Drawing together existing artworks and recent productions by Camille Llobet, the Fond d’air exhibition presents a deep dive into the heart of humanity. For over a decade now, the artist has been interested in the prosody of language: intonation, stress, or any other variations that language undergoes when it enters a form of orality. It is through sound, noise, as a vector at once of information and expression, that she encounters and conveys her subject. It is also from noise that the title of the exhibition derives: in the film industry, the “fond d’air” refers to an inhabited silence, the background noise inherent to every shooting location. Here, we hear a torrent in the distance, there, stones falling, the mountain trembling… all kinds of deictic elements that nonetheless give depth to silence.
Whether it is about analysing the contours of language or describing a landscape through sound, in Camille Llobet’s work it is often a question of noise as the imprint of the body and of movement. It is through the body, as it perceives and expresses, that she sketches the sensitive portrait of her subjects and performers. It is also through the body that the visitor broaches the exhibition space. Devised as volumes, the video works stem from experience. Projections immerse us in the movements of the body, making attention to tiny or spontaneous gestures possible.
Revisited in the manner of a recording studio, the exhibition provides an original listening option: the visitor is taken through various sound textures, each one selected to embody the artwork. The artist thus imagines a full- scale experience and transposes the constraints previously confined to her shooting locations, bringing them into the exhibition space.
Revealed on the occasion of Fond d’air, the Pacheû project signals this change of scale and paradigm. Motivated up until now by the need to probe human perceptions and interpretations within a decontextualised framework, Camille Llobet situates her study for the first time in an alpine environment, for an immersion in matter: the lines and shifts of a milieu as grandiose as it is threatened.
FOND D'AIR« Paradoxically, it is by making it become a machine, by obliging it to escape the intellect, that we reincarnate a body and a language, that we reveal all of its discreet phenomena1 ».
It would be easy to forget the complexity of what plays out inside humans: when the body experiences the real, the brain interprets it and delegates the task of expressing it to movement and language. A spontaneous and subconscious exercise, this locus of translation becomes a vast subject of experimentation for Camille Llobet. She thus invited performers to view and describe a scene simultaneously. These descriptions substitute the reality of the situation, rendered invisible to the visitor. They are constrained
by the speed of playback and the level of sophistication of the action. By complying with the exercise proposed by the artist, each of the performers enters the state of concentration that immediate interpretation elicits. The idea was to omit nothing, to select, analyse, and fragment the information in order to reconstruct the main elements. In an almost scientific
way, Camille Llobet establishes what she calls “filmed experiences”. Through the repetition and uniformity of the exercise, she strips the language of its semantic dimension to reveal its unintentional elements.
Filmmaker Robert Bresson once said: « Nine- tenths of our movements obey habit and automatism. It is anti-nature to subordinate them to will and thought 2 ». The search for automatism and performance – both physical and mental – in itself constitutes a source of fascination for the artist. As the exhibition progresses, the visitor encounters sportspeople, dancers, or mountain guides whose bodies, pushed to an extreme of knowledge and mastery, seem to have acquired some a sensory immersion automatism. However, it is not about revealing the perfecting of the body but about striving to detect what plays out within an individual when the automatism – decontextualised – must be rediscovered. So, for instance, a lyrical singer learns to babble: beyond a form of expertise, it is clearly the learning phase – of body and mind – that the artist presents to us.
It concerns the body because the reflex seems to become lodged within a muscular memory. The mind is also involved because there is no doubt that the state of concentration that Camille Llobet asks for and exposes verges on a modified state of consciousness – the « zone » to which some sportspeople refer, which dilates time, the relationship to the self and to reality.
By anchoring a gesture, a word, or an expression within the body, speech liberates a hub of thought and expression that reveals the self.
This is what makes the artist’s work so powerful: the profound and intimate encounter with her subjects. Through filmed experiences, the border between director and filmed is blurred: the performers’ sensibility contributes to the writing of semi-improvised synopses. Far from having a standardising view of them, Camille Llobet reveals the beauty of the singular through a series of deictic elements and idiosyncratic gestures1. It is not a matter of describing the other with some form of imperious truth, but instead of sketching
sensitive portraits of human diversity.
While the Fond d’air exhibition is steeped in all that constitutes us, a constant to-and-fro between aptitude and potential, it also marks a paradigm shift: the Pacheû project signals the start of research into a « natural environment », that of alpine areas. The artist therefore moves away from the neutrality of the filmic space to probe an environment as spectacular as it is precarious. Far from the peaks and vertical lines of the mountain that, if we’re not careful, might lead us to think that it is immovable, the artist adopts a perspective sensitive to matter, to its lines and shifts. In this, we find the artist’s procedures once again – description, interpretation, observation of bodies and their trajectories – however, a new element unfolds. The gaze is no longer trained on human beings alone, confronting their context, but on a kind of interrelation and coexistence.
The mountain is no longer purely a landscape or a milieu, but a subject: by expanding or rumbling, it expresses the impact of its relationship with humans. As for the bodies,
they must find new ways of exploring it, adapting their practices, modifying their automatisms. Conquest and conformity are both left to a bygone era. It is high time we sang the praises of listening and mutual instruction.
1. Camille Llobet, interviewed by Paul Bernard, in « Camille Llobet, Monographie » (Lyon: Éditions Adera, 2013).
[All translations of French citations are ours unless otherwise stated.]
2. Bresson Robert, Notes sur le cinématographe (1975), Preface by J.M.G Le Clézio (St-Amand: Gallimard, 1988), 34–35. See also: Notes on the Cinematograph, trans. Jonathan Griffin (New York: NYRB Classics, 2016)."