The sky is not the space above our heads or beyond the horizon. It is the flesh of all that exists. All matter is sky. All the way into the depths of our bodies.
It is on and in our planet that it shows its true face, more unpredictable than a comet. The sky, here, becomes desire The desire for other bodies, desire for other forms, desire for other lives. A perpetual contagion. And what we call life is simply the sky in its viral state.
To orient ourselves in the sky hidden in each object, we must build astral maps, like the ancients. Learn to read in matter as we read in the sky.
Learn to recognise constellations.
Emanuele Coccia teaches at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris. He is the author, among others, of La vie des plantes (2016) and Métamorphoses (2020). In 2019 he was scientific adviser on the exhibition Nous, les Arbres at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain.
Production : Le Fresnoy, Studio national des arts contemporains
Our lives place us opposite the other, face and body. This experience produces a social space to which we both belong. That of the cosmos, of the energy we exchange. This energy is pure expenditure, a “joining” with the world.
It enables us to penetrate a universe which can-not be reduced to what we see, to what we touch. We know it by the effects of its substance and through the hypotheses that it allows.
Matter is there, inhabited by the virtual which determines it, sometimes to the point of occupying the whole place, giving us over to the ver-tigo of play and metamorphoses. Is it purely elusive, disembodied, a concept worked through in bunches of ideas and systemic structures? No, for in taking over these hypotheses, dream sets us straight. It is a support, for a “suspended” exploration, from one space to another. The use of words can distance em-bodiment but let us not forget Icarus and his double nature, between ascent and gravity. This ambiguity leads us deep into the territories of art. They are the equivalent of the painting by Brueghel the Elder,9 of the one by Daniel Pommereulle, interpreting it, or of poesis, as recalled by Yves Bonnefoy.
in his Entretiens,10 from which I take the quotations for an article, in their regard.11 For Yves Bonnefoy poetry makes “a place and a moment appear and live.” This appearing is not easy; “however much we may hope to free words of their conceptual content, which reduces the world to in-complete, abstract figures, we will always remain outside what Rimbaud called true life.”
That is the issue for artists, for nowadays the real is manifested in the form of image banks, ar-chives and data, of processes of decrypting and encoding. The real is elaborated in series of sup-positions and compositions. The problematics of a programme, a drawing or a set of symbols struggle with the self-generation of a form “in itself.” The fig-ures of this contradiction can be read in installations, scenarios, performances and films: the figures of an impalpable presence. Those of the “will-o’-the-wisp” evoked by Vladimir Jankélévitch: “We should therefore not be criticised for the ungraspable na-ture of this will-o’-the-wisp, as we have made it our profession of faith! We profess that bareness. Our stripped science deprives us of any fixed point, of any system of reference, of contents that are easy to decipher or delegate that would enable us to epilogue, to feed discourse and open up a long future of reflection Our nescient science is more an aim, a horizon, it has kissed goodbye to substantial consistency in general.”
The use of an aim, the search for a horizon —that is what we are seeing in Panorama 23. At its heart, a twostep between “place and moment” and a principle of displacement, generated by a movement that has kissed goodbye to a substantial consistency. This productive twostep denotes this elusiveness through the scrolls of the “skin.”
What is this “skin” made of? I could say, of that “fabric” which is not the result of a weaving of ideas. Is it a flying carpet?
It is made of assembled spaces, of maps that are so many screens which, for a moment, I retain.
There we follow craft akin to Herman Melville’s Pequod, to machines in the air, vehicles of thought or passing clouds.
What do they offer us? Frontiers transcended, blind spots and reversals—in a word, the mental di-mensions of the universe. The future infiltrates the past, it breaks in. Our environment is a planetarium and our words and images multiply in astonishing kaleidoscopes.
The works at Le Fresnoy are tremendous accel-erators of our circumnavigations within the nature of the world. They call for the freedom to feel and think.
These words used by Emanuele Coccia about his film offer a kind of ideal entry into the works: “To orient ourselves in the sky hidden in each object, we must build astral maps, like the ancients. Learn to read in matter as we read in the sky.” And, “It [the sky] is the flesh of all that exists.”
Thus, using artificial intelligence, a work ex-plores the intensity and violence attaching to the word god in holy scripture.
Others point the finger at the “little reality” of our lexicons and syntaxes, at their interrelations without an object, like contemporary, mechanical prolongations of the mechanics in Kafka’s The Trial.
Yet another leads us to the North, where day and night are endlessly one, based on a cartography, a reconstituted territory that cannot be approached but is re-established by the archives. A pure mental construction, it gives us the magic of ruins, that of military buildings imagined for strategies of coun-ter-espionage, of defence of the “free world.” Sic transit gloria mundi. They are no more than dreams of a forgotten omnipotence, displaced into other theatres of operation.
In the sequence, a minimal “cube” allows us to play with the life of bacteria in a closed milieu, sublimated by a projected surface. An invisible and fascinating ecosystem inside bodies.
On another stage, thanks to post-digital tech-nology, objects evaporate and change substance. Using all the contemporary resources of image and sound, our words crystallised, language becomes transparent to itself. We pass through it and in the space sustained by lines of choirs, it is a volatile rhythm, fluidifying the linguistic matrix.
The real here is this “fabric” which is sometimes diaphanous, sometimes phantomatic, the promise of a sky turned back, buried, a treasure within a field where our five senses can disappear, as in that film where spaceships vanish in ultra-abyssal, inacces-sible ocean depths.
The maker of this film12 offers these words, which describe the poetics of the works present at Panorama 23: “It is about observing the world as it does not appear to us and inventing the possibility of rediscovering it.” Or discovering it again.
By the grace of art, more alive than nature itself, this “elusive skin,” this veil provoke dream, a dream that wrenches and surpasses them. It is not a matter of passing through mirrors but of going towards “the other”—an other who, this time, has no face and is constantly appearing, an “other,” between the darkness of the cave and the light of the sky. The other truth, is that not the name of art? Art does not say what is going to happen, it is a space, without beginning or end, without top or bottom, but this time, for an Orpheus who has the right to look back.