Dérive in Blainville Crevon, birthplace of Marcel Duchamp, in search of oddities.

DadaDérive slideshow

Does anybody know why it does not work to copy the html to embed a flicker slideshow on wordpress ? wordpress just deletes the html (while in html edit mode …)

Also does anybody know which photo website geotags on google maps ? I have seen geotagged pictures while looking at maps on google but flickr only geotags via yahoo maps (obviously it’s the same company).

Thank you !

“Cellar Door”

Pictures taken from my grandmother’s cellar door. The title refers to the film “Donnie Darko” where Drew Barrymore’s character explains that “cellar door” is the most beautifully sounding phrase in the english language.

Cellar Door 1

Cellar Door 2

The Ghost House Project (Urban Exploration in Ireland, June-July 2009)

Here is a google map of all locations explored last summer in Ireland. Some of them, I managed to take interesting photographs and video footage. All the others were visited but either inaccessible (locked up) or uninteresting (just a complete wreck).


I will clean up the map and try geotag pics from Flickr later this week.

The Ghost House Project (Genesis)

The Ghost House project started in summer 2007 when I found by chance an abandoned house near our rented holiday cottage, and decided to explore it. Inside I found personal belongings left behind by the previous occupants (household items, clothes, many religious objects and even drawers full of letters). I did not touch or read the letters, I felt it would be indecent, but read the stamping dates and sender’s address on the exposed envelopes. From those and also from the design of the clothes and items, I deducted that the last occupants either died in the 70’s or left to join family in America. I began to wonder why those houses were never cleared after their last occupants died. It seems those people either had no descendants (I later heard of a tradition of “bachelor-farmers” in Ireland) or their descendants had emigrated (mostly in the USA) and had no desire for a small old fashioned house in the middle of nowhere in Ireland (in the 70s, Ireland was not yet fashionable as a get-away-from-it-all holiday destination … ) Then I wondered why the local authorities did not clear away those houses to make something useful out of them, or at least keep them in shape for future use.

A dear friend is the son of Irish economical migrants and studied the history and heritage of Ireland. From discussions with him, I started to understand that the locals did not see the “Ghost Houses” the same way the outsiders did. They were all but invisible to them. During the Famine of 1845-1850, out the 8 million Irish, 1 million died of starvation and another million emigrated to escape Death. The population was abruptly reduced by 25%. During the Famine itself, the living (or rather surviving) were so underfed they were too weak to bury the dead, therefore the dead were lined on the shore to be washed away by the sea. One can only imagine what a trauma it was to see those Ireland beaches filled with rows of corpses, and to abandoned your loved ones to be washed away. Yet the surviving could not afford any weakness if they wanted to try and survive a little longer themselves. Then the Famine ended and empty houses scattered the landscape, reminding the survivors of the people they knew who died or emigrated. Yet, even after the Famine, conditions were still harsh and people could not afford any weakness. The death of 1/8 of a country’s population in 5 years is such a major trauma it could not be “dealt with”. To go on with their daily business and ensure their own subsistence, the survivors both during and after the Famine learnt to ignore the dead lined up on the beach and then the empty houses. It is as though the country had developed a form of collective amnesia as a form of self protection. Like the way victims sometimes wipe out from their conscious thoughts the memory of a traumatic event, but at the unprecedented scale of a whole country. Today still, it is considered impolite to mention the Famine in daily conversations. It is just Not Done. The Famine may be discussed in political and academic circles, and artworks made about it, but it is never discussed by ordinary people, despite the fact that all families were affected by it. The Famine may be present in the conscious thought as an abstraction belonging to the realms of Politics, History and National Identity but on the human and emotional levels, its consequences are so huge that it was never “dealt with” and the collective amnesia is as strong as ever.

The Ghost Houses I’ve visited may not date from the Famine, but they are reminders of a recent past where, economically, Ireland was mostly rural, poor and lagging behind the rest of Europe and where many people still emigrated to the UK and America to find work. Today’s Irish people see themselves as citizens of a modern, booming “Celtic Tiger” and do not want to be reminded of this recent past. So their eyes scan over the landscape without registering the Ghost Houses who become all but invisible to them. The Ghost Houses are not even “eyesores” like abandoned buildings might be in Britain, they are invisible. The contemporary Irish people deliberately ignore the Ghost Houses and build themselves brand new houses right next to them that project the right image of success and modernity with which they identify. The Ghost Houses stay lying there, waiting to be explored by artists or bought by rich foreigners in quest of picturesque.

