LES SOUBRESAUTS DU MONDE (Convulsions of the World)

Sometimes Samuel Rousseau’s videos are frenetic, funny. They take joy in, in their way, duplicating “the real” like futurisms had reworked it, becoming less preoccupied with visibility, spectacle and the immediate. In sum less transforming, and doubtlessly more constructing. They believe in the genius of machines. They are rendered more grave and haunted by the dilemmas raised by their own possibilities. All are animated by a deep inner movement, quite removed from a cinema that is abstract. Everything depends on how the video works on the space into which it integrates and, consequently, on its physical and psychical position and the received perception, shared between an inside and an outside, that the viewer is led to invent. With Rousseau the image gains new dimensions. It constructs a new aesthetic and dynamic, flowing from the creator’s unbounded invention and energy.

Samuel Rousseau clearly states his aesthetic intentions for this, his second show in AEROPLASTICS’ exhibition space: “Formally, I raise the question of ‘dead time’ in a time loop. Because I want my video work to function exactly like a sculpture or a painting, be it only as a detonator of reality”.

Born in 1971 in Marseille, Samuel Rousseau lives and works in Grenoble. He collects inert objects and lends them a dreamt-of life via the agency of video, just like video itself transforms purely optical effects in a sort of concrete manner [Urban Totem]. The cast-off scrap, the dead thing, retains a memory of life revealed by the construction of a virtual double. Conversely, new territory emerges from elements that are more abstract. In both cases, operating between the body and that which surrounds it is a loss of one’s way, and a form of intoxication. The video image – often without sound – becomes a malleable material that the artist likes to put in unusual places so that they can be even more. The artist turns situations on their head and busts the codes that rule perceptive habits and cognitive reflexes. He doesn’t hesitate to elevate unimportant objects or gestures to the level of works of art [Virus]. It’s also a way of de-fetishizing technology, and this with an ironic wink. So starting with real situations or objects, Samuel Rousseau liberates them of all superfluous elements to get back to the fundamental: video itself as language. This last-named interferes in the continual process of time without really making use of it – and for that matter it is this that presents one of the main differences between video and films. Without apparent subjectivity, Rousseau creates an oeuvre that has nothing to do with his life, as if dealing with another personality. He imagines a world where lone forms become poetry. His works are in every case the expression of himself.

After having learnt his own videographic language by himself, the creator is conversant enough with the technology to make things on his own, and in an ever more personal way. Video creates diverse sorts of interferences more than interfaces. For example, the luminous chips which course around the screen in one of his videos [Chemical Generation].

Samuel Rousseau invents an entire art-of-crisis, so that the exhibition “Les soubresauts du Monde” (Convulsions of the World) takes on even more meaning in the times we are currently enduring, and of which it becomes a non-passive symptom. The images – up to their contrasting tints – propose scansions and a musical impression by dint of façades, virtual graphics and montage [Chemical House]. The videos, the installations become close-by closures – literal and poetic transcriptions of reality.

Between ruptures and nudity, Samuel Rousseau offers terrestrial abysses of the world as it is, as it is becoming, even if the artist still believes in the presence of the individual. But we probably do not have to look for him there, where he’s been since the dawn of time. Different propositions and metamorphoses presented at Aeroplastics emerge from an architectural dream (or nightmare) of the world [Trafik, People Pump]. The artist passes from a universe overloaded with images to one of reconstruction where abstraction plays with the figurative. From here arises the confusion of certain viewers when confronted by something that escapes them. The various procedures create wanderings in the depth of a universe where borders are illusory and where, nevertheless, we are enclosed [Chemical City].
What remain here are only “indices” of a disturbing world, margins of something near-obscure. One sees poorly (silhouettes more than distinct beings, conglomerations more than an identifiable city) to better see where the substance, the concrete, are mutually determinant.
The urban landscape is reinterpreted by the artist’s eye, and that of the viewer that loses its foothold in improbable perspectives [Brave Old New World]. So at the same time appear are a theatricality of forms and an abstract choreography. What emerges is less a “second reality” than a process of recomposition. Everything happens by way of montage: he voids each element to the profit of an ensemble. Vanishing points and sections multiply there in new sorts of Möbius rings. The work becomes a kind of improbable and utopian architecture by which the artist metamorphosizes illusions of reality and exposes this borderland where the work of art is born in a renewal of its language.

