Strates (2020 – in progress)

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

For the first time in Grenoble a scientific investigation is being realised in collaboration with artistic research that involves a sensitive approach to the atmosphere.

It was during a conference I gave at the Journées Humanités Environnementales 2019 at the Magasin, CNAC in Grenoble, that a team of researchers noticed my stencil work. Following this meeting, Olivier Labussière, a geographer and researcher at the CNRS Pacte Laboratory, suggested a collaboration; this is how the Strates project was born in 2020.

A group of seven researchers [1] will therefore accompany me throughout the duration of the project from 2020 to 2023 and, together, we will travel through and map the contemporary geological stratum of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes 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 will allow us to keep track of the places of passage resulting from our working methodology.

In order to better understand the process, the first step will be to place a stencil in the landscape, consisting of a 1m2 fIn order to better understand the process, the first step will be to place a stencil in the landscape, consisting of a 1m2 fermacell sheet bearing a digital image of a handprint printed on a large format vinyl sticker. For the image, I have chosen to reactivate and update the ancestral practice of the negative hand by digitising and pixelating it. The choice of the site for departure will simply be located in the Grenoble Metropolis-Mountain range. Video footage will be taken to capture the duration of the image in formation and larger shots, altering in scale, will also be made to reflect the work’s interaction with the surrounding environment. A fortnight to three weeks later, I will give the stencil to the scientists to study. They will then begin an analysis of the specific particles that have been deposited on the stencil’s base. From each compound found, I will be able to go to its origin and trace it back to its place of emission. I will then place 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, continuing to move forward in the landscape in this way. I will stop this process when all of the works from the project have been deposited. 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). However, I do not limit the route in a firm and definitive way; I have already envisaged the possibility of moving beyond these sites if particles come from farther afield.

[1] Laure Brayer: Architect, Edith Chezel: Geographer, Pierre-Olivier Garcia: Geologist, Hugues Merle: Ecologist, Coralie Mounet: Geographer, Christophe Séraudie: Architect and Yves Monnier: Visual artist.

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

The results of the physico-chemical studies of the stencils will make it possible to delimit types, I would even say families, The results of the physico-chemical studies of the stencils will make it possible to delimit types, I would even say families, of particles, but not to identify their exact source. The scientific analysis will therefore be supplemented by visual surveying through film. I will go in search of the potential origins of each family of elementary particles identified by exploring the area through the use of film: industrial waste / agricultural practices / heating methods / means of transport / animal life / pollens / lichens / fires / leaching (rain) etc. The idea is also to have an 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 Harraway “become with what happens to us” and “to open up through artistic investigation these border zones, these liminal zones, to open up these critical zones, to open up critical landscapes” as described by the French artist and researcher Matthieu Dupperex. Each creation will be unique since it will be symbolically materialised by its potential place of emanation and the elementary particles that compose and characterise it. A film documenting the different explorations will also be produced by 2023.

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

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]. 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.

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