« There are so many ways to be indiscrete, to be discrete: through fear of public opinion, through servile
submission to decorum, through precaution, through cunning and calculation. »
« This disappears, this goes away. Yes.
But in the moment when everything goes away, we can also say that everything is here. »
-Eluard’s proposal regarding sculpture, installation, “donner à voir”, is now labelled as hyper-realism and augmented reality. I am on a
different path, one which voluntarily rejects the usual “faire voir”, and I choose to deprive the audience of the use of its senses, giving
them an impossible visual grasp of the object.
-Then there is drawing, drawing which leads to the creation of volume; but also drawing for its own sake, for its own sensuality, for the
orange of the flowers with black graphite, the drawing which in itself is enough. Before or after, I do not know, it depends on the period,
the urgency of making this drawing volumes, or the other way around. A strange dialogue between drawing and volume, graphite, pastel,
drawing, ideas, and then the final act, the reason for all of this: the construction. And then: erasure, removal, obstruction, burying,
isolation (cf. Maurice Fréchuret), the paradox of the artistic gesture in which the image of reality blurs until it disappears.
HOMAGE TO HORTENSE (1% ARTISTIC) collaboration with Jean-Marc Bourry, project manager: R. Carta architecte
This is a research project centred around Cezanne and Sainte-Victoire.
The bare concrete wall, with drips from the unmoulding process, is waxed in umber so as to give the impression of old leather after
repeated staining, like varnish on canvas.
A drawing by Cezanne which perfectly captures the profile of Sainte-Victoire as seen from Fuveau*, existed. The profile of this drawing was
then copied and cut into slabs of Carrara marble (170cm by 75cm). Eighteen identical slabs having been made, they were sealed into the
Repetition of the same motif.
Overhanging (attached roughly 20cm from the wall with a strut).
The slabs of marble reveal the cut-out of Sainte-Victoire which thus appears in negative.
A light in the slabs of marble.
Behind, almost in the wings, between the light slabs of finely veined marble and the dark oxidised wall, a text by Zola, in bronze letters,
melts into the varnish.
The letter from Zola to Cezanne tells us of the mine and becomes the title of the work: homage to Hortense.
Read between the slabs and in the spaces created by the slabs.
Zola’s text appears behind the slabs, out of the line of sight it disappears in the erasure to reveal itself in the senses.
*The Provençal town of Fuveau is an old mining site facing Sainte-Victoire.
THE DAWN OF TIME (1% ARTISTIC)
An arch of sheet steel, 8m long, 2m70 high and 20cm thick.
Four pieces of reflective stainless steel are attached onto the sheet. Each of these mirrors are angled differently towards a target placed
10 metres from the arch.
The words “And I read on all the walls” are written backwards on this target in black paint on a white background.
The mirrors reflect the text but we can only see this when standing on the exact spot of the target. When we take up that position, it is
our reflection that appears in the mirrors and not the text; the action of reading is replaced by our upside-down silhouette.
This means that as it is made, the sculpture is never visible, only imaginable.
“This is a sculpture that must be viewed from a specific place.
We cannot see it but we can perceive it.
The impossibility of seeing what is placed in front of us.
In space, it is right.”
“I see, I do not see.”
To show that we could see.
We would need to move our vision, our body, to see: we will never see well, completely on one axis.
The movement would change the object – Duchamp is not far off.
DROP SHADOW ON THE SKY (FILM)
From East to West, in the South of France, leaving Fos going towards Marseille, we cross an immense bridge which spans the town of
Some nights, when the moon is shining, after a strong mistral, the shadow of the bridge projects itself onto the sky: the strange
impression of entering a tunnel when we drive along this road is due to the slope of the road and the shape of the shadow of the night put
into perspective in the sky.
To accentuate this game between lunar light and city light, to truly give the driver the impression that he is entering a strange space,
between the bridge and its shadow carried to the sky.
Then everything vanishes, we are taken away.
We made this secretly by angling extremely powerful spot-lights on the ground towards the bridge. The light caresses the deck of the bridge
to stretch into the sky, leaving the silhouette of the bridge in darkness.
This film was made with the help of EDF technicians, Marignane airport and the town of Martigues.
Length: 4 minutes 30 seconds, February 1994
SCULPTURE OF A DROWNING WAVE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN (IN WORKS)
I have been working on a sculpture of a Mediterranean wave for several years.
A short, stretched, crossed, crystalline wave.
Each wave is different in several ways: the wind, moon, temperature, depth of the water, salinity, distance from the coast, current, living
A wave from Greenland is heavy, thick, as if filled with earth, with silence; a Caribbean wave carries force for thousands of kilometres, long,
Hundreds of drawings, photos and collaborations with researchers are necessary for this piece.
The rejection of the object comes back to the object; time is needed to construct a representation of a small part of what continues to
captivate us: the Mediterranean.
