb and its exit in the entrance.

The gravity and stability of walls, with their sensual covering of whitewash, have been reflected by Laurent Pariente to capture the spreading of light which, in its nature of fickle immateriality, is deployed and reveals the intimacy of the work and the person who walks through it. The light, immanent to his work, sculpts the planes of the architecture. “The light is intercepted, impeded and reflected by the large, opaque, sharply contoured and variously formed masses of stone, and thus unfolds its nature and qualities in the purest and clearest way, […for it is] the condition, and objective correlative of the most perfect kind of knowledge through perception.”11

Laurent Pariente patiently surveys the exhibition areas, he measures and pursues them into every nook and cranny, fatal surveying, whose purpose is to lose them in the dismissal which he attempts to create there. His measurements are the removal of their rhythms and hidden topographies. This is where his process begins, which will enable him to project a new space, with its dilatations, and slide into its folds. He constructs time with the materiality of partitions which empty the space more than they fill it.

Installation, environment, sculpture or architecture, his work resists all definition; it is the work of the artist’s experience in which each project is a risk in terms of the possibility of the achievement, whose limits he is constantly pushing back. Each of his works is the precise search for a plane of coincidence between a mental and architectural construction — a plane of life. An abstract space results from it, made up of passages. Simulation of a labyrinth, it presupposes that every entrance determines an exit in the itinerancy of the physical experience, but also in that of the thought which is diffused on the walls as if across a dark mirror.

Determined by the same necessities, Laurent Pariente has a more secret work, that of the drawing where in the profusion of pencil lead, he establishes self-portraits. He is drawn to the irremediable nature of presence by the trace — in the nudity of the face, as in constructions. The self-portrait is the introspective course of Je est un autre (I is another), where no trait can reach the extents of invisibility and expanse, or resemblance. I hide myself and show myself in my face. His drawings, great black rifts, are the final reference points subordinated to the pencil lines, of what remains of the face visage and its dissolution in light. From these black rifts with white walls, the wall stands alongside the face; they are both circumscribed and floating boundary, presence and loss. The face, trace and icon, determines the impossible resolution of how to cross through the wall, to be in, on and behind the wall and draw on it the lines of flight. The utopia of Laurent Pariente’s work lies perhaps in resolving this impossible equation: not contained by the view, it can only be understood in its immersion. The viewer can not be passive, enveloped by the work and encircled by its smooth, white surfaces, which turn into broken lines, but has to evolve between what is hidden and what is revealed. Laurent Pariente’s works are of the order of experience, that of the artist to give substance to his intuition of the place and that of the visitor, who has to catch hold of it and “imagine” his perceptions between the top and the bottom, the near and the far which evade all domination. He discovers his own time there and his own movement exercised with memory. This space of an indeterminate, open species is interpreted and transmitted as an echo in the progression of the labyrinth. “…only this space is fully real. The architect, the master-builder, fixes points on the surface of the earth and measurements and directions on the inside of the structure; only from these there radiates a fixed, immovable, created space, where small and large, middle and end, above and below, east and west are meaningful. It radiates even into the world which, though spacious, was hitherto itself created nonspatially, and spatialises it. […] Everybody sojourning in this space is now attracted into it and into its essentiality.”12

The perishable condition

Memory is always the suspension of powers of interpretation and reassembly, it thus projects into the future that which has been and that which is proposed for it to see. It emancipates all forms, reopens time and deploys panoramas of perceptions and traces where the body seeks to insert itself, open out and assess itself. These marks are sometimes des pavés mal équarris which one stumbles over, to adopt the experience of the narrator of La Recherche, where through the imbalance sensations return to him. Time is found, opened. The favourite term, “encombrant” or burdensome, which Romain Pellas sometimes uses to designate his work, describes these conditions of memory. His structures, in a ramification of passages and modulations (the same as in his drawings with their automatic and purely indicated course), mark out the space of the city or exhibition area. They are interpreted in accidents, which occur, resolve themselves, are distorted and recomposed, like the evidence of thought. I am what I am, I am what I see. “It submerges us. We organise it. It falls to pieces.

We organise it once more and fall to pieces ourselves.”13

With its structures in stabilised ruins, both constructed and deconstructed, Romain Pellas declines contemporary space, he draws from it its power as an absorbing, comfortable envelope where objects are lost in usefulness and consumability, without ever being effective signs, projects (the term consumption is etymologically similar to definitive accomplishment and disappearance). It is a medium term which his work projects, with the levelling of blades of wood, chopped, incised, assembled and dismantled mediums in the randomness of forms, interpreted in the contemplation and resurgences of signs.

