THE EXTRUSION OF ANTS
Simon Lamunière, 2005
The city is a complex space. So complex even, that to list its parts would be like describing each and every human activity. The sheer numbers of signs and activities, and the way they intertwine, form actual knots and nodes, whose parts are inextricable.
This, however, is precisely what collectif_fact has been doing for several years- Architecture, city-planning, vehicles, signs, advertising, and users are all extracted, cut out, and broken down as to be re-combined and re-constructed.
In one of their early project, these young Geneva-based artists produced a series of photographs and a video datatown (2002), which was made when they were still students at the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Geneva, presents urban signs and signals, separate from anything else. The rest merely appears by default, through its absence. Black replaces everything that is not a sign, panel, advertisement, pedestrian passage, traffic light, illuminated sign, clock, and number-plate. Passers-by, vehicles, and buildings are just the same black as everything that is not a sign, giving an impression of night views. What is especially striking is that the signs suffice to permit an urbanistic reading of the city which they permeate. Spaces, life, and traffic are present while being absent. Might a city ant it s inhabitants be reduced to being mere shadows, or advertising hoardings, and no longer those creating the city they live in ?
Most collectif_fact projects operate by means of samplings and extrusions. Based on photos, videos and digital files, elements are selected and in an initial phase isolated, then replace in their original setting, and even in different situations. But the operation has nevertheless left sequels behind. Quite intentionally the collage is visible and the layers reveal unexpected connections. The spatiality changes, the volume become flat tints and lines, the space is deconstructed and temporalized. Each project explores new relations and reveals different challenges those of the societies that human being live in and create.
With Circus (2004), a video installation projected in the corner of a room, you might think of a simple deconstruction of images. A crossroads has been photographed in detail. From buildings to marks on the ground, by way of vehicles and dustbins, a countless quantity of fragments has been recorded, subsequently to be affixed. The overlay of planes and layers of images is relentlessly assembled and separated, creating the illusion of a space broken down, whereas it has not existed as a whole. The city appears like a collage of objects that are alien to one another and brought together by force, evoking more a public rubbish dump or a pile of waste than a harmonious plan for the common good.
In Expanded Play Time (2004), it is the architecture in a sequence from Jacques Tati’s film that is spatialized. The shots of the famous waiting-room scene in Play Time have been placed in a virtual, three-dimensional space, to be recombined in a non-narrative logic. What is deployed in time by editing, in the film, is compressed in the video, by bringing together distinct time-frames in the same space and in the same shot. The caricature Tati makes of modernist administrative architecture here becomes enclosedness and laboratory experiment. But above all the collectif_fact video is a tribute to the French director’s masterpiece and his critique of bureaucratic society. For in the works of these young artists there is definitely a marked interest in the digital society that is upon us. By way of the tools that they use, as well as by the actual way they use them, they develop a biting commentary on the society created by computers.
To such a point that the translation made by the three artists appear at every step of the production. The digital tools that they use are incorporated in the actual logic of the creative process of their installations. Gradually, the projects will be developed on the basis of image databases, to be put together and composed like electronic music, by sampling. Elements and objects, characters and environments all find their origin in reappropriated and rearranged files.
With installation like habitA (2003), plattform (2004) and ce qui arrive (2005), digital files are used to form elements of the décor and extras in scenes. The arrangement of each part is done on the basis of probable action schemes, and standardized relational situations. The characters are driven by vain and useless activities, the environment is neutralized by the clichés it conveys. In habitA, the ideal life represented by the detached home and the residential area is sliced up by digital chainsaw. The characters playing with a ball and hanging out the laundry are rendered equivalent to a lawn mower; what else is there to do in gardens covering 100 square yards, except respond to life’s clichés? ce qui arrive is the transposition of habitA into an administrative environment. In fact nothing more akin than corporate offices and corridors. Not only are the architecture and furniture applied in accordance with management standards, but with the advent of computer, their uniformization affects all organizational systems: production, design, imagery and organization. The age is one of numbers and interchangeability. The thing replaced by the image, the being replaced by the idea, reality replaced by mediareality. With distance, collectif_fact conjures up a general and inexorable feeling. These artists convey a desire to escape from the system of consenting enclosure, and the debasement of productive ants. In their work, the digitization of production systems is applied in it pure rational logic: copying, moving, recomposing, pasting, mediatizing, existing. Existing?