Made from the most humble materials, the cardboard maquette under scrutiny in this rare work videotaped by Anne-Marie Miéville suggests an ambitious dialogue between cinema, painting and literature, very much in accordance with the mindset Godard developed for his Histoire(s) du Cinéma (1980-98). The voice that gives us a guided tour through this table-top sketch is that of Godard himself.
An unseen – and thus far unofficial – title in his filmography, this commentary on his initial (and subsequently abandoned) design for a Pompidou Center exhibition allows us a unique insight into the associative thinking of this filmmaker-philosopher. The actual, compromised version of the exhibition was no less of a provocation and is still heavily debated today, spawning both a book (Godard, le dos au musée – Histoire d’une exposition) and a documentary (Le désordre exposé).
According to JLG… (excerpts)
by Dominique Païni
Jean-Luc Godard, Documents, Paris: Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 2006, pp. 420–426.
Correspondence with the filmmaker began, and the development of this epistolary reflection led to the principle of an ‘exhibition of cinema.’ At the start of 2005 JLG put forward some rough sketches for the occupation of the 1,100m2 space of the south gallery of the Pompidou Center. Then finally during spring-summer 2005, the idea took shape of constructing a maquette that would allow the occupation of the space to be envisioned more fully. At the beginning of fall 2005 a scale model maquette was developed—manually made by the filmmaker—representing nine rooms which ‘exhibited’ a thinking of cinema (in cinema…) by way of moving through memory (whence the notion of archaeology). This maquette prefigured a concrete scenography, but also provided a critical point of view on the very idea of exhibiting cinema.
Following more in-depth discussions with the architect-scenographer Nathalie Crinière, a financial evaluation made it clear that the budget fixed by the Pompidou Center for this exhibition would not be sufficient. At the end of January 2006, Godard was therefore forced to go back to the drawing board, and was faced with abandoning any full-scale realization of the maquette. Nevertheless, at the time of writing, the maquette is still at the heart of the exhibition, even if it has had to undergo an adaptation and to take on a final form that will best allow it to be contemplated, branched figuratively across a number of rooms. These rooms are to be so many echoes, so many screens receiving the irradiative effects of a lively thought, not the least part of which is the importance it places upon interrogating the act of image reproduction.
At present I do not know what the definitive outcome of Jean-Luc Godard’s reflection and decisions will be.
The second and the larger final versions of the nine models, corresponding to nine rooms, made by Godard for this aborted exhibition were presented in Memories of Utopia: Jean-Luc Godard’s “Collages de France” Models, Miguel Abreu Gallery, January 14 – March 11, 2018.
Jean-Luc Moulène, More or Less Bone
SculptureCenter is pleased to premiere More or Less Bone (Formal Topological Optimization) (Paris-NY, 2018-19), a monumental new work in fiberglass and epoxy paint by Jean-Luc Moulène. The exhibition marks the artist’s first institutional exhibition in North America since 2011.
Moulène insists that no work of art exists “without conditions and constraints…without material, economic, and historic conditions.” For More or Less Bone, Moulène pragmatically centers the production of his work on these conditions, generating form through the exploitation of advanced engineering procedures, or, as the artist describes, making “a piece that is nothing but its own condition of existence.”
More or Less Bone (preliminary sketch)
Moulène has collaborated closely with engineers with expertise in formal optimization, wherein the form of an object is defined through a process that identifies the best (most efficient, least wasteful) solution given a set of discrete variables. The “problem” devised by the artist is to produce an optimized form connecting three generic objects: a sphere (an abstract form), a spiral staircase (a constructed form), and a knucklebone (an organic form). Modeling these conditions in CATIA design software, Moulène and the engineers introduced further constraints, manipulating the form of this “object of juncture” to account for a set volume, scale, terrestrial gravity, the material properties of fiberglass, and environmental conditions.
The result of this optimization, a process often employed to increase efficiency and profitability in manufacturing, is an object that looks remarkably like a bone. If a work of art as such exists alongside the social/material matrix of a certain moment in time, which could otherwise be called politics, then Moulène’s More or Less Bone posits that the conditions of optimized production drive all form toward the skeletal: fleshless, scraped clean, hard, and without waste; the absolutely necessary.
Initially known for his enigmatic photographic endeavors, Moulène’s more recent projects have investigated the intersections of advanced technology and contemporary material culture. In consideration of current advances in 3D modeling and fabrication, Moulène compares this moment in the history of object making to the advent of photography and its total transformation of human experience; while photography reproduced the world as an image, we are now about to re/produce it in 3D. His art takes part in the rapid advancement of such technologies that re/produce the world, making palpable the social and historical dimensions that are absent in its conventional objects and commodities.
