Sebastien Rémy and Ghost box at Mains d'Œuvres

Excerpt 7    Dr. Mueller    Nathaniel, a Visitor       

Bill:    What's that again?
Dr. Mueller:    . . . the television set with the metal screen . . . I didn't put that in the magnetic input from the signal generator in conjunction with the input. . . from the camera to the television system. You understand, William?
Bill:    Yeah, I think that's it.
Dr. Mueller:    Oh, by the way, William. Did you get that multi-faceted crystal?
Bill:    No I didn't Doctor. I got that 5 faceted from Edmund's.      page 10
Dr. Mueller:    Edmunds . . . Edmunds?? Who is Edmunds?
Bill:    Edmund is a company . . . Edmund's Scientific.
Dr. Mueller:    Oh, I understand. What were the results?
Bill:   Well, I inserted it into the lens of the camera but all I got was a lot of crazy colors of light, but I didn't get any imagery.
Dr. Mueller:   Oh, I see. Well very good. Well, I think if we follow this other procedure, William, and I am not absolutely sure but I have a feeling that this will help clarify the image so we can discern features of the subject. We have the form, we have the face, we have the . . . we know . . . human form, however, we must be able to discern the facial features, so we can identify the subject. I don't know as yet [talking to another entity] Just a minute, William. [to Nathaniel] What's that?
Bill:    What's that, Doctor?
Dr. Mueller:   No, no William I am not. . . Somebody is talking to you. William, do you know Nathaniel? There is a fellow here, William. He says his name is Nathaniel, he says he knows you and you know him.
Bill:    Nathaniel? I don't know anybody by the name of Nathaniel.
Dr. Mueller:    He says he knows you.
Bill:   I don't recall knowing anybody . . . [by the name of Nathaniel]


Megan May Daalder and Mirrorbox at Mains d'Œuvres

Mirrorbox logo
If I close my eyes I can still imagine myself inside the Mirrorbox observing carefully how does my face melt together with a face of my colleague’s, and I remember all over “Mains d’oeuvres” hearing the questions like “Did you try the Mirrorbox?” or “How was it?”, “ Who did you try it with?”
Accompanied by the lively presence of an artist, Mirrorbox spent almost week in “Mains d’oeuvres”. And I think it was so loved by visitors because of the experience that was impossible to bypass, the closeness it brought to people and the apparent simplicity of the artwork. Completely charmed by all previously mentioned I invited the young artist from Los Angeles Megan May Daalder, autor of the Mirrorbox, to answer some questions.

