“[…] ‘alles Nahe werde fern,’ everything near becomes distant. Goethe was referring to the evening twilight. Everything near becomes distant. It is true. At nightfall, the things closest to us seem to move away from our eyes. So the visible world has moved away from my eyes, perhaps forever.” Jorge Luis Borges, “Blindnes,” in Seven Nights, New Directions, 1984, p. 1215. In 2006 my friend Xiaoxin caught an eye disease and, from that moment on, began losing his sight. By 2015 he had become completely blind. He told me that this complete darkness frightened him. I felt that my fried was en route somewhere. In the “land of the blind” Xiaoxin will live in a solitary world (a world without simulacra), a real world (we must touch), a poetic world (the collapsed statue).
Yunyi Zhu is a Chinese artist whose practice questions memory and perception. He currently lives and works in Lille. Graduated from Tsinghua University Academy of Fine Arts, Esä and Le Fresnoy -- Studio national des arts contemporains, he works based on the combination of a series of personal experiences relating to the uses of some of our underestimated senses in the field of art, such as touch, and the questions of memory. He transforms these experiences and memories into works by various approaches of mediums.
Soul and body, the frontiers the fractures between, material and immaterial, the games that offer to abolish them. Here, the real and the virtual are together on a high wire. The empiricist philosopher David Hume wrote: “all the materials of thinking are derived either from our outward senses or from our inward feelings: all that the mind and will do is to mix and combine these materials.”3 In Panorama 23, there is not the choice of a fervent idealism or a marked taste for the magic of illusions but, rather, a response to the reality of the world through experience. The question here is how to support our creative power over what enables us to conceive this response, neglecting none of its dimensions, and especially not dream. This does not satisfy itself with the physical accomplishment of flight, though this is so close to oneiric legends. What is not possible with this rising sign, this elevation?
An aeroplane, a glider, present in one of the works, are no longer the assemblages of Icarus or simple mechanisms but mental vehicles, translations, from one nature to another, telling us a great deal about our ability to live “elsewhere,” above a horizon, giving another illumination to the connection of the synapses in our cerebral lives.
The transformative energy projects us beyond. Overflowing the ecosystem between heaven and earth, it generates the consciousness of a body, henceforth a living parcel of the cosmos. This cosmic body is solidly attached to the days and hours of our lives, led by a permanent ambulation within space, comprising unstable territories of memory and forces impelled to who knows what shore. If we do not control them, it is because we are between the choreographies that tie and untie them. We belong to a history of our bodies but we are constantly exceeding it for universes that we seek to inhabit or in which we project ourselves on visible or invisible screens. In these films, human beings are born or expire. I can barely hear their breath. Their eyes are closed. They are sleeping. Are they immersed deep within themselves, fascinated by humoral tones, blood circulation, the secretions that they are the only ones to secretly see, like so many solitary spectators? Are they contemplating their abstract nature, their internal territories, their colourful ballets, their multiplications or disappearances?
We must, then, let go the codes of reality and go for the real itself and its multiple manifestations, away from the lexicons. The body is no longer before us. It has been transformed into an obscure handful, a terra incognita or a tree, Terence Malick’s Tree of Life, whose lines we imagine being traced from the interlacing of its roots to the blue of the sky. A strange genealogy whose central character is birth.
There is in Panorama 23 a dream that spreads from the inductions of nature. They are at once the actors, their dreams and the stages that host them. What matters is that between the lines, each slip, each gap, each absence, each tempest, each eclipse, sets the rhythm going again. What is essential is confidence in a continual genesis that the music accompanies ostinato, a sonorous spiral that, abandoning itself to its own movement, fills all the space and offers us a slow marvelling. The blooming of a flower, of writing, of a creation, magnifies this space by virtue of the surprise and the beauty of their growth. The fascinating growth of a rose, of a full colour. Rosy-fingered dawn, the pink of flesh, Goethe’s pink, Guston’s pink. Gertrude Stein’s: “ A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose…”
This desire, this pleasure, this jouissance offer our body the chance to be bigger than itself, animated by the oceanic feeling or the infinity of a sky without limits, of a summit, of a colour, without an attribute. This colour may be the blue of the sky, as per Georges Bataille, or Franck Venaille, the white of the cosmos or again the secret green of a blade of grass, infinitesimal in the universe. This secret is what artists invite us to discover. The secret as source of emotion and poetry. Is it hidden in the carpet, does it move through the tangles of Panorama, this labyrinth of works? It is what bestows power on art, as Anne Dufourmantelle points out: “It is a motive force whose creativity we struggle to explain. Its connections to memory and language, particularly in its relation to dream, are the subject of investigations and experiments that lead us to rethink the imagination. […] The secret that is revealed in the imaginary is never a sacking or a wresting, it is a world of light and shadows where we move like an animal,4 by instinct […] The secret remains the feature that effectively links the life of desire and the possibility of receiving it offered by the real. We therefore suppose the real to reveal a desire to which it offers a possibility of fixation and repetition. By linking different moments of our life, by day and by night, the secret life of our desires puts its face on our pleasure. Is it not that extra-verbal fixation of an image? How then can we reveal it without imperilling it, the fragile edifice of a freeze-frame and therefore the freezing of time on which it rests.
The installations and films in Panorama reveal this, by “linking the different moments of our life by day and by night.” They are seeking an image and, at the same time, dismantling it, freeing themselves from it in order to touch a non-grammatical and therefore all the more mobile material. I perceive it but I cannot translate it. Rather than looking through its statements, I dwell on blanks in discourse, its blind spots, its erasures, in truth, once more on its utter-ance, whose staccato rhythm says more than the illu-sion of a narrative. That is why, in this Panorama, the most advanced technologies nod to the rudimentary, “basic” or vernacular techniques of art brut. That, I believe, is where we can find proof of the creative power of the secret. It prevents us from saying and thus allows us to create by taking routes off-piste.
On this subject, Anne Dufourmantelle writes: “What constitutes its power is also being beyond good and evil. Constructing itself at the very beginning of our relation to language, it is not unfamiliar with moral consciousness but it exceeds it. It imposes within us its key value, that is to say, what it barters, what it increases in contact with the real, and spreads through the interfaces of lack, frustration, expectations, in the delights of dream, of the first touch, of the first sensations, first visions.”
Eclipses, distractions, but also the presence of a space-time inserted between two worlds, of a hybrid body or a body escaping like the wolf’s body. In these “marginal” territories everyone is confronted with the void, with disorders of the wind that blows over, with mirages and the siren songs of the Odyssey. More than on the road or signposted routes, we are “in the middle of the crossroads,” seeking “what is to come.” In art it is never the programme but always the archipelago of experiences that matters, the pre-sentiment of consciousness of a choice. Some works reassure us by giving us the certitude of seeing, until the feeling that what is close is edging away, that meaning is becoming obscure. Sight that is raised in this way no longer catches the motif but becomes blurred, deliberately blind in order to return to the real “differently,” not in direct apprehension but in the mazes of the secret we are looking for. From now on, it is not about seeing but the liberation of a mental energy that detaches itself from the object and puts into play a polymorphous, sensual approach.
And now, art allows us to “touch” the heart, the skin of the real, in the knowledge that both will vanish into the night of images where, between heaven and earth, we set off, feeling our way, seeking them out: the heart, the skin…