Intermediate Perceptions. A Conversation with PLANETE MIRAGE

Interview by Sabin Bors

In the Architecture Series

The works of PLANETE MIRAGE are based on theoretical and practical elements that reconsider landscapes and mediums as a way to investigate past and future histories in the context of modernity. The artists create landscapes and mediums where man’s relation to the natural or artificial environment suffers transformations through which one can observe their potentiality. The artists’ attention to the various scales and materials allows them to create a meta-historical approach where science fiction and the archaic meet together to compete with the immediate reality and the social, cultural or historical data through which man consolidates an overall vision of the living space.

Vestiges, digital montage, 2012 © PLANETE MIRAGE, 2012. Used here by kind permission from the artists. All rights reserved.
Vestiges, digital montage, 2012 © PLANETE MIRAGE, 2012. Used here by kind permission from the artists. All rights reserved.

The current forms we are exploring are not purely architectural, they are often constructions, objects, monuments or common forms less visible when they are too disseminated throughout the territory.

PLANETE MIRAGE

Sabin Bors: What is, in your opinion, the relation between sociocultural contexts, natural conditions and architectured spaces? How does the concept of space influence history and how does space geography influence mental geographies?

PLANETE MIRAGE: The social and cultural particularities are often technical and aesthetical, but the stakes remain the same across the globe. Humans had to exploit the environment, make fire, cultivate, build, arm themselves and outline sacred spaces. The distribution of materials across the planet and the techniques needed to use them have shaped the history of people and the history of art. Materials correspond to primitive functions: to cut down the trees, to carve the stones, to mold the earth. We are fascinated by common forms such as the cairns (which are piles of pebble) that we find throughout the world to beacon the path to follow in nature, or the high voltage lines which are similar across all continents. We are interested in built forms the meaning of which surpasses the social and cultural particularities because of the fact they reflect another dimension. They are archetypes, recognizable forms which enter the real space but also serve as reference in our mental representations. They can serve as a support for our projections. 

Sabin Bors: How do you interpret current architectural forms in relation to natural or archaic forms?

PLANETE MIRAGE: When the humans got out of the caves, they’ve made solid constructions with calibrated forms from the brick to the beam. They got rid of the aleatory, irregular forms produced by nature and applied to geometry, technique and aesthetics. They’ve transformed the raw mineral element into bricks, the caves into cathedrals. The confrontation of these different registers is in fact present in the whole of our work; it is the case of Panorama, for example. This piece integrates the norm, the calibrated object created for building perfect geometrical structures, but also its bewitched original medium. The cinder block issued from the chain of production  makes reference to the chain of mountains, the mineral realm and eternity. It is the union of the urban and romantic landscapes. The mason’s quick gesture has replaced the stonecutter’s gesture and the frantic rhythm of modern constructions opposes the time of erosion.

The ancient architectural forms were signs in the natural environments. Their materials and techniques allowed for the creation of forms that marked out the territories. Constructions define the limits between humans and their natural environment.

One of the things at stake in modern architecture is the relation between the building and the environment which tends to reduce this rupture between nature and the manufactured, sometimes up to imitating the organic. Modern architectural forms sometimes come to integrate different dimensions such as the natural and the artificial, the archaic and the futuristic, as they are characterized by a mix of references, registers and materials which co-exist at the heart of the same building. This mix is no longer the result of the evolution of superposing architectural styles, but the fruit of the architect’s intention underlying the conception of the building. Modern constructions give evidence to a freedom of appropriation and interpretation of extremely varied pre-existent forms. It is these forms that interest us most because they correspond to a hybrid form we are looking for in our work. The integration of various registers such as ancient / modern or natural / artificial corresponds to one of our most intense preoccupations.

In this sense, the current forms we are exploring are not purely architectural, they are often constructions, objects, monuments or common forms less visible when they are too disseminated throughout the territory. The most intense are those the form of which allows various slippings towards another sense, on the scale of time: radars, telescopes (which allow us to obtain images of a world that’s invisible to the naked eye), the museums which garner the works of art (which are images of our world). For us, the giant telescopes are representative architectures of the relation between image and space, and the mediating function of the image between the sky and the earth. These monumental forms turned towards the stars are today’s sacred temples, protected and inaccessible except for the scientists, the guardians of the Real.

In direct relation with these preoccupations, we’ve been deeply touched by that which comes the closest to being a modern cathedral: Anish Kapoor’s Le Léviathan, presented at the Grand Palais in Paris on the occasion of Monumenta 2012. This work reconciles the formal aspects that define contemporary design or architecture: the technical and technological features serve to build a space which seems futuristic from the outside through the brilliancy of its matter and its form between molecule and spaceship. The interior offers a strange sensory experience inside a monumental space which could be a temple, but also a foetal matrix or an organic cave. It is a work that integrates antagonistic space and time dimensions.

