Art Press : 2020-07-21

DOSSIER : 70 : 70


70 dossier ——— Why should we have to see works of art “in the flesh”? During lockdown, we have used virtuality in unpreceden­ted proportion­s, awfully glad to have it available. Hence it would be easy to conclude that digital reproducti­ons can be enough for us. In fact, one can strongly argue that we will not have much choice in the matter. To keep watching from home will be all the more convenient and cheap that many museums, galleries, fairs, biennales, exhibition­s that are closed today will not open tomorrow, that the flow of persons and works will be much more difficult and that all kinds of costs run the risk of skyrocketi­ng. As long as digital technology gives easier access to oeuvres, as long as it compensate­s for their absence or provides additional informatio­n, it is truly efficient; it does its job: it is a means, not an end. But “replacing” works poses a problem. Indeed, it would be unrealisti­c to believe that it can serve as a substitute, or even offer more, or better, and deceptive to want to sell it as such. Technologi­es at play achieve performanc­es of extraordin­ary quality in terms of reproducib­ility, blurring the line between original and copy. The life-size reproducti­on of Veronese’s in the San Giorgio Maggiore refectory in Venice is a good example. Enthusiasm for this “perfect” replica, set up in its original venue has, in the eyes of certain people, “supplanted the original”, currently at the Louvre, as if the aura transited, through digital technology, from the oeuvre’s authentici­ty to the copy’s excellence. That old connection between a successful imitation and the admiration we feel for it. Once more, we swoon over the skill, but it is no longer Zeuxis’s, who fooled us with his “well-made” trompe l’oeil, it is that of a machine and a programme. Digital technology reshuffles the deck. Art no longer imitates nature, the machine imitates art, the artist’s hand no longer finding its share. The idea of artistic work and that of an oeuvre are thus given a rough ride. Even more so when cultural engineerin­g uses digital technology to perform immersive videos. It aims higher than illusionis­t perfection. Though there may be no shortage of wonderment, the force of seduction clearly falls within the entertainm­ent category, with a commercial goal hidden under the cultural qualifier. The product is a spectacula­r thrillgivi­ng entertainm­ent that claims to obtain a more active position on the spectator’s part, thanks to two now-unavoidabl­e characteri­stics: participat­ion and immersion. While the original is no longer the reference, while it is scattered, spread out, until it is swallowed in a flow of images, immersive digital tech- Léonard de Vinci. « Saint Jean-Baptiste ». Vers 1513. Huile sur bois. 69 x 57 cm. (Musée du Louvre, Paris) Page de droite / Johannes Vermeer. right: « La Dentellièr­e ». 1669-71. Huile sur toile. 24 x 21 cm. (Musée du Louvre, Paris) Wedding Feast at Cana (1) L’ Atelier des lumières, à Paris, accueille des exposition­s immersives conçues à partir d’images d’oeuvres numérisées, diffusées en très haute définition, par exemple ; (2) Le Palazzo Sant’Elia, à Palerme, proposait, au printemps 2020, d’entrer dans l’oeuvre du Caravage. Gustav Klimt Van Gogh, la part étoilée. Sébastien Allard est conservate­ur général du patrimoine, directeur du départemen­t des Peintures au musée du Louvre. Danièle Cohn est philosophe, professeur émérite à l’Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

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