Rousseau renders digital art warm, fertile, reassuring. He seeks to touch universal things, those fundamental elements that we can all share. Each work is like a montage. Each shot successively leads to another, but it takes weeks for the ensemble to be completed. And Samuel Rousseau creates sorts of micro-series. In the ruptures that segment them, present is always a continuum connected to a notion of “surpassing”. In this creative process, it’s not about making something new but rather to newly formulate something old.

Of course, the artist has understood that the true nature of our relationship with reality does not reside in the visual impression, but rather in the formalized models of objects and space that the brain creates starting from visual sensations [Paysage domestique].
Based on the transformation of everyday objects by means of video projection, life is breathed into inert objects. It reconstitutes a fiction of their possible past lives. Through the magic of video projection, the artist extends the life of a dead branch into that of a majestic tree. We witness the complete lifecycle of a tree, a simple progression indeed, but one whose finesse of execution enchants us. The coexistence between the shadow of the actual branch and its extended life like in a memory of its past, in its hour of life, lends true poetic worth to the device L’Arbre et son ombre. Even more simple and refined, the candle installation calls the reliability of our perception into question. Confronted with the redundancy of the candle, in its wax version and that of its projected image on the wall with the added image of a virtual flame, our eye registers the image of a lit candle. Like a dreamed vision of this piece of candle’s soul [Un peu d’éternité]. In the middle of pits of tyres in black rubber from the Vortex series, one discovers video screens on which little cars make their tour, caught up in perpetual motion. This luminous fantasy emerges us in the past lives of these objects now inert, tyres whose sense and pertinence reside in the rolling, mile after mile.

Samuel Rousseau knows that it is equally fruitless to empty images in order to filter the nectar of reality. What interests him is not reality per se, nor what is beyond it, but rather the confrontation, the mutual cross-reference. And further still, to question the nature of art and to present new propositions regarding this nature. In this way his oeuvre is essentially dynamic, just as the work of a Kosuth or a LeWitt in bygone decades. Rousseau’s art is indeed more than merely identifying or descriptive; it is semiotic. And here lies its importance.

For Samuel Rousseau, the image is not thought of as a stop in time, a suspended action, an effect of light. It is above all a projection of the spectator, and it is the interaction between the spectator and the image that counts. The technology leads him to construct objects according to a process that goes from inside to outside rather than the inverse. This is why in advancing he goes as much to the past as to the future.
Works at once sensitive and fine, Samuel Rousseau’s installations evoke an archaeological treatment of objects. And owing to the precision by which they are set in action, they come over as troubling as well. Here, the real image cohabits in an apparently evident manner with the virtual image, in a sort of abstraction that holds more to the real than to the virtuality. This is why there always resides something of the concrete in his approach. The visual experience, thus, is indeed physical. The real transforms itself into image, but the image becomes a quasi-palpable reality as though it always existed as an invisible presence or missing element which it was necessary to enter into contact with so that the art could come alive… And this element is the viewer, or the function of the viewer. The fundamental nature of the video work remains, for the video maker, the dynamic interaction between the two, and not the technology and video language by themselves.

The night and the day, shadow and light, rhythm, the infinitely large and the infinitely small, the reversibility of time thus becoming adventures in perception. Elementary fictions, almost invisible to the naked eye, to the commonplace eye regarding a meticulous and passionate observer at the heart of a time as much pulsed as non-pulsed. And here the endless-loop effect of a majority of videos is of essence. By grace of this, the viewer may relive the time necessary to experience what he is feeling, even if this might appear (and remain) mysterious to him. It is the time necessary to see and to comprehend, to know and to understand oneself. Rousseau, this man of images, is a poet, by virtue of his astute gaze and for his quest for a body by way of which this gaze might rightly rest.

Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret
Text excerpt taken from
« La vie rêvée des choses »
and
« Le “Thiers-état” ou Les narrations de Samuel Rousseau »