Did you find the “live exhibition” Sans vous rien ne se fera really “live” and successful as a concept and as well as realization?
It’s funny, because I wasn’t really there during the opening events, I was in my little secret room with the Mirrorbox, so ironically, “everything happened without me”. But I think that the concept of the show was really strong and refreshing. I usually find gallery openings quite boring so I’m interested in curating as well. It’s a unique opportunity to create a context, and I think more people are beginning to realize that curating has a lot of potential as a form, because the presentation of artworks can be choreographed in many different ways. I’m especially interested in performance, for example, because it defies conventions of theatre, and whatever context the curator provides becomes the direction for a collection of otherwise disconnected scenarios, like some sort of surreal Bunuelien theatre movement that the viewer gets invited into. I just wrote some text about my take on curating, but my favorite shows are the ones that manage to transport the visitor in an alternate reality, the reality of the artworks, instead of just browsing a picture gallery, which I could do from my laptop. So I think Sans vous rien ne se fera was successful as a concept because it put people on their toes, it wasn’t what you’d expect from an exhibition and it was strongly connected to the necessary presence of the artist. It defied two conventions at once, by making the undressing of artworks by the artists themselves the highlight of the event. As far as the works in the show, I also just told Isabelle (exhibition curator Isabelle Le Normand) she is like a good record label and when you find a good record label you can find a lot of great music from just one source. The show also made me really want to go to Budapest because I think there is a really specific artistic energy there that I want to know more about.
How did the idea of the Mirrorbox come to you?
I feel like the development of that project is a narrative. It started out with just one box, it was a public performance on the street where I wore this box with a mirror covering my face and confronted people. And then it evolved, I incorporated lights, the programme with the lights and some technology. Then one evening I was just exploring the possibilities of this thing with a friend. We were staring at each other and mimicking each others facial expressions for some 15 minutes, and when the box came off we had the strangest sensation as if there was no barrier between us, it was a really bizarre sensation, and to me it was a eureka moment, like a scientific discovery. So, the construction of the box changed to become what it is now – two boxes instead of just one. The work itself came from an evolutionary process, a design process. I think it’s interesting conceptually as well. To begin with something that was just a one-way confrontation and develop that into something that is actually about sharing one reflection so completely.
I installed the two person machine in Los Angeles and people were crazy about it and again it was like a really strange discovery – why are people so moved by this exchange? I have a scientific curiosity so I started asking myself, is this a kind of intimacy that people are missing in life? It is some kind of nostalgia for the pre-Neolithic mind? Is it something that future generations would like to adopt as a standard? So all of these ideas were coming to mind.
So, when you create an artwork you are very much interested in the reaction of people, the effect it has on each of them on society in general, maybe?
Yes, because the box is really simple and it’s value is determined completely by the people who come into it. And when they come out of it, they have felt something and I like the way people explain this feeling because it brings up different ideas. It makes you question how we are interacting on a daily basis. There were three questions which were in my mind and one of them was to verify this really weird identity shift that I had. The next two were who are these people that take away something with this experience, those who are affected by it and those who are afraid of it.
It’s really a unique sensation that never occurs to you in a daily life situation (shifting faces with somebody). And you can’t get any closer to a person, it is like crossing a border.
Yes, the expression “crossing the border” explains a lot, I am interested in that even on a larger scale, sociologically.  How different cultures have contact or don’t, can relate to each other or cannot. I think I am interested in this project in a much broader area of thinking. And it has been really shocking with this project – I had a lot of things I thought before like “oh, it’s the future of sex!”, maybe it can help to reconcile the centuries of political conflicts and I created the grand vision of the problems that can be solved with this simple contraption. Or maybe this can be a new form of communication, it’s like preparing us for some kind of future where identity is more fluid. We are more and more connected already online and some people extrapolate saying that our brains will be directly connected with microchips and nanobots, there are a lot of people developing technologies which are coming closer to making this a reality. Somehow when you combine all the things what people have said when they come out of the Mirrorbox at least on person has hit upon every one of those things. Whenever that happens I am shocked.
What kind or art do you appreciate and consider worth creating?
I have always thought that the most successful artworks are those that people can appreciate on multiple levels, works that people who have nothing to do with art and people with a PhD in art history can both take something away from. I met a German artist in Poland, Wolf Kahlen (1940) (introduced to me as the father of video art), who was of the opinion that the best works are those that connect the head with the guts. I could not have said it better. I like abstract ideas and just concepts, but I’d definitely one of those people who wants to make that bridge because that’s another border between the brain and the body, the intellect and the feeling.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I think it was Alan Kaprow, the man who coined the term Happenings, who said that in order to make art you should take your inspiration from anything but art. And Schopenhauer, the philosopher, said that you have to arrive at your own philosophy through experience, not by referencing tons and tons of philosophers. That craving to experience things directly may be a bit inefficient because you’re constantly looking in every direction and trying to put yourself in new situations as often as possible, but I love it. 
Then it allows you to socialize for the sake of your work and inspiration.
Yes, I really enjoy learning from people. It’s rumor that Americans on a whole have a very poor view of world history, I can’t speak for a nation, but personally I never did so well with the reading method, I prefer to absorb history through the bias of humans I meet rather than the bias of book publishers. And when I’m in Europe I just get this feeling that I am walking on history, literally. In Los Angeles especially you don’t have that feeling as much. Anyway, a lot of what I do involves being curious about people and about interventions in life. 
It comes back to the work I like in the show – the work which is about interfering or directly making contact with people or structures or systems.
Which was the last artwork that you were amazed or shocked by?
Actually it was a film by a Dutch artist Renzo Martens “Enjoy poverty”. The end is just awful (I’m not giving it away, you have to watch it yourselves) and I hate him in a way, but at the same time I appreciate it, because it is so real and it’s a kind of filmmaking I really enjoy. He sets up a scenario and then allows a lot of what happens to develop naturally within that structure. “La commune” is another example of a film, I think it’s a genre without a name, it’s less about formal experimentation with the medium and more about experimentation with the process.
What will be the future of the Mirrorbox and your next projects?
The next stop for Mirrorbox is the Little Tokyo design conference in Los Angeles where I am going to collaborate with my father who is an artist as well. He wanted to create a matchmaking application for iPhone and he asked me if I would put the work in the show so people with matching “profiles” would have their first encounter in the “Mirrorbox”. It will be an interesting extension of the survey element in a way because we’ll be creating our own algorithm for deciding on who goes in together. I think that for now the last stop for the Mirrorbox will be at a psychology conference in October, which will finally bridge my persistent scientific angle with the artistic contexts the box has been in so far. I seriously can’t predict the future of this project though, so I won’t. I also want to make a documentation video about the life of this project, not a regular documentary, but a work that is also a piece of art. The process of having lived with this piece has become a part of my life.