The notion of unity in the Mediterranean is not known for legitimising a territorial strategy, more likely the opposite, the political project is
not the subject matter of learned discourse. The test of time is enough to disprove these simple hypotheses. Researchers tend to put forward
the idea that “the dynamic of a reciprocal construction where each one is the support of the other and then the informant.” (cf. Barget)
We need to get away from this Braudél-ian hydra, the Mediterranean is a myth (cf. Kayser), but this is not fiction. Entire peoples die there,
drown there by tens of thousands.
So why place a sculpture of a wave, drowned in the depth of the sea, in the middle of the Mediterranean?
Searching for one’s geographic centre and centroid is to question several axes; political and geographic, physical, artistic.
Placing a centre is not sitting down at a table, whatever the terms of negotiation, it is laying the table.
Placing a centre in the Mediterranean is digging into the political question, it is talking about the region of the Mediterranean, which is
synonymous with conflict, it is hearing a sea which carries deadly migration, from Gibraltar to Marmara.
“The sea is beautiful. It ties towns through a network of a love relationship, and of war and love. Blue of course because everything is blue.”
SQUARE OF CALM SEA ANCHORED ON THE PEAK OF THE GREAT METEOR, ATLANTIC OCEAN (IN PROGRESS)
The peak of the great meteor is a submarine volcano situated at a depth of only 360 metres (coordinates 26°28′ N, 23°12′ W) to the west of
the Horn of Africa.
To create a square of calm sea of 100m x 100m in the agitated sea: created between the floating anti-pollution barriers, it will be tied to the
bottom from its tops and triangulated half-way.
Inside this square we will pour biodegradable oil which will completely stop all waves in the storm.
We are also studying other methods of making this surface flat.
This installation will only be visible by aeroplane or satellite. A photographic campaign will be made from this.
It is always about making a horizontal plane in the movement; again, escaping being seen.
PLACE DES PISTOLES -VIEILLE CHARITÉ – PUGET- MARSEILLE (URBAN LAYOUT)
It is often complicated to create a town square on a previously built-up site.
It was therefore my priority to develop the layout while respecting the movements of the terrain, even the slightest trace or word. Vast
tapered steps, monochrome slabs, shade.
There were two main aims of the creation of this square: unobtrusiveness and a tribute to the sculptor Pierre Puget.
-It is little known that a pottery fragment depicting a panther was found on this site during the excavations; this fragment, among other
things, allowed the origins of Marseille to be dated back to 600 B.C.
First of all, I wanted to preserve a memory of this fragment through a copy of it placed underneath a sheet of glass. This initiative was
rejected by the town hall, as was a water wall (the usual conflict between political power and art) … So, I made a copy of the silhouette of the
panther in stainless steel which I welded into place under the handrail on the west side of the square.
Again, putting it out of sight, but this time against my will.
-Second, I needed to turn the axis of the square towards the baroque sculptor whom I prefer, and who was honoured by his city of birth:
I drew a virtual oblique line, on the square, towards the centre of the dome of the chapel of the Vieille Charité; a centre which does not exist
as unusually the dome is ellipsoidal (and a work of Pierre Puget).
This virtual line is drawn by six planted magnolias.
PLACE DE LA COMÉDIE – MONTPELLIER (URBAN LAYOUT)
Project manager: town of Montpellier.
Laureate along with landscapists Gilles Vexlard, Alain Marguerit and my associate J.M. Bourry.
Place de la Comédie in Montpellier.
The square is a carpet of 220m x 50m, thereby almost 1.5 hectares, which maintains a dialogue with the architecture of the 19th century.
For this project, several layouts at the intersection of three different areas (old historic centre, garden esplanade, commercial zone developed
by Ricardo Bofill) had to be worked.
The axis of a new perspective needed to be found; to open up a dialogue between the facades of the historic centre; continue this dialogue
with the staging of the Opera, of the ‘Œuf’ (with its fountain of the three Graces) and of the terracing of the lower square.
On the axis of the square we needed to create, so we made a perfectly horizontal design: a small slope (less that 2%), a true open-air plane
on 2 hectares.
When I walk on a truly horizontal, open-air plane, I better understand where I am, where my body is in space. Horizontality allows us to feel
ourselves standing, truly.
I am still working on this today.
(A similar project – anchor a square of calm sea in a stormy Atlantic Ocean).
The base square consists of a light frame enclosing a darker filling.
The frame is white Carrara marble, and is made up of small cobblestones held together by two bands.
The filling is large (100 x 50cm) grey marble stones. This particular layout is underlined by white marble fillets, the intersection of which
reveals a polished blue granite cabochon which marks the centre of each square.
45 squares mark out the carpet, placed at the centre of the square.
The seams with the surrounding buildings are also made of grey marble stones, smaller in size with sawn edges.
The direct contact with the buildings is assured by a line of large slabs which follow the terracing and the outline of the square.
The demarcation of the lines is visualised by black marble spheres which punctuate the route.
Masts of light give a pattern to the layout of the square at its centre.
We chose to work with a 5 metre water wall to connect the upper square to the lower square. The wall is made of raw concrete on the
square-side and of precious blue Macaobas stone, on the town-side.
