A candy with no taste, a fiction without images, a solo without guitar, a movie screen that goes blank as you get close to it. Loris Gréaud‘s work is a captivating voyage in a world of reversed perceptions, where it’s possible to hear a color, see a sound, realize a score as an architecture and an architecture as music.
This eclectic and prolific artist engages with all kinds of media while maintaining a linear and coherent aesthetic trajectory. The multimedia project Cellar-Door, a fiction having the artist’s own studio as its main character, and consisting of a performance, a series of installations, a concert and a musical score, has been shown at the Palais de Tokio in 2008. Since then his productions have followed increasingly striking and extraordinary directions.
In 2004 he established the research studio DGZ (Dölger, Greaud, Ziakovic), in partnership with a designer and an architect, with the declared mission to “cancel borders between disciplines.” Such interdisciplinarity is borne from the impromptu of his aesthetics, often inspired by scientific discourse. His last DGZ project, “Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk” from the famous Alice in Wonderland quote is an actual nano-sculpture co-produced with the CNRS (Centre National Recherche Scientifique) and was shown at Frieze Fair in 2006.
I was just reading the Weschler conversations with Robert Irwin (“Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees”), in which Irwin speaks about the differences between science and art: scientists tend to operate through a logical process in the material world, while artists “deal with the overall complexity of which all the logical subsystems are merely segments, and they deal with them through the intuitive side of human potential – and here inconsistencies are as meaningful as consistencies.” Later in the book, Irwin, underlining the similarities between the two, uses the term inquiry as “the open-ended project of the passionately curious.” And it’s exactly the strength and coherence of such inquiry that stand out in the work of Gréaud, an inquiry which he himself defines as a real obsession and by whose urgency and coherence his aesthetic is informed.
Mattia Casalegno: You have a background in music composition and are always been interested in the ideas of synaesthesia and the interweaving of audio and visual languages. What is compelling to me it’s the way you address such issues, by substraction, going in an opposite direction from the mainstream approach. I’m thinking ad example at your projects Silence goes more quickly when played backwards curated by Caroline Bourgeois and the video piece with Lee Ranaldo showed at Miami Basel in 2008. Can you talk more about these pieces?
Loris Gréaud: I think this idea of working by “substraction” is somehow driven by the conceptual aspect of the process and by the answering of some obsessions. I have a background in experimental cinema and I started to produce movies after some experiences in experimental music and sound design. With post production and editing I was already able to put together some knowledge, ideas and visions about images and sound interactions and synergies, or the opposite.
I made two projects, DarkSide and Outdated Film: the first one is a projection room and a cinema screen with some reminiscences from “2001 Space Odissey” which came in mind thinking at this notion of “intelligent form”. The installation is diffusing a fiction I wrote and realized in super 16mm film: if you walked into the space by the back of the screen, you could hear the soundtrack and see the abstract hallow of lights around the screen coming from the movie itself.
The Outdated Film project was another experiment. I bought a large amount of outdated 16mm sensitive film from the ’90. I made a bunch of tests in lab, to test the printing capacity of the film, which revealed just as I thought – that the film was completely outdated and that no images would be printed, except abstract forms of light and chemical reactions.
I decided to put up a complete film crew, with a casting directed in south France, a great operator chief, and a executive producer for the realization of a 25 minutes fiction. During the 3 weeks of shooting I didn’t tell anyone that the film was unable to produce any proper image, and that the work was more about realizing and filming the fiction the best we could in a way that on a complete abstract level a story will not be revealed, the abstract images containing the fiction.
As you can imagine showing the exposed film for the first time to the crew and explaining the real project generated a huge mess ! At the end there was only one person link that keep talking to me, but at least the movie is beautiful, and I love pushing this idea link to the film material itself of an unrevealed story, stuck forever in the abstraction level.
Another project that somehow plays and deal with the same kind of questions is my collaboration with Lee Ranaldo. I’ve asked Lee to travel to Paris for a recording session in the famous anechoic chamber of IRCAM, immortalized by John Cage. Here we were recording the soundtrack for the movie: One thousand way to enter whose final version is still in production.
In the anechoic chamber Lee had any guitar, and I just asked him to deeply think the most beautiful guitar solo he could imagine. We recorded him thinking with super precise microphones, a total silence full of mental crazy guitar riffs.
Mattia Casalegno: What’s your personal take on the concept of synaesthesia? How do you think it changed with the advent of the digital era?
Loris Gréaud: I’m really fascinated by the synaestesia under a neurological aspect, especially related with the concept of “grapheme”: people that experience letters, words, and numbers in color sensation. It’s a great transfer and equivalence: to look at the works of great grapheme synaestetes and suddenly you can transform things threw neurological condition. One could imagine, Kandinsky, Nabakov, Nicola Tesla and Rimbeau cryptographed … it could be nice to re-code some paintings, writings, inventions by other synaestethes, like a color sensation- translation and so on.
Mattia Casalegno: You got expelled from the Conservatoire de Musique in Paris after setting up a recording studio “to stop music”. What was your intent?
Loris Gréaud: This come from the cultural and aesthetic choc that I got when I discovered the early works and thoughts of Stockhausen and then the complete ouvre of Cage, a sort of cultural combination similar to a dietCoke and Mentos (/www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vk4_2xboOE) or cocaine and heroine as speedball. Some ideas, like the concept of un-played notes, will last forever and have become a pattern for most of my productions, especially in regard to the fact that you need also to listen to un-played notes in a score and be aware of the missing gap between two works, and that maybe the things unsaid are more important than the told/loud ones. I had this idea at the time of setting up an “unlearning workshop”: it requires a lot of work to unlearn, but it’s a gate that is important to go through, making a huge ellipse, to say that you cannot stop someone that don’t know where he’s going, admitting you arrive at this point where you’re completely lost.. maybe at the end is like a Ballard highway that will open up to you?
