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by Dominique Moulon [ July 2009 ]
The eleventh Nemo Festival has returned to its origins at the Forum des Images for its 2009 edition. It has also been extended geographically by establishing partnerships with places like the Parisian church, Saint-Eustache, the Cube in Issy-les-Moulineaux and the Centre des Arts in Enghien-les-Bains as well as events like Exit in Créteil and the SIANA in Evry and festivals such as the STRP in Eindhoven and Elektra in Montreal.

spacerFrom Elektra


Thomas Ouellet Fredericks
& Danny Perreault,
“Tvestroy”, 2008.
spacerIt was during the Elektra Festival in 2008 in Montreal that the artistic director of the Nemo Festival, Gilles Alvarez, discovered Tvestroy, a performance piece by the Canadians Thomas Ouellet Fredericks and Danny Perreault. And it was at the Forum des Images that this same performance launched the 2009 edition of the Parisian event. A synthesised voice recalling the celebrated hacking of a British television channel in 1977 by an “extra-terrestrial intelligence” fills the sound space of the room: “This is the voice of Vrillon a representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command speaking to you”. Geometric forms move about following one after the other within the video projected images as well as in the eight television screens aligned on the stage. The electronic music that accompanies them with its repetitive rhythms, reinforced by the loud volume, also participates in “re-programming” us. The members of the Tvestroy collective use the term “Cable Bending” to define their practice of image and sound, but if there is some kind of “bending” during this rather radical performance, it could only be that of our minds.

spacerAt the Cube in Issy-les-Moulineaux


Quayola, Mira Calix
& Olivier Coates,
“Natures”, 2008.
spacerThe Cube is among Nemo’s historical partners. So Carine Le Malet, the programmer of the centre in Issy-les-Moulineaux, proposed an exhibition there of pieces from the “Natures” series by the London artist Qayola. At the same time Qayola was giving a performance also entitled “Natures” at the Forum des Images. But with an installation, as in a live performance, the aesthetic issues are similar. A relationship is established between flowers and geometric elements that connect dots, lines and planes. It is the natural movements of plants, tracked by an image recognition application that animates the graphic objects. And when the plants at times disappear, the simple memory of their movements is enough to breathe life into this network of coloured dots, lines and planes that are accompanied by the music of Mira Calix and Olivier Coates in their natural movements.

spacerIn the church of Saint-Eustache

Strata #2

“Strata #2”,
spacerAt the opening session of Nemo, the public visiting the festival were encouraged to go from the Forum des Images to the nearby church of Saint-Eustache to discover Davide Quayola’s installation, “Strata #2”. The looping video sequence magnifies the French gothic architecture like “Strata #1”, by the same artist, explored the architecture of the Italian renaissance. The rather slow camera movements progressively unveil the vault that is also above our heads in the image . Once the stained glass windows have filled the space of this same image, it is augmented by accidents that emerge in the form of a multitude of coloured triangles. Their appearance is accompanied by the crystalline tinkling produced by breaking glass. And the adjustment in the image, focussing now on the stained glass and now on the graphic elements that gradually cover them creates a virtual space going towards the fragments of coloured glass in the direction of the spectator’s gaze. Therefore, this space could also be qualified as strata.

spacerBack at the Forum des Images


spacerOne of the particularities of this 2009 Nemo edition resides in the large number of audiovisual performances, mainly at the Forum des Images. For the second evening of the festival, Cyrille Henry and Nicolas Montgermont, members of the chdh collective presented their “Vivarium” project live, which also exists in the form of a DVD. They call instruments the audiovisual objects that succeed one another and cover the screen. The elasticity of their movements, like their apparent autonomy, gives them the look of creatures. Their abstraction nevertheless leaves the door open to any kind of possible interpretation. It is the particles that look like insects while the flux evolves into worm shapes. The traces that sometimes linger on the screen also make us think of those inherent in “Nude Descending a Staircase”. And the stacking up of these organic instruments with electronic sounds complicate the space of the image to the point of saturating the sound space. Then a red light invades the screen, before other movements perturb a few other sonic organisms.

