France : Bertrand Lamarche


Elemental and eccentric forces and laws of the vast external world are within the grasp of Bertrand Lamarche. He is fascinated by the threshold, opening into infinity: whirling winds, funnels and waterspouts, vortices, or urban planning on a herculean scale, tomorrow's city already glimpsed in a haze of orange vapour lighting. He deals with "hollow bodies," pockets of vacuum that exist in reality: tunnels, empty lots, quarries, but also tornadoes, black holes, or smaller gaps and vents.

Lamarche can be unassuming, even skeptical. As Guy Tortosa notes (Paris, 14 August 1998), with regard to Lamarche and entropy:

"Without energy, all speeds will be transformed into slowness. Thus, our planet will gradually cease turning, and will turn in on itself. [...]Eventually, everything will turn in on itself. A bump will become a hole; a circle will become a ring. Already, voices are turning into rumour."


Boundless powers are ingested by the imagination, to be set free again in model form. For A Hole in the Screen/Un trou à l'écran, premiered at Anthology Film Archives in New York (June 2000), a "vortex machine" is set up on the building's lower level, with a video feed to the large cinema screen upstairs. The transparent cylinder, equipped with fans at one end and a humidifier on the other, generates a small tornado of steam, visible through the glass sides of the apparatus. A camera records the rotating hole, to be projected live as a visible (if imaginary) hole within the surface of the screen itself.

"Hollow bodies are permeable. They seem unfinished. Hollow bodies are in motion; consequently, they escape." (Bertrand Lamarche)
These dizzying visions are accomplished by the most modest means: a seer at home in his imagination. Related works include Le Rotor (1997) and Vortex (1998), as eddies of current through magnetic fields, or whirlpools of revolving liquids. Another thread in Lamarche's production has been images of the city, including Méthandal (1997) and Nancy (Centre d'art/Espace Jules Verne, Brétigny-sur-Orge, 1998-99). In the latter, the accompanying publication portrays the city from the John Kennedy Viaduct, as "an unfinished landscape, a place for passing through." Lamarche's text proposes that:

"It is the void that orchestrates the site. It singles out each element, outlining each thing, and reveals what was merely visible before. That is why the city seems unreal from the viaduct. It resembles a toy, a gigantic model, set down who knows where, but in which nothing is the outcome of chance. Despite the complexity of the site, everything seems to respond to a particular orderliness, to give us, who are on the viaduct, the proof of some ideal vision or some phenomenon played out before our eyes, which we can only sense. Trains creep slowly by. They glide gently before the buildings. This produces an effect of slow motion, plunging the whole panorama into a time frame peculiar to it: an 'extended' present, drawn out like an elastic band, a slowness played out on the railway tracks, foregrounded, which turns the city into an ongoing event, and something ever-imminently obsolete." A heavy languor pervades the whole, a utopia become dystopia, mutely hallucinogenic. Into the wasteland along the viaduct, a vast planting of umbrella-like grasses is proposed, each from three to four metres tall with poisonous, stinging stems, an "umbelliferous terrain."

This world is sensorial, enticing, addictive, omnipresent. A physicality both tenuous and engrossing, distant but mesmerizing. Alluring.


Peggy Gale



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