S I D E R E A L
OCTOBER 12 > DECEMBER 9.2017
AN ARCHE-WRITING OF FOSSIL WORLDS
by Victor Mazière
Caroline Corbasson’s work takes form via a very diverse range of practices that nevertheless come together around a central axe of symmetry, where it is most often a question of confrontation between spatiality and temporality. From the charcoal constellations of Dust to Dust, to Ash and Stardust, the artist has ceaselessly carved out infinities : that of the cosmos and the depths in the material, which have maintained, since always, a relationship of co- belonging. We walk on the dust of deceased worlds even prior to our arrival, swept away by invisible radiation, the dark energy of the universe.
This staggering association of spatial-temporalities paradoxically concurrent yet separate from them-selves mirrors, like a chiasmus, the displaced symmetry of Atlast, for example, or the untraceable site of Plage, that seems to collapse on itself like a black hole, a zone of leakage, where the universe’s primordial energy would return to its secret source — the imperceptible white noise and the invisible color emanating from Noise or Waves.
Because, with this attempt to measure the immeasurable and give extravagance to the moderate, one of the artist’s recurrent preoccupations is no doubt revealed: to explore the porosity of this « in-betweenness » that links the terrestrial world to the cosmos; in this process of topological deconstruction, our own immediate environment becomes a simple element, caught up in the network of a hyper-world much larger than itself, and traversed by a time so very far away that it would reveal nothing of the conscience’s experience but of the pure scientific investigation—or of the possible fiction of this investigation. What to say of a world that we will never know, although we have the technology to understand it, not phenomenologically like a place of experience, but like a site without a location — conceptual — where obscure fantasies are born out of a strange relationship to what is radically foreign — alien?
Because today, contemporary experimental science is capable of producing statements on events pre-ceding conscious life, by relying on the speed of disintegration for radioactive nuclei, or on the laws of thermoluminescence: but in the movement itself, where it defines more and more precisely this pre-human zone, it puts the nature of these statements it produces back into perspective since these con-cern data coming from a world positioned as being antecedent to the emergence of thought itself, and even to all forms of relating to the world.
Quentin Meillassoux, in After Finitude (1) uses the term arche-fossile to evoke this past when Earth was devoid of all human trace and removed from all subject-object relations : translated to the aesthetic sphere, it could be the metaphoric and conceptual space of Atacama, the film that Caroline Corbasson directed in Chili in a deserted environment, so apparently hostile to life that it almost bring to mind an exoplanet. In this unreal location, the dust, as if caught up in a dense mass, does not move. Similarly, in Atacama, a sort of hypnotic torpor, at once haunting and anxious, interferes with the series of shots and sequences, so much that we oscillate constantly between the mental space and that of sensible reality, the concrete existence and the imaginary hypothesis; until a human presence (a first in the artist’s body of work) arrives as if to awaken this eternity of fire and ash — a metaphor at once of the world’s awakening to consciousness, to itself, and the reactivation of the buried layers of the subconscious, because both fields (techno-scientific measure and conscious input) are never completely separated in the work of Caroline Corbasson. It is what a very kubrickian scene of the film suggests, actually: after a long tracking shot, minutely choreographed, retracing the elevation of the telescope from the ground of the Observatory, the dome opens up, like an eye or a corolla — an event that suddenly unsettles the concretion of solitude of this abandoned space, and hatches a possibility for a relation to the world.
On one hand, the desert petrified with pre-human dust, on the other hand, a gigantic mechanical eye penetrating the depths : their relationship creates a sort of primitive scene of the gaze that, symbolically, the work of Caroline Corbasson never ceases to replay in all of
its formal variations, possibly at-tempting to capture the impossible moment of the world’s genesis into consciousness, where, even within the visible and its scientific measurement, an invisibility grows and quivers that would also be, analogically, a mediator between the depths
of the subconscious and those of external reality. It is around this focal point that the artist’s work rotates like a particulate tornado : as if one possible avenue of aesthetics were to capture representation, a certain relation with the truth that reveals itself, or to an ‘other’ light whose
flame burns the night into ash, leaving it to disperse itself infinitely in the particulate abyss of its magnetic storms and the constellation of its temporary powdering of dust. From there possibly comes the feeling that Caroline Corbasson’s images simultaneously hide and reveal a latent phenomenal life : would art then not act as a rite building an imaginary bridge between the mental landscape and the unknown energetic territory from which the universe nourishes itself ? The vibration of this obscure life goes all the way into the depths of the subject matter, where temporalities agglomerate, invisible stratas — similar to the hyper-objects that Timothy Morton (2) speaks of, these networks of phenomena at once so intermingled and topographically complex that they become impossible to isolate spatially, temporarily, and ontologically.
By an effect of strangeness possibly present in the mirrors themselves, always distorting what they conform, the human spirit is also stratified, made of undetectable leafing, the way a geological formation would have accumulated layers of temporalities secretly buried in its
depths: both belong to an in-betweenness where the material has preserved the traces (perhaps active), of what is no longer there; it is the realm where the « sedimhaunted » and the spectral time converge: and it is not surprising, in the end, that it is a technological tool, a type of
extra eye capable of seeing beyond the flesh that acts as the link between worlds.The power of microscopes and telescopes, as such, follows the dreams of the photography’s pionners : to see beyond the visible and to register the objective trace of phenomena that escape human
vision, meanwhile reactivating a certain proto-scientific imagination of what would lay beyond or below — two signifiers whose meaning floats where the imagination latches on. The snapshot did nothing but suddenly increase the conceptual and phenomenological reach of this
enigmatic field : the adoption of photographic vision gives the machine the power to anchor the “super-natural” and, by a bizarre transferal effect, makes the spiritual ebb back into the machine, all the while depriving the human gaze of the power it finds itself naturally invested in; it is what Benjamin will name the “optical unconscious” (3) that, according to him, characterizes photography and cinema, something we could say about all optical systems that push vision beyond itself with this “boomerang effect” where our phenotype, in evolving further its pure genetic sphere, into the environment it has appropriated (4), has conceptually and physically “colonized” and explored non-human space, but, at the same time, has been been deprived from its « essence » by the very tools it has forged.
Recently, Caroline Corbasson experimented with photographic image transfer techniques, relying on chance, revealing the happenstance and contingency of materiality itself. We could see it as a form of human re-appropriation of this aura the machine stole from us or a desire to get closer to this alterity that molds reality since its origin: in a sense, these photographs of dust particles seen under the micro-scope and then transferred onto silver emulsion and developed like an old photograph follow the same motivation that made her draw star-littered
photographs with charcoal.The dust, the possible arrival of chance, the advent of contingency and therefore of time-becoming and of its spatial extension : this formal and conceptual constellation has not ceased to be assembled and reassembled by Caroline Corbasson, as if
it was a matter of understanding an unknown crystal’s many facets under various angles. We measure, here too, possible openings of her work from which roots ceaselessly, in the manner of Nicolas Bourriaud’s (5) radicant organisms, create possible bifurcations as they plant their roots in a new topology : beyond the personal sphere, her work touches on new ecological paradigms, both scientific and ontological, from which each work is a part , towards the progressive netting of an aesthetics composed of « stem-forms » and meaningful networks.
(1) Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude (translator Ray Brassier), Bloomsbury Academic, 2010
Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 2006, p. 26
(2) Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects : Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World
The University of Minnesota Press, 2013
(3) Walter Benjamin, Illuminations : Essays and Reflections, Schocken Books, 1969
(4) Richard Dawkins, The Extended Phenotype, Oxford University Press, 1982
(5) Nicolas Bourriaud, The Radicant, Sternberg Press, 2009