ESSAYS Mousse 8
A French Big Bang: Loris Gréaud
by Florence Derieux
The projects and exhibitions of the young french artist Loris Gréaud (1979) are often the result of collaborations with scientists, geo-biologists, engineers, filmmakers, writers, sound and graphic designers. His diverse background in music and cinematography provides an expanded framework for his frequently cryptic installations, which test both the given characteristics of the mediums he employs and the expectations of the audience.
The short career of Gréaud seems to be inversely proportional to the success that he experiences after 2004, the year of his first personal exhibition right before the reception of his final degree at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Paris-Cergy. In the following year, the contemporary art center Le Plateau in Paris presented his first institutional exhibition that left its mark as a true event. A few months later, he received the Paul Ricard Award that the relative society has awarded each year since 1999 during the Fiac to the most representative artist of the young French scene. It is during this period that together with Marc Dölger et Damien Ziakovic he created his own production, DGZ Research (Dölger, Gréaud, Ziakovic). Today, Loris Gréaud seems to be one of the most promising French artists of his generation. Now 28, he is gradually developing an international career, having exhibited already at the ICA in London, the Swiss Institute in New York, the Centre Culturel Français in Milan, the Galerie Esther Schipper in Berlin, as well as others. His participation in the Frieze Projects last November was particularly noticed, bringing to this young artist many invitations and commissions. It is thus certain that there should be a substantial regard for the future of this artist, such that Marc-Olivier Wahler invites people to explore the integrity of his exhibition spaces at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris during the month of February in 2008.
Loris Gréaud chose initially to study experimental cinema while playing the traverse flute at the music school, all this before going to an art school. These other areas of research that broadened his experiences and knowledge are still a part of his world as an artist. Soon he decided to put together a structure that could finance his first pieces of work. He created, with two friends of his, an electronic music label and Sibilance Production, a post-production studio. He attended a three-year drawing course before entering the Fine Arts School. When thinking of the reasons that brought him into the art world, Loris Gréaud speaks of the film Terminator 2; his departure from music school after he studied works by John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Steve Reich; and the creation of a studio of “musical unlearning”; the viewing (“by mistake”) of the Anticipation Of The Night by Stan Brakhage and the discovery of certain “flicker films;” the Bruce Nauman exhibition at the Centre Pompidou; the lecture of La Maison des feuilles by Mark Z. Danielewski. It is important to add to this the influences of William S. Burroughs, a figure associated with the Beat Generation that the artist so often evokes. In 2005, his participation in a group exhibition consisted in “hiding a piece“—he put a drop of LSD on an original drawing of Burroughs.
The interest that the artist has for Burroughs is equal in measure to the passion that he has for science fiction, an artistic genre that starts from the notions of knowledge (scientific, technological, and others) and formulates suggestions that may come to be in the future. A context of such intensity as the starting point of an art piece is extremely important for the work of an artist. Like certain artists from the previous generation such as Pierre Huyghe or Carsten Höller for example, Loris Gréaud injects fictional elements inside reality with the aim of modifying the perception that we have of it. As Anton Zeilinger, in a conversation with the artist, stresses, “Is our notion of reality too limited?” Fiction takes shape within reality and it becomes reality, opening a way to infinite possibilities. The piece, Devils Tower (2006) is both important and representative. It is made of a black resin and is a model of a strange mountain, from the Steven Spielberg film Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977), placed on a trailer and pulled by a car into different places inside and close to Paris. These apparitions intrigue and stimulate the imagination of those that cross his path, but they above all spread the most extraordinary noise. The noise was the starting point of the Résidents 1 project planned together with his exhibition at the Plateau in Paris in 2005. The artist found some people available that accepted to try this adventure (and to sign the contract), and he left them a private apartment on the Ile de la Cité in Paris for as long as a day to a week. Thanks to the noise, this place rapidly earned the reputation of being haunted. Meanwhile, the artist worked with magnetic field experts in order to make the apartment the least pleasing and eventually to provoke insomnia, nightmares, sickness, anguish, etc. The volunteer residents in the apartment were bound by contract not to produce any kind of recording of this experience, but they were encouraged to speak their minds into a voice box that would be diffused on a radio.