Landscape 2, thermoformed polypropylene, neon light, 2012 © PLANÈTE MIRAGE. Used here by kind permission from the artists. All rights reserved.
Landscape 2, thermoformed polypropylene, neon light, 2012 © PLANÈTE MIRAGE. Used here by kind permission from the artists. All rights reserved.

The power of sacred images, religions and mythologies has given way to the power of technologies which together with artistic creations, ensure the circulation of new mental geographies and new images.

PLANETE MIRAGE

Sabin Bors: What is the relation between image and space? How does a void or the idea of emptiness function inside an image? Is the image a construction (reconstruction, deconstruction) of something perceptible or is it the representation of emptiness, the unseen, the inapparent?

PLANETE MIRAGE: French historian and mediologue Régis Debray distinguishes three ages in the history of the visible during which the image fulfills different functions: the presence (icon), the representation (art) and the simulation (visual).

Presence is the manifestation of an idea or a concept within a sacred space, representation figures a space through the perspective of illusion, while simulation is the viewing within a virtual space of an image obtained from numerical data that reproduce the real.

The relation between image and space is therefore a multiple one. In our work, we try to conceive a tighter connection between image and space, to explore their frontiers: spaces resemble images and images correspond to spaces. Landscape is a blue mountain which seems to have been accomplished virtually whereas it is the photography of a real object. Here, the real imitates the virtual, while it is usually the other way around. For Vestige, the image is a digital composition, it suggests a possible space, an event. In their desire to approach the real, technologies offer us the means to modify its representation.

Image is the result of a dosage between elements issued from reality and abstract, imaginary, virtual forms which are an evocation of immaterial spaces. By using simple forms or archetypes, and applying a disturbing gesture to what they represent, we are injecting a part of the invisible. Across the image, the gesture plays a revealing role by rendering visible an imperceptible or underlying dimension of the real which allows us to activate or reactivate various mechanisms of mental projection.

Modern technologies allow us to produce images of the invisible spaces, from microcosm to macrocosm. Régis Debray establishes a connection that seems fair to us in this respect: “For some decades now, the extension of observable spaces seems to be  paid to an amputation of the territories of utopia”.

Sabin Bors: Panoramic views are related to a sense of perspective: a geometrical and geometrized view and thinking. How can we learn to see, imagine and experience space differently?

PLANETE MIRAGE: Perspective allows us to distinguish and represent the near and the distant. A panoramic view allows for a more horizontal global vision. Our spectre from visible to the invisible is rather one that goes from the ordinary to the inaccessible.

By altering the materials and the images of the ordinary, we are trying to question the relation between what is there, what is it that we see and what is it that we imagine. We seek to disrupt our ordinary optical references, but this tends to slide toward the imaginary and the oneiric. We create intermediate perceptions. Image / object / space is the triangulation which unites the wagers of our works, and this integrates the gaze. The combined means of illusion, the games of scales and lights allow our gaze to pass from a material to a mental dimension. We reproduce the synthetized or archetypal forms because they convey a conceptual or symbolic dimension.

The power of sacred images, religions and mythologies has given place to the power of technologies which together with artistic creations, ensure the circulation of new mental geographies along with new images. Mapping (video projection on a volume) is a good example of virtual numerical imageries that modify real objects or spaces. To create an authentic object using a virtual image in high definition is a paradox that now becomes possible.

Sabin Bors: In your work, landscapes do not express a stratification, a real or artificial construction based on the layering of elements. I see them more as virtualities, a state of constant yet inapparent emergence; something that has the possibility and the probability of happening, though it might not actually take place. A sort of waiting and suspension. Do you see landscapes as a state of emergence or a state of waiting? And what is the difference between an empty and a virtual space?

PLANETE MIRAGE: In our work, landscape is a dimension which involves different considerations, positions and forms. It can be envisaged in a contemplative key, represented under its initial form or be suggested by other forms. The notion of landscape is connected to the natural environment, but in our works the concept of original state is put to the proof: materials turn into objects and spaces turn into territories.

In these works, the forms are subjected to a game of compression which mingles the original state of a natural landscape and the constructions of modernity. The possibilities of a future landscape are therefore induced.

The absence of people in our works allows us to emphasize their way of living, their environment, and the gigantic processes of territorial alteration. It is the revelation of this process that confers the strange character of a time suspended between the past and the future.

The anachronism, the scenarios of anticipation, the probability and predictability are just as many fictional means to invent the transformation of forms and objects.

 

This interview was previously published in English and Romanian as <We create intermediate perceptions> Interview with PLANETE MIRAGE in Arhitext magazine, Spheres and Voids, no. 5 (231) / September-October 2013.

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