Strates (2020 – 2024)

Digital photograph taken at the École Supérieure d’Art et de Design de Grenoble-Valence (ESAD-GV) during the removal of stencils in 2021.

It was during a conference I gave at a scientific and environmental day in 2019, at the Magasin, which is the Contemporary Art Center of Grenoble, a team of scientists noticed my stencil artworks.

Following this meeting, Olivier Labussière, a geographer and researcher at the CNRS Pacte Laboratory, suggested a partnership; this is how the STRATA project was born in 2020. A group of researchers [1] have therefore accompanied me throughout the duration of the project from 2020 to 2024 and, together, we’ve travelling through and map the contemporary geological stratum of the AURA Region and perhaps even beyond. The idea of relating our journey by means of a precise cartographic process appeared to be the most adapted solution in that it allowed us to keep track of the places of passage resulting from our working methodology.

In order to better understand the process, the first step was to place a stencil in the landscape, consisting of a 1m2 Fermacell plate bearing a digital image of a handprint printed on a vinyl sticker. For the image, I have chosen to reactivate and update the ancestral practice of the negative hand by digitalizing and pixelating it. The three departure sites had simply been chosen close to 3 atmospheric stations in the Grenoble area. I have chosen to begin the experiment in the centre of Grenoble and to progress to the three large surrounding massifs (Chartreuse, Belledonne and Vercors).

Video footage had been taken to capture the duration of the image of formation and larger shots, altering in scale, it was also be made to reflect the work’s interaction with the surrounding environment. Four weeks later, I gave the stencil to the scientists to study it. They had then begun an analysis and compare with atmospheric stations results to find the specific particles that have been deposited on the stencil’s base. From all those components found, we were able to select 6 for each stencil, find their origins and trace them back to their places of emission. Then I placed a new stencil in each of these identified locations, using the same method as the initial stencil but with an image of these new sites.

[1] Laure Brayer: Architect, Marc Higgin : Anthropologist, Olivier Labussière : Geographer.

Digital photograph of the first revealed negative hand stencil test taken in 2021.

The results of the physico-chemical studies of the stencils made it possible to define types, I would even say families of particles, but not to identify their exact sources. The scientific analysis had been therefore supplemented by visual surveying through film. With the team, we went in search of the potential origins of each family of elementary particles identified by exploring the area, three topic lines were selected : (1) Human activities ( industrial waste + agricultural practices + heating method + means of transport) // (2)Trees participation to atmosphere (through pollens) // (3) And to finish, the mountain as a geological observation device for the contemporary geological Stratum.

The idea of this project is also to sharpen the eye for the landscape that composes the stratum: to deploy the experience of the world to better apprehend its becoming, to make ourselves sensitive to it and thus to our own future. To quote the American professor Donna Haraway :  “To become with what happens to us”.

A film documenting the different explorations will also be produced by 2024.

Series of digital photographs taken at Grenoble and around.

The originality of my artistic approach lies in the fact that each work is produced with materials potentially specific to our geological era: the Anthropocene[2] (A term meaning “the human era” that was popularised at the end of the 20th century by the meteorologist and atmospheric chemist Paul Josef Crutzen.). They are derived from human and/or non-human activity, such as the elementary particles in the air and water. I select my materials in DIY shops or from construction suppliers: often acrylic-coated “slate imitations” for the small formats or Fermacell sheets for the medium and large-sized formats. My aim is not to show any form of alteration of the landscape by pollution – in the ecological and committed sense – but to ‘unfold’ the perception of our current environment. What does this “trace” found on my works of human activity and the processes considered “non-human” say about us? About our time? Does it alter our perception of the images it embodies? The idea is to learn how to make oneself sensitive, to make the eye more attuned to perceive what lies below the surface. To make perceptible a whole series of nuances, to refine the perception of landscapes and to position a sensitivity at the heart of our contemporary relationship with the world.

[2] A term meaning “the human era” that was popularised at the end of the 20th century by the meteorologist and atmospheric chemist Paul Josef Crutzen.

Series of digital photographs taken at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Grenoble (ENSAG) during the first exchanges with the team in 2021.

“STRATES“ Project video presentation (VF) : FHA Fontainebleau 2023

For more information, please visit the website dedicated to this project : Strates