My background

I am French but have been living in England for 4 years. Like Andre Breton and Louise Bourgeois, I first succumbed to the French reverence for Rationality and Science, and studied Mathematics before turning to Art

I originally trained as a software engineer specialising in audio applications, such as audio effects. In that field, I developed a special interest in physical modellisation and synthetic generation of sound, which means artificially copying the physical way the sound is produced in order to synthesize realistic sounds. In particular, I programmed a seascape sound of crashing waves and shrieking seagulls randomly generated from filtered white noise and variable frequency sine waves. It was shown at FILE electronic arts festivals in Sao Paulo (Brazil) last summer. I have been learning classical singing for years, and try and use the techniques in cabaret and folk singing. I hope to be able to use these skills to make video soundtracks.

In parallel, I have been making Art since 2006 using both traditional and digital media. I am interested in Surrealism, Raw Art, Symbolism, Romanticism, German Expressionism, generally any kind of art that deals with the unconscious, madness, death, alienation and the strange. Although some of my work is directly linked to Traditional Surrealism, such as documenting my dreams in paintings, my interest also lies in exploring the relevance of Surrealism to Contemporary Culture, and experimenting with its principles in the context of new Art Forms such as Ecological Art and Urban Exploration. While modern culture is obsessed with efficiency and control, I explore the random and the unpremeditated which, contrary to the controlled images produced by our culture, can spark questioning and reverie in the mind of the observer. Weary of any kind of control, I usually do not tell the audience what my Art is about or what they should see in a particular piece. I like Art that is open to interpretation, and hope the viewer will see some of their own experiences and obsessions resonate in my work, or will enjoy it as a purely aesthetic product if they wish.

In the tradition of Surrealism, I document my dreams in drawings and paintings. It is a process of archivism: the form is purely serving the clarity and accuracy of the subject. Formalisation is used to piece together imperfect fragments of memories into a coherent picture, but any other kind of post-processing or aesthetisation is rejected.

Dream in a Red Room, 2009

Because I had no formal art training before starting this MA, I got very interested in Raw Art. I used some of the concept of Raw Art in my own practice such as working with found objects (Objets Trouvés) and a fascination with the workings of children’s mind when they are free to express themselves without the layer of sugariness artificially imposed on them by adults. In particular I have been making mixed media assemblage called “twisted toys”.

Fantasmagoria - Toy Theatre, 2006

In my 3D practice, I mainly make “random natural sculpture” with wood: I bring back dead wood with interesting shapes, and at first spend up to several months (depending on the degree of decay) alternatively letting the outer layer dry, then scrapping out the rotten bits, until what is left is healthy enough to make a durable artwork. By then, the selection dictated by the law of biology has most of the time led to the embryo of a meaningful shape, and I add my own input to enhance its features. Since visiting Ireland, I have developed an interest in bogwood (very old wood kept from rotting because it has been buried in acidic soil) which can also be found in the Fens where I live, and I am experimenting with the possibilities of this new material. I call these sculptures “Nature Morte” which is the French word for “Still Life” but the literal translation is “dead life”. The name hints to the process of decay I use in my “random natural sculptures”, and also ironically refers to a classic highly aesthesized Art Genre traditionally used to display wealth and luxury. I am fascinated with finding harmonious proportions and balanced composition in object usually dismissed as rubbish.

Nature Morte I, 2007

I am involved in a collaborative project with Bill Cox, exploring the darker side of ‘Cabaret’ and playing with German Expressionnism in a multimedia context. It is an ongoing project and we plan to use video, photography, music and performance in various context. So far, we have projected German expressionists movies on a homemade Cabaret stage with a performer (me) doing various acts in front of the screen. The performer was present at the same time on stage outside of the film reality but also on screen in the form of a shadow fully part of the movie’s self contained world. One could read into it a reference to the Doppelgänger (the Double).

My lens-based work is about documenting the irruption of the imaginary in the physical world, an observation of the ambiguous, fluctuating line between the mainstream, accepted vision of things and the individual’s perception of it. Photography and video, media traditionally considered “objective”, always at the crossroads between art and documentary, are ironically adapted to this mindset of systematic questioning.

The ghost house series, a work in progress since 2007, was shot at several abandoned houses in Kerry and Connemara, Ireland, whose last occupants probably left 10 to 30 years ago. Traces of their lives and aspirations, and of the disillusions and hardships that made them leave their homeland, remained in the form of scattered personal belongings. These abandoned houses are the only museums to document the social changes that took place in Ireland during the last 30 years, as the country itself tends to sacrifice the memory of its tumultuous past for the Cult of “Progress” and “Dynamism”.