Strates (2020 – 2024)

It was during a conference presenting my artistic practice, given during “Les Journées des Humanités Environnementales” in 2019 at the Magasin Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Grenoble, that a team of scientists noticed my stencil works. Following this meeting, Olivier Labussière, geographer and researcher at the CNRS Pacte laboratory, proposed a partnership, and the STRATES project was born in 2020. A group of researchers, including Olivier Labussière (Geographer), Laure Brayer (Architect) and Marc Higgin (Anthropologist), have been working alongside me for the duration of the project from 2020 to 2024, and together we are exploring and mapping the contemporary geological strata of the Grenoble Basin.

To better understand the process, the first step was to place a stencil in the landscape, consisting of a 1m2 (one square meter) Fermacell sheet bearing the digital image of a handprint printed on a vinyl sticker. For this image, I chose to reactivate and update the ancestral practice of the negative hand by digitizing it.

Digital photograph of one of the first landscape installations, 2021.

The three starting sites were chosen close to 3 atmospheric stations in the Grenoble area: Catania, École des Frênes and Saint Martin d’Hères.

For four weeks, we worked with the scientists to study each stencil in situ. The scientific analysis based on our on-board sensors – our eyes, ears, noses, etc. – was thus complemented by a visual survey using film. Video sequences were taken to capture the duration of the image’s formation, and wider shots, changing scale, were also taken to reflect the work’s interaction with the environment.

View of one of the works in the “STRATES” series (100x100cm), 2022

Next, we began comparing our perceptions with the results from the air stations to find the specific particles deposited on the stencil base.

The first 3 stencils enabled us to define particle types, I’d even say families, but not to identify their exact source. With the team, we went in search of the potential origins of each family member, exploring the area through three thematic axes we had selected. Next, I placed new stencils in each of the identified locations, using the same method as the initial stencil, but with an image of the new sites themselves. We were able to materialize 6 sites for each line.

As you can see above, the first line is that of human activities (human activities + agricultural practices + heating methods + means of transport + major metropolitan construction sites) // A demolition site for an urban bridge in the center of Grenoble, a motorway interchange at Rondeau, an industrial reservoir on the petrochemical platform at Pont-de-Claix, a construction waste quarry on the banks of the Drac, a drinking water catchment site where agricultural practices are carried out at Eaux ce Rochefort and a huge motorway viaduct at Col de Fau in Monestier de Clermont.


Revealing a stencil with Tim Ingold

From left to right: Yves Monnier, Nicolas Tixier, Tim Ingold and Marc Higgin, 2023
Example of a stencil created on the site of the V.O. Autobridge works in Grenoble, 2023


What we call the second line is that of trees as participants in the atmosphere (through their pollens, leaves, etc.) // such as a Cedar, a Willow, a Lime, an Ash, a Beech and a Spruce, which are 6 endemic Belledonne species that we went to find on the slopes from Saint Martin d’Hères to Bachaboulou, located in the Chamrousse ski resort at 1450m.


Example of a portrait of a Cedar tree taken at the Parc Benoît Franchon in Saint Martin d’Hères, France,  (75x100cm), 2023


And finally, the third line, which is a little different from the others: cliffs as a device for observing the contemporary geological layer. In this line, we compare representations of mountain cliffs from Jean Achard in 1844 (Le Vercors, Musée de Grenoble, below) to the contemporary appearance of mountain cliffs today.

Joëlle Vaissière, Curator of the 19th Century Collections, Musée de Grenoble, France, 2022

We also found some old photographs taken by Raymond de Bérenger in the 1850s!

To carry out our contemporary observations, we worked with a drone pilot, Chloé Devanne-Langlais, who is also an artist. Together, we depicted the cliffs of the Vercors using digital images. I then used them to create my works, which take the form of large reactive strips, again on Fermacell sheets… They capture the atmospheric nuances deposited on the images in the same way as on the cliffs, producing a sort of Panton effect.

The idea of this project is, to quote the American professor Donna Haraway, to “become with what happens to us”. Through this Arts-Sciences research, we’re trying to sharpen our gaze on the landscape that makes up the stratum of the Anthropocene era, to unfold our experience of the world, to better apprehend its future, to make ourselves sensitive to it. For us, this could only be a collective and welcoming challenge. That’s why each stencil unveiling is an opportunity to meet with local residents. We invite them to participate and discuss their own relationship with air. And in so doing, we connect with the specificities of the environment, but also with the people who live it.


The “STRATES” project partners are :

L’Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR)

Le Labex ITTEM, Université Grenoble Alpes

Laboratoire PACTE, CRESSON et CNRS, Grenoble

Ecole Supérieure d’Art et de Design Grenoble-Valence

Festival Histoire de l’Art 2023 de Fontainebleau, (en partenariat avec l’ESAD-GV)

Musée de Grenoble / Connexion avec collection XIX e, Grenoble

Les CEMEA, Pont-de-Claix

École des Frênes de Villeneuve, Grenoble

Association, Les Jardins de la Poterne, SMH

Maison du Patrimoine et de l’Environnement, Chamrousse

Natura 2000, Revel

Musée Géo Charles, Échirolles

Association du Patrimoine de Saint-Martin-d’Uriage

Les Jardins de Malissoles, Varces

Association Médiarts, Grenoble

Series of digital photographs taken in the Grenoble metropolitan area.

For more information, please visit the dedicated website: Strates