Josephine (Paris, 2017), 2017. bronze, patina. 37 1/2 inches (95 cm) tall
Trophy – Soft Core 2 (Paris, 2019), 2019. resin, 14 x 15 x 31 inches (35.5 x 36.6 x 79 cm)
Hands Off (Paris, 2019), 2019. printed aluminum; left hand: 16 1/8 x 7 1/8 x 3 1/2 inches (41 x 18.2 x 9 cm)
right hand: 16 3/8 x 6 3/4 x 2 3/4 inches (41.6 x 17.2 x 6.8 cm). edition of 3 + 2 APs
What does that bone structure connecting three generic forms – biomorphic (a knuckle bone), abstract (a sphere), and constructed (a circular staircase) – look like? The “formally optimized” fusion at a distance of the proposed three basic objects, a large-scale sculpture of juncture, will be realized in collaboration with engineers from (France’s Silicon Valley), applying some of the latest developments in aerospace and software technology to generate an art object.
Given a series of constraints, such as resistance, gravity, weight of the materials, energy and time costs, the proprietary software used calculates the optimized shape of this experimental sculpture. Determining the object by these constraints, Jean-Luc Moulène insists that art is far from free, as it is sometimes claimed. The created object will be painted in an off-white shade reminiscent of the color of a bone, thus applying the ideal of efficiency to the post-mortem.
As ever pragmatic and concrete in his approach, Moulène is in the process of discovering through his plastic explorations that, if capitalist industrial production has a general allegorical shape, it is that of a bone…
As Moulène remarks, the nature of the current developments in the field of 3D scanning and printing is reminiscent of the moment of the invention of photography. He thinks of optimization as a political version of minimalism: how to produce more with less. As it turns out, he notes, most objects produced using the latest optimization technology resemble bones. For the particular object at hand, the shape itself is what is optimized, following factors as given constraints.
One might also call to mind here, out of curiosity and as an aside, that for Hegel, famously, the end result of the dialectical procedure is that the spirit is a bone.
On Formal Optimization in art
Transcription and translation from the French of an Interview with Jean-Luc Moulène
Miguel Abreu — Let’s discuss the fact that the object is in three parts. You can describe them.
Jean-Luc Moulène — Yes, but you’re returning to the piece too quickly. Before I speak about it, I’d first like to discuss the formal question behind it in general terms. Because we know that form, essentially—and this is why certain sculptors have been accused of being formalists—is not self- sustaining. There you have it. Simply put, this means that a formal argument is not sufficient when it comes to making a work. On the other hand, completely eliminating form, as many contemporary experiences have done, eliminating form in favor processes—the proverbial dematerialization… I’m not sure offers a viable alternative for art either. Form helps me to establish either a descriptive rhetoric of the experience, or to produce the experience itself for the viewer. To produce an experience, when it comes to objects like this, is simply to produce a relation of consciousness. That’s something I’ve always taken advantage of. This is to say, I create forms that either render or that produce experiences. I’m not interested in figuring out whether squares are stronger than circles or triangles. I’m not interested in that kind of thing. It so happens that as technologies progress today, in a way for the first time, they are beginning to take an interest in form. These technologies are becoming concerned with form with the not so experimental goal of profitability.
Upon entering the exhibition, one is confronted by a single monumental sculpture steadfastly planted at the center of the room. Despite its size it remains human in scale. Two seams stand out prominently at the joints to disassemble the object for easier shipping. The form is programmed to meet fitness requirements for “a set volume, scale, terrestrial gravity, the material properties of fiberglass, and environmental conditions like wind and earthquakes”. In other words, this thing that appears like a massive mechanical joint is not neutral but designed to mediate social demands between the three absent forms.
I see Moulène’s works as the artistic equivalent to an essential philosophical quest, the pursuit of a new peace, an absolute peace.
Like the great philosophers, Jean-Luc Moulène creates something which, rising up against the fatal violence of the world as it is, indicates the human spirit’s capacity to propose to all what we might paradoxically call an idealist materiality. “Idealist” in so far as, in the works of this artist, certain entirely unknown forms impose upon disparate materials—through the use of images, scans, topologies, digital manipulations and complex tools—a sort of startlingly clear and striking self-evidence. And “materiality” because, beneath the novelty of the form, beneath its mathematics and its digital glamour, lie the traces of old materials, timeless gestures—traces hidden by just a layer of brilliant color.