Again, the central point of the work of Loris Gréaud is the question of transmission. The shape of the project may tend to change, to evolve, according to the necessities and the possibilities that may be encountered. Simultaneity seems to be another constant fact for Loris Gréaud. Most of his projects take place, in fact, simultaneously in different places. One of his most ambitious experiences on this matter is the exhibition Imagination Is A Revolutionary Weapon (a phrase drawn from the text of William Burroughs’ The Electronic Revolution, 1970) at the Centre culturel français in Milan that took place also in different places in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, and Vilnius. The projects consist of the demolition of a building by inverting the principles followed by Gordon Matta-Clark in his performances in the seventies (inviting an audience, recording the event, etc.), a string of 1001 black balloons, a neurologist recording Loris Gréaud’s brain activity while he thinks of his future exhibitions (Frequency Of An Image, 2006), a radio emission audible only by animals, an installation in “sound and light”. Again, the ways of transmission were at the very heart of the project. In order to understand the integrity of the piece, spectators had to put themselves amongst these rare communications, reports, images, stories, and listen to the noise.
The projects and exhibitions of Loris Gréaud are often produced in collaboration with architects and designers, scientists, graphic artists, musicians, or writers. It is not about passing on the command to someone else, like his friend Saâdane Afif, but it is indeed about creating a space for dialogue, which is essential for the development of his projects.
Gréaud seems to be interested more by the process, exploring the limits, frontiers and margins, rather than the realization and creation. The limits presented are often technological in nature. An example would be Outrange (2003), a DVD where images in black and white emit video signals passing through the threshold of the cathode tube and manage to generate themselves into images and sounds. It also happens that often the artist puts to test his own limits of perception. The principle of Dreamachine invented by Ian Sommerville and Brion Gysin re-emerges continuously in the works of Loris Gréaud. Dream Machine (2005) is made of three luminous cases whose luminosity varies with the rhythm of a frequency invented by Gysin. In Hors-Prises (2001), the spectator becomes the surface of the projection simply by passing behind a screen. In Crossfading Suitcase, ErsatZ, Hyperreality Substitute Project (2004), the lowering of sound frequencies leads to sleep. It is a paradox that one of the strongest pieces of this artist can never be seen—Untitled (Dark Side) (2006), is composed of an elaborated projection instrument created with the collaboration of DGZ Research that allows an infrared detection system; each time the visitor approaches the dark room, the projector shuts off. The project that Loris Gréaud presented in 2006 for Frieze in London was particularly representative of his research as an artist and of the strategies that he implements and develops. It was produced in collaboration with French researchers connected to CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and DGZ Research, an architecture, design, and art agency that has aided Gréaud in producing his projects in close collaboration with the experts from other fields of activities.
For Frieze, Gréaud crated a surprising exhibition of nanosculptures that were invisible to the naked eye. They could only be seen through very powerful microscopes that were placed inside what seemed a small minimalistic museum with pure black shapes. Entitled Why Is A Raven Like A Writing Desk? (2006), the project has the immediate effect of shuffling the perception by modifying the dimension scale.
“I place empirical machinery where things change, get transformed, distorted, displaced… The origin and the production are not, for me, made to coincide. I hope to make things that resist direct explanation,” explains Loris Gréaud. In fact, whether he makes an original industrial paint (M46, 2004-2005), the perfume from Mars, or black champagne, the artist is evidently an inventor.
When Louis Sullivan, an American architect professionally formed in Paris, formulated his famous saying “form follows function,” he created a principle that summarized a thousand years of research for many generations of architects and architecture theoreticians concerning the generation of shape. One of them, Eugène Violletle- Duc, contributes in defining architecture as being an answer to a structural problem brought about by functional needs. Loris Gréaud seems himself to see art as an answer to a conceptual problem brought about by spiritual needs. What could, at a first glance, be perceived as a scientific experience, is more appropriately related to philosophical and ethical issues. Three branches of research seem to coexist in the work of Loris Gréaud: technology, perception, and belief. For the artist, to believe is often more interesting and more important than to see. The medium thus follows logically the idea, the shape follows the concept.
Originally published on Mousse 8 (April 2007)