Video-projection, screen, network installation, website and program, size and support variable, 2013.
Random() is an installation and also a digital exhibition (Aperto gallery): about twenty artists have chosen to integrate this installation in networks. The principle is to delegate the choices usually made by a curator to a program and to the spectators.
Every ten minutes, this program selects four works from the forty or so in the database for display in the gallery. The viewer/interviewer can select additional works within this time frame to replace those already displayed.
Beyond the randomness, the ambition was to create a work of art from a plurality of artistic approaches as if an artistic proposal became a material or a medium to constitute another gesture, another form.
This installation contains quantifiable elements: 40 projects, 21 artists, a 10-minute countdown that triggers the random function, dimensions of projections, measurements of the physical place (Aperto gallery) transposed into its virtual reconstitution, the geographical coordinates of the place and the dates or periods of the exhibition. On the other hand, the incessant calculation made by the program is also quantifiable, but is updated and fluctuates according to the choices of the Internet users.
If we take a step back from the interactive aspect, from the immediacy of the device / spectator relationship, we can see the image of the spectator as an art consumer who chooses his exhibition menu. This installation is therefore part of a post-modern attitude of erasing the figure of the curator as a determined person who makes the choice of the pieces presented and their placement in space.
On the other hand, it also questions the notion of author and paternity. Randomness is also in the encounters one makes. This selection of artists does not come from a choice of themes, but is an invitation to people I know or have known.
Even if there is a pre-selection of works in the choice that the spectator makes, his free will is involved in the process. This is what the second part of Random() shows, the log or journal (the generative part of the project that interprets the collected data) shows that there is indeed interaction with spectators, symbolized by their IP address.
It should be noted that when the installation is not projected in a place by its author, the 3D view is no longer accessible to the Internet user. He can therefore make exhibition choices, but his action will only be visible in the place where the exhibition is shown. The physical gallery remains indispensable and is not the target of this discourse.
Going beyond simple interaction, the appropriation of the device by the public makes this installation efficient, but its choices disappear every ten minutes under the action of the random() function.
This aesthetic choice puts the spectator at a distance, whether he is an actor or a passive participant in relation to the choices of representations proposed by the programme.
In the end, the viewer’s will is opposed to the random() function.
If he doesn’t already know it, I recommend Hans Belting’s book Florence et Bagdad, une histoire du regard entre l’Orient et l’Occident. [Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Scienc] to Nicolas Lebrun. But he surely knows this book published two years ago by Gallimard [2011 for the English edition] and I don’t doubt that he has also studied the publication by the same Hans Belting L’Histoire de l’art est-elle finie ? [The End of the History of Art?] because it is a question that concerns him visually. Belting’s book was published in 1989 [1987 for the English edition] at a time when performances and installations threatened the visual arts with fatal implosion. Belting suggested that, the idea having swept away history and since a new meaning had been given to it, art could do without a narrative.
It was in a way immobilised. The Internet was going to immaterialize it. This “Copernician Revolution”, if it does not rekindle the lost history of art, does bring us back to Blaise Pascal who, jealous of the wonders created by the painters of perspective, invoked for the moral the same search for the point that, like the vanishing point, would be the place of truth from which to think of things. Four centuries later, is art the point of truth of the canvas?
Let’s face it, Nicolas Lebrun has not come to Montrouge to show his works but to think them, and to make us think them, and make us think of the works of others, who surround him, precede him, dominate him, and question him, or not, on essential issues: How “to make” art, and how to exhibit it at a time when all creation is simultaneously uploaded, printed in 3D, circulated infinitely, enhanced by numbers of views whose record is the heart. Here, the artist welcomes being dispossessed of his work which he sees changing its nature to suit the cybernetic orthodoxy.
A veritable IT sponge, Nicolas Lebrun’s project questions the circulation of works, their place here, it would be sadly useful if he had come out of his liquid element: the exhibition, its context, what you are doing in wondering what are those screens, those random projections, that are moreover very elegant, almost design, giving the eye a comfort, a geometry, in short he means you no harm. Organizer of a virtual party, he sends his thinking immaterialities to search engines that cannot, but. Certainly, he defeats curators and collectors because his proposition, as soon as it’s clicked, is collected by all the dumbfounded internet users. But his system has the great, paradoxical merit, of placing the visitors to the Salon de Montrouge outside the canvas, as lost rebels. Just like the painting from beside is in the history of art a point like another, the virtual organization that Nicolas Lebrun is trying to introduce in your mind is another point “like another” of this history. But a point that inevitably changes the perception of it. He threatens, he cruises, he implores, and even if you refuse him: “I don’t understand anything about it”, you cannot hurt him at all.
– Christophe Donner, writer and critic of Montrouge’ Salon