Panoramique, his installation for the Plateau, is discovered in glimpses of uncertain spaces with its floating structures of laminated wood and chipboard, and its fragile cover which, with the reflections of the neon lights, plunges us into an infinite space that it can only suggest. He creates a place in which each visitor is both a mirror of the world and develops their own point of view, through the luxurious proliferation of twisted forms. Romain Pellas restructures the rest, the perceived nothingness, he presents it and re-habilitates it in the interplay of balance in his installations. He makes visible the stammering of the world, with its confused signs which are superposed in incomprehensible strata, containers which have lost all content, all raison d’être. The ephemeral nature of the apparition is prolonged in his works. They appear to us as traces of a shipwreck, a swallowing up in which scattered elements remain with no definitive destination, which the artist has patiently recovered. Romain Pellas compromises with scraps of materials, he invests them with a new appearance, where Utopia embraces reminiscence. His works are there, stabilised on firm ground, preserved from further shipwreck, rafts defying the high seas, uncharted and untravelled by appearances. “The island, I’m on the island, I’ve never left the island, God help me. I was under the impression I spent my life in spirals round the earth. Wrong, it’s on the island I wind my endless ways. The island, that’s all the earth I know. I don’t know it either, never having had the stomach to look at it. When I come to the coast I turn back inland. And my course is not helicoidal, I got that wrong too, but a succession of irregular loops, now sharp and short as in the waltz, now a parabolic sweep…”14

Romain Pellas picks up industrial wood, cardboard, metal, plastic, plasterboard and polystyrene, with his sculptor’s gesture and his subjectivity of their tactile, coloured values, but also their density and stability, he puts together unlikely construction plans. These composite materials, associated for a certain time in constraining tension, describe fragile pillars contaminating the stability of the exhibition place, the city, etc. They are stamped through with the hallmark of precariousness. Tense balances on ill-contrived bridges, the work results in a constructed space, through which imminent ruin and the wasteland of sensitivity can be identified. It is a wild protuberance and resists industrial, consumerist salubrity. Light, that of the luminous coffered ceiling in Rampe lumineuse, (presented at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Strasbourg in 2002) where the neon lights in Panoramique are presented in their immateriality, contradicting the opacity of the materials and the heavy electrical boxes from which it was diffused. It is the effective presence of an unimpeded dismissal, which summarises the horizon of an instant of the world, captured in its essence and its ever possible collapse.

Using the precarious means of pencil and machine paper, Romain Pellas similarly creates drawings, in the urgency of daily life, in which non materialised lines are drawn out and concentrated. Traced by dissemination and recovery, they prefigure mental space. There where the instability of images, forms and constructions enter and inspect the obstacles of memory. Ground swell.

“…the best thing he had to do was to move constantly from place to place. He did not know how this conclusion had been gained, but it was not thanks to his preferring one place to another, he felt sure. He was pleased to think that he could give what he called the Furies the slip by merely setting himself in motion. But as for site, one was as good as another, because they all disappeared as soon as he came to rest in them. The mere act of rising and going, irrespective of whence or whither, did him good. That was so15.”

Éric Corne

January 2004,

to James and Juliette

1 Free translation of the original text: L’espace de notre vie n’est ni contenu, ni infini, ni homogène, ni isotrope. Mais sait-on précisément où il se brise, où il se courbe, où il se déconnecte et où il se rassemble ? On sent confusément des fissures, des hiatus, des points de friction, on a parfois la vague impression que ça coince quelque part, ou que ça éclate, ou que ça cogne. Nous cherchons rarement à en savoir davantage et le plus souvent nous passons d’un endroit à l’autre, d’un espace à l’autre sans songer à mesurer, à prendre en charge, à prendre en compte ces laps d’espace. Le problème n’est pas d’inventer l’espace, encore moins de le ré-inventer (trop de gens bien intentionnés sont là aujourd’hui pour penser notre environnement…), mais de l’interroger, ou, plus simplement encore, de le lire ; car ce que nous appelons quotidienneté n’est pas évidence, mais opacité : une forme de cécité, une manière d’anesthésie.

2hors-de-soi (ou le dehors) qui est abîme et extase, sans cesser d’être un rapport singulier. Maurice Blanchot, La Communauté inavouable, Paris, Minuit, 1983, p. 34.

3Notre désir serait de nous voir nous-même traduits dans la pierre et dans la plante, de nous promener au-dedans de nous-même.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Le Gai savoir, Paris, Club français du Livre, 1957, p. 272.

4 Samuel Beckett, The Unnameable, Paris, Olympia Press, 1959, p. 524, also cited by Jean Pierre Ferrini in Dante et Beckett, Paris, Hermann, 2003, p.141.

5 “Etre vraiment dans le présent c’est être dans un souvenir future.” Cited by Jean Wahl in Introduction à la pensée de Heidegger, Paris, Le Livre de Poche, “Biblio essai”, 1998, p. 244.

6 Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inferno I, 60.

7 Places where Miriam Cahn has lived.

8silence des cendres épandues sur une plaine […où] la pression de ce qui n’apparaît plus […] fait surgir, ces quelques morceaux de jour et de noir.” Robert Antelme, L’espèce humaine, Paris, Gallimard, 1957, p. 195, 227.

9 Jacob Boehme, cited by Arthur Schopenhauer in The World as Will and Representation, New York, Dover Publications Inc., 1969, Vol. I, p. 220.

10 No hay caminos, hay que caminar. (Also the title of a work by Luigi Nono, dedicated to Andrei Tarkovsky).

11 Arthur Schopenhauer, op. cit, p. 216.

12 Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption, London, University of Notre Dame Press, 1930, p. 355-6.

13 “Cela nous submerge. Nous l’organisons. Cela tombe en morceaux.

Nous l’organisons de nouveau et tombons nous-mêmes en morceaux.” Rainer Maria Rilke, cited in Claude Simon’s epigraph, Histoire, Paris, Minuit, 1967, p. 9.

14 Samuel Beckett, op. cit, p. 454.

15 Samuel Beckett, More Pricks than Kicks, New York, Grove Press Inc., 1970, p. 36.