To see more of artist’s Megan May Daalder works: http://proofsofconcept.com/


What happens in the opening of exhibition or "Sans vous, rien ne se fera"*

     An opening of an exhibition is always a public event apart from a usually very private and intimate process of creating an artwork or an idea. However, it might be different when you come across the process art or visit a “live exhibition” as it happened with the guests in the evening of May 6th at “Mains d’oeuvres” in the opening of exhibition “Sans vous, rien ne se fera”.

I also dare to think that everyone who has ever attended an opening has noticed that for the people gathered there it gives a lot more pleasure to talk to each other, to drink a glass of punch or wine, to eat a snack or smoke a cigarette outside on the street than actually watch the art. Alluding to this observation I will describe some things that happened to me at this evening, the people I talked to and the processes of art I managed to see.
It was so warm I could stay outside without the jacket and the sun was still shining in the beginning. The exhibition hall was white and empty except some ladder left by workers. At 15 past six I met the glances of the first surprised visitors, gave them the catalogue and smiled. It is an international group of artists participating in the exhibition and even more international the list of visitors. When the first performance started which was the concert of the band “Meurtre” it reminded me perfectly the punk-rock concerts I used to attend when I was 15 and “life was hard”. Still I chose the mild weather and mumbling of guests in front of the door over the loud music.

Although there was a “line-up” - the order of artists and art works which appeared in the exhibition hall or in the other places of the building during the whole evening, the idea of an exhibition which is unexpectedly created in the eyes of the viewers, made me remember the childhood Christmas feeling when I knew that by turning around for just one second I will suddenly find the gifts put under the Christmas tree. I got these thrills inside me again after entering the exhibition hall and seeing the plastic signs of Achraf Touloub’s work uncovered and hanging on the walls. I also had it when I saw Baptiste Brevart’s “bicycle” being carried in the hall by two men. It was actually a construction of an old bicycle and a battery that creates energy when you ride it and I noticed a lot of people who didn’t hesitate to try to enjoy it. The installation of Pauline Bastard “Mirage brûlant” created an immediate vision of carefree holidays in the tropical beach where you can imagine only unforgettable honeymoons or passionate affairs happening.
In a completely different way acts Benjamin Blaquart’s animation “Rave Boullé” which tends to transform the surroundings into the nightclub. The animated “visionary ball” by French neoclassical architect Etienne Boullé transforming in to the party place gives a visual as well as audial experience.

Meanwhile I happened to meet a Latvian friend of mine who had seen some part of the “live exhibition” and told me all of this was “mésls”** She didn’t hesitate to mention the artists she called the “real ones” like Marcel Duchamp, Helmut Newton or Caravaggio.

I am not sure if some of the people who received the letter of artist David Horvitz arrived at the opening, but I am pretty sure they did. But maybe they didn’t, because “everything is always happening at the same moment” as artist has written in the catalogue of the exhibition. The map he used to distribute the letters to the Parisians was hanged on the wall in a solemn way.

After being 5 minutes late for the performance of “The Vraoums” I got to observe closely the open workshop of ties by artist Grégoire Motte. At this moment I realized that my boyfriend does not know how to tie up a tie and that surprised me and made me laugh at the same moment. During all the evening in different places I kept seeing the young lady dressed in the badminton player costume. And it was far off all that happened and could happen to each of the participants, viewers, artists, guests, friends and workers. As I was told just before the show “everything matters when you create and when somebody meets the work of art”.


* Sans vous, rien ne se fera - without you nothing will happen (French)
** mésls – crap (Latvian)