It is 2008. A man in a foundry. The sculptor Richard Texier. Huge sparks, melting metal, dogged work, unmolding the plasters for a few sculptures of mythical animals. The artist and his telephone. A tiny human being and a tiny machine, both encircled by eternal metals and their metamorphoses. The man takes the machine from his pocket and films. Capturing with his hand. As if he had movable eye. Texier has looked in this way ever since phones have had integrated cameras. The sculptor films acts, the painter films faces and bodies, the man films his friends. Texier captures traces that are infinitely more ephemeral than his sculptures: a drawing jotted at a table, a conversation— an ontological image, amateur image, lowquality image, an approximate image, a share-image, an authentic image. Now it is 2009. Zao Wou-ki is with Richard Texier, the man and his camera-phone. The old, great artist asks his friend to film him at work, simply when painting. Texier has never made a film. But he too is a painter. He knows. He senses. The friend was not going to film Zao Wou-ki, he was going to share, make palpable what was happening behind the image. How do you capture the act of painting? How get beyond the superficial aspect of the action being enacted? Painting is not dance or a theater of gestures, action is but one of its stages. How could a film capture that? How could the evidential image
give a glimpse of that to which it affords only the tiniest surface?
SHARING THE LIVING
And so Texier filmed his painter friend. He captured life. He did not make a film about Zao Wou-ki, he made a film with Zao Wou-ki. This nuance is key: not make a film about, but a film with. Not sharing the gaze but sharing life, the meaning of art. Why does Texier film? The artist sometimes feels illegitimate, frightened to claim, frightened by his own naivety. Our tiny machines are a blessing for enthusiasts, for those who, like Texier, film with their heart, with their hand, with their friends, without that uncomfortable distance of the subject of the documentary. Zao Wou- ki is really there, present with his friend Richard Texier. The camera is not hidden, it is not absent, it is not discreet, no, the camera is fully there. The two friends wanted to shared what constructs their life, that “very, very powerful red.” I can image an old Chinese man saying these words, like essential words: “very, very powerful red.” And Zao Wou-ki would never have spoken those words with that depth and that simplicity in front of any other camera than his faithful friend’s phone-camera. When I film with that miniaturized machine—now an essential prosthesis—I am not filming just with the mediation of my eyes. I can film from an elsewhere, there, just above my skull, I can film my own body, arm held out and reversing my gaze, I learn to entrust my phone to someone else, at a distance. It is an eye that circulates. It is no longer the camera as metaphor for my gaze, it is another eye that has implanted itself in my body. The image is like a kind of orality withdrawing upon reception in less than a second. The communication-image, the conversation-image. When he chooses to film with this eye in his palm, Texier himself becomes a sensitive skin, a surface on which, in tactile and digital fashion, the imprints of the world are impressed. The artist dares to brush, touch, share his own imprint to keep a trace of the world surrounding him, skin to skin. The image is a digital print (finger-print). The image’s nature and function change radically. No longer pretending that we are still with the images from before. Texier is an authentic digital filmmaker. A filmmaker, for he modestly chooses to produce moving images. His films have another power, for the artist chooses to capture with this shared machine, this very banal telephone, yet which makes it possible to invent images like fingerprints, so sensitive and powerful. To film in this way is paradoxically difficult, for the way has not yet been mapped. If one of the powers of artistic work is discovery or invention, knowing what we do not know is no doubt the artist’s greatest virtue, for every creative effort then becomes risk-taking, on a wire, unique, and therefore fascinating for the viewer.
It is 2014, and I suggest to my painter, sculptor and inventor friend that we make a film together. The new machine will be a drone, a flying object with a camera. A dream object to be understood, questions, diverted. It is about not having a project, trying to be there, together, in the artist’s studio. Richard, me, and the drone. I get out the new machine and calibrate it. I pilot. It flies. We film, it and me. If the images to come are gentle and vaporous, the present time of the experience of the shoot is intense and anxious: lots of noise from the four engines, a frantic breath sweeping every speck of dust, unforeseen movements and these white propellers that could wound. In our world, when we film, the camera is always more or less bound, translated from our gaze, our body, by means of a stand or a crane, or when we hold it in our hands. In video games, however, when we move our avatar, we can use the camera as we want in space: before, behind, above, below. In these virtual worlds, the camera is disconnected from the body, the gaze is diverted. Thus, thanks to this new flying and filming object, we can now train this virtual gaze on our real world. It is a fascinating change of scopic para-
digm. But, when you fly it, the drone is not as cold as one might believe. It moves through masses of air that are hot or warm, through the wind. We do not master it, it makes autonomous movements, pushed by that invisible and very rich element that is the air. We must give ourselves up to it, be attentive to what the world proposes. The world-machine. Like Texier the sculptor who, when working at a block of stone or wood, must listen to the material, follow it, be inspired by it, and thus find the aptness, the organic quality of i ts form and his subject. A true encounter between man as the intermediary and the world. And these propellers can wound us. Texier suggests that the eye of the drone should drift around him while he is working on a painting. He will speak to this flying eye as if speaking to the beholder. The pain- ter moves his canvases. Together we transport them, install them, set out the elements for the set of a future film. Then we shoot/fly a sequence-shot and the man speaks to us, the viewers. He looks at us through the camera unmediated by a human body, a crane-body, an exo-body, a carrier-body. He looks at us, as if we were there, but we can see that this body is a body of elements, a cosmic body.
WHAT WE CALL MAGIC
The viewer’s strange sensation. The strange improvised experience of the pilot filming his friend from a distance, an unpredictable experience under this artificial sky, these artificial winds. And it is precisely this unpredictability, this natural movement, this non-mastery, this fear that the pilot and viewer feel when they let the machine and its propellers approach the artist’s canvases, at the risk of wounding them. It is precisely in this disequilibrium, this risk, that this intensity cherished by André Breton resides, on this wire—where everything could come unhung at any moment, but where everything holds together, by the force of the shared desire to make something for the other—that what we perhaps call magic is expressed. We watch these images from a distance, this digital touch like a very singular organic movement. With them, we make a progressive over-imprint, we write a surface of the image.
Translation, C. Penwarden
Ci-contre et page de droite /
left and page right: « Chaosmos ». 2014. 152 x 125 cm et 198 x 166 cm. Peinture et verre sur toile, isolant en porcelaine organique. Paint and glass on canvas, insulant and organic porcelain