The water wall is a monumental fountain:
- A jet of water at hand level (0.7m high) – running water which can be touched
A body of water with bronze statues of men (4 tonnes, 4m tall) which becomes the counter balance of the fountain of the three Graces
A water wall made of blue Macaobas stone, tapered, joins the levels of the upper and lower squares.
REGIONAL CENTRE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN – LA VILLA (ARCHITECTURE)
Collaboration with Stefano Boeri, Ivan Dipol, Philipe Coeur, Jean-Pierre Manfredi.
Objective of the contest (text from 2006):
“Construct a building for the diffusion of Mediterranean culture in the PACA region.”
The given objective was to question Mediterranean identity;
In an extremely simple way, the central point is the sea itself: the exchanges which it allows.
The uniting element of the building is the sea: travels, migration, commerce.
The sea enters the project.
The shape of the building – between land and sea, built on a port – is the simplest possible, the most emblematic: a horizontal plane
penetrating a building thereby creating an unstable position on its upper part.
The Mediterranean is still what it always has been: elusive.
And yet, while Algeria destroys itself, Israel and Palestine tear each other apart, the Balkans tend to their wounds, loving the Mediterranean is
still believing in the possibility of a united world.
To defend Mediterranean identities today is, more than ever, to resist the standardisation of the world.
“It is not over this sea that exchanges are made, it is with the help of this sea. Replace it with a continent and nothing from Greece would
have reached Arabia (…) nothing from the Orient would have reached Provence.”
The Project :
We could say briefly that our thinking about the notion of the “Mediterranean” tried to avoid the pitfalls which could have given a colour of
folklore or of anecdote to the relations that the PACA (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) region has with the rest of the Mediterranean world.
It seemed to us that the base concept of the project should escape all notions which would have had the tendency to idealise the
Short of adopting an approach which could appear redundant, our project stems from a single element which struck us as completely
‘objective’: the Mediterranean, which is the most obvious common factor between all the countries which border it.
This idea, and the establishment of the project on ancient ports, near an inner harbour (to be constructed shortly), led us to conceive of a
project not placed on the water’s edge, but completely associating with this; as much on the symbolic level as the functional.
This option determines the founding principal: imagining the design of the Villa and of the neighbouring sea as inseparable.
Functions of the building:
The CRM, the Mediterranean Villa, is a place of international vocation. It aims to:
-think of the Mediterranean
-potentialize its riches and cultural diversity
-make a space of freedom, conviviality and prosperity.
It is a tool of participation for all those who are affected by a Mediterranean project.
The Villa encourages research activities, debate and propagation around the main topics of current affairs and Mediterranean history. A
platform of initiative at the service of cooperation between countries and the entirety of the Mediterranean basin; a cultural centre which
favours the mutual knowledge and dialogue through the Arts, Science and Culture.
Axis of thought:
-participate in the analysis of the reality of the Mediterranean territory
-participate in the thinking on the globalisation of cultures and values.
Urban design:,this is the establishment of the building in view of different spaces and
other buildings which neighbour it; the interior layout of the building, from design to the shape
itself of individual spaces (amphitheatres, café, restaurant…).
Involvement of the public in the project:
There are three responses to this.
The first is purely urban: will the Villa allow the people of Marseille to “turn around”, to go beyond the bottleneck of the Fort Saint Jean?
If the rue de la République, the facilities which are going to be installed on the J4 (Mucem, Terrasses du Port…) are attractive, they will allow a
return to the customs of the people of Marseille. They are turned towards the southern districts and towards the coast road. The bet is to
turn it around, to reverse the fracture of the Canebière: northern districts versus southern districts.
The second is programmatic: what is displayed inside the building needs to attract the public. They need to feel comfortable there, at home.
They must not feel excluded either by luxury or knowledge. This must be both educational and familiar.
The last: a freely accessible promenade will be created along the edge of unstable position of the building.
Everyone will be able to access it freely, and from there will have a view over the city and the sea which will give the impression of being
suspended between sea and sky.
Today there remains the empty shell of a beautiful project taken elsewhere.
PLACE DE LA JOLIETTE – MARSEILLE – EUROMEDITERRANEAN (URBAN LAYOUT) (unbuilt)
collaboration Jean-Pierre Manfredi, architect.
The contest was focused on a provisional layout for the Place de la Joliette (provisional in the urban context always means at least 10 years).
Our response to this request (the first Euromediterranean operation before even the end of the renovations of the docks), was to conceive of
this square as a vast technical plateau, capable of hosting as many cultural and commercial demonstrations as a weekly market.
That this place be the first component of the Euromediterranean which crosses the population of the district and the high-tech offices of the
Once again, as the natural terrain had a 1m50 slope to it, a horizontal had to be put down.
Laying down this plane brought us to a level with the rue de la République, and a 1m50 difference on the side of the docks. From here came
the idea of creating a technical plateau, accessible for the different activities offered on this square.
This technical plateau was conceived in wood, like a real deck of the out-port of the cruise-port which neighbours it. As for design, the
plateau was planted with a field of olive trees through which the wanderer finds himself at the level of the foot of the trees, and at a height
of 1m50 amongst the branches of the trees.