spacerDuring the Exit Festival in Creteil


Félicie d’Estienne d’Orves,
“Gong”, 2009.
spacerNemo also includes installations scattered round various places in the Ile-de-France like the Maison des Arts of Créteil where the International Exit festival takes place, regrouping about fifteen pieces under the theme of “New Monsters”. A hollow half sphere sound installation found there is comparable in its shape and size with a sculpture by Anish Kapoor that was recently acquired by the Pompidou Centre. Entitled “Gong”, it is thus in a shape that is currently in vogue. The one conceived by Félicie d’Estienne d’Orves, is augmented by a video-projected coloured light that seems to continue beyond the object, the better to encompass us. From afar, the concentric image that takes shape in the centre of the gong looks like the iris of an eye that is watching us. Perhaps like that of the robot HAL 9000 created by Stanley Kubrick in “A Space Odyssey”. Frédéric Nogray composed the music that provides the soundtrack to the installation. It surrounds us with its sinusoids, bewitching us to the point of making it difficult to tear oneself away from it, the sonic and luminous frequencies being so hypnotic.

spacerThe SIANA in Evry


Marie-Julie Bourgeois
& Luiza Jacobsen,
“Tempo”, 2008.
spacerThe International Week of Digital and Alternative Arts proposes spectacles, conferences, workshops and other exhibitions during the same period, where installations that were co-produced by the public organisation, Arcadi, at the origins of the Nemo Festival, are also featured. Tempo, conceived by Marie-Julie Bourgeois and Luiza Jacobsen, is among these. This involves a work that is linked in real time to a multitude of webcams showing us a mosaic of skies that are blue or stormy, clear or cloudy: it is the representation of a global sky in the age of globalisation. The sun, at the centre of the installation is at its zenith, while it rises at one extremity and sets at the other. And every hour the flow of sky videos migrates from one box to another, moving to the right. “E pur si muove” exclaimed Galileo Galilei. Today, facing the representation of this infinity shared by all, we are in the ideal position of those who observe, who watch, all the while knowing that it is now time to act.

spacerAt the Centre des Arts of Enghien-les-Bains

Prosthetic Head

“Prosthetic Head”,
spacerNemo is also about International Panoramas dedicated to new images like those projected at the Arts Centre of Enghien-les-Bains during which the Australian artist Stelarc was being honoured in the exhibition rooms. Stelarc was even present twice during the opening as the immense video-projected speaking head that resembles him oddly goes by the name Stelarc as well. The dialogue takes place via a keyboard in English between the public and the “Prosthetic Head” under the gaze of the artist, at times accompanied by his bursts of laughter. This “intelligent” head has an answer for everything except when it asks us to be “more specific”. It tells us, with its synthesised voice, that it is Stelarc and that no one created it. And when someone asks it, “what is art?” it answers that “the definition of art depends sometimes on artists, sometimes on critics”. Perhaps tomorrow it will also depend on machines, but that will not suffice for associating the words “Intelligence” and “artificial”.

spacerThe STRP Festival in Eindhoven


Kurt Hentschlager,
“ZEE”, 2008.
spacerFinally, the Parisian festival continues beyond the boundaries of Ile-de-France within the context of the operations that have been named Nemo@ at the STRP of Eindhoven, which organised a retrospective dedicated this year to the Granular Synthesis collective and its two founders: Ulf Langheinrich and Kurt Hentschläger. This latter presented his immersive installation ZEE there, which is not advisable for those with respiratory or heart problems. And you understand why as soon as the door closes as everything disappears behind a thick cloud of artificial smoke that also invades our lungs. We speak of fogs so thick you can “cut them with a knife”, but the show here plays out directly on our retinas, excited by coloured and stroboscopic lights. Walls, floor and ceiling disappear to the point that moving around in this cotton batten environment makes no sense. The sound ambiance, composed of an endless buzzing is just as omnipresent, while an array of coloured kaleidoscopes penetrates our pupils as if they had broken in. The next Nemo@ will be present at the Scopitone Festival in Nantes and at TodaysArt in The Hague.

Written by Dominique Moulon for "Images Magazine" and translated by Geoffrey Finch for "newmediaart.eu", this article is also available in French on "nouveauxmedias.net".