Mattia Casalegno: You had the great honor and greater burden to have a solo show at the Palais the Tokio so early in your career. I was wondering how did you managed to have such commission, but even more how did you approached the whole project and how did you find a balance between the singularities of your pieces and the overall narrative of the exhibition.
Loris Gréaud: Well, I had the first really important solo show in 2005 in Paris at Le Plateau, directed and curated by Caroline Bourgeois: Silence goes more quickly when played backwards. It contains a lot of elements that have become a complete obsessions for me. Regarding the Palais de Tokyo and the Cellar Door project which I have started in 2006, I think it’s been more about the exigence of the body of work and the amplitude of the project itself that led to get the whole space. When you’re dealing with the game of a Gesamkunstwerke – “the total work of art” – codes and format, you need to be as less complex as possible about it, and this doesn’t have nothing to do with ego or megalomaniac, what french historian
Pascal Rousseau defines about Cellar Door as a “Conceptual Wagnerism” is absolutely right, all of this have nothing to do with any kind of economy or strategies. Gesamkunstwerke is read as an artistic suicide, we have to read it from this point, like a total combustion. the project is been developed and expanded afterward at the ICA in London, Kunsthalle Sankt Gallen, and at the Conservera Museum in Spain, Murcia. We are now working on the final part of the cycle and editing an important book which will be the only object that could bring an overview of the intensity and the aesthetic endeavour of the project.
To answer your question I’m not interested too much in building a career, neither in developing a strategy of duration. I’m in constant combustion, no economy, and this kind of choices and procedures will certainly lead me to even more strong gestures.
Mattia Casalegno: Edgar Allan Poe, C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, in a way or another have dealed with the word Cellar Door, which is considered the most beautiful word in the English language in terms of phono-aesthetics, with no regard for semantics. The most intriguing aspect to me is that no one know where this notion come from.
Cellar Door is also the title of a libretto with a score accompanying the exhibition. Why did you choose this name and why did you choose to write a score?
Loris Gréaud: The title of the project activate and resonate with the whole proposal, the myth around Cellar Door, and in fact what have been defined by many linguist is the fact that it is the most beautiful combination of words especially if you get an abstract of the meaning and focus on the sonority. Also you can’t really escape what trigger Cellar Door in terms of mental images and folklore around it.. it creates automatically a starting point of for a narration. The main statement and experiment around the whole project is to be able to create a series of strange equivalences, a kind of horizontal reflexion and to trigger the form of a Moebius strip, in a way of answering questions and obsessions that have remained so far unresolved to me.
To bring an example of the complexity of procedures and thoughts: how can a series of shows produce an efficient form to the world that will change my perception and behavior of the world and my attitude to it?
It seem that if we use the show as a starter point to crash things in reality, using the duration and energy around the project to crystallize all kinds of efficient possibilities, and produce for example the building of my own studio where I could work, experiment and live, then this will automatically change my habits, my perceptions and my activities.
But how at the same time can we engage in the design and construction of such an architecture, and not let it freeze and immobilize as a graveyard? If we would be able to raise an architectural plans and a score that are not in response to each other but a real equivalence, an original becoming redundant, then the architecture will be the score and the score will be the architecture. If we’ll succeed in such experience with architects and composer and blurring the borders, it will open up amazing potentials of disgregations and mental slippers and a building could be replayed endlessly, reinterpreted endlessly.
A musical score is the best format for new readings and reinterpretations. Also those chains include beautiful and effective images. If you listen the CD of Cellar Door in your car or on your laptop what are you actually listening is the studio, and is the studio that’s entering your space. This lead us to the idea of an opera that allow us to first insert a fictional level on the project, and those writings will become the only access of the body of works
displayed in the show and will become captions (you could only access the works through samples of the libretto).
It gives us also the only way of polyphonie, where people could speak and talk at the same time, reproducing the exact process of the project, and then having the point of view of a fiction that we’ll push into reality, fiction become productive and infiltrating the real.
I then added the exact same process to the forms and pieces present in each show, representing all the characters of the fiction, they try to answer all the ideas and obsessions of the studio itself, it’s a complete addition with no result and no center anymore, a project of equivalence designed with lines and trajectories, the score is the building, the building is the show and so on…
Mattia Casalegno: In 2004 with the architects Dölger and Ziakovic you created DGZ Research, a multidisciplinary production studio that makes the realization of “utopian” projects possible. Why did you feel the urge to found your own research studio? Can you give some glimpses of its activities?
Loris Gréaud: DGZ ( Dölger, Greaud, Ziakovic) is been created basically to render dynamic the idea elaborated by Michel Foucault of heterotopia. We decided to start up this company together after few discussions and collaborations that have been really proficient, which could have only been possible within this undefined space between an architect, a designer and an artist coming from different backgrounds and expertises. All the work at DGZ research studio is about erasing boundaries. We start from an optimal image or idea and spend the time and energy it requires to make it real with less compromise as possible both in terms of aesthetic, forms or ideas.
Some projects are under development for more than 7 years: it doesn’t matter the time it require, we are working on different scales of time with no constraints. So far the works that we have been shown are “The Residents”, a reproduction of an actual apartment on ile de la cité in Paris made only with draft of air and wind, an architecture of air. And The CELADOR candy, as a teaser of Cellar Door, the real branding, design and commercialization of candy with absolutely no taste and no flavor, in the idea that the consumer could project anything on it. The illusion of a taste, or the taste of illusion.
And lately the Nano sculptures for the project: Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?, a real nano sculpture produced with the help of CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) functioning as a micro museum as a booth in the center of Frieze art Fair, using the commercial aspect of the fair to sell invisible forms to the naked eye..