Vestiges of Knowledge, Devoured and Reconstructed in the Future Tense

My first encounter with Emilie Benoist didn’t happen as planned. My train to Paris was so delayed that we postponed until following day when the snow stopped long enough for us to drive to her atelier situated between two office buildings in a neglected area on the outskirts of Paris. Night fell quickly bringing violent winds and playing tricks on our eyes. When I think back on this visit it seems like everything happened for a reason; I like to imagine that the delay was something of an incubation period, a necessary preparation to enable my eyes to be opened to this strange and dense new world that draws from science and is pricked with contemporary allegories. The suspense that had preceded my immersion left me feeling in a changed state when I left: had I escaped time or on the contrary, had I been sucked into its core? Had its multiple secrets been revealed to me, my brain muddled by the experience of millions of years and yet just a few seconds? I had felt immediate affinity for a work hitherto encountered only in snippets and it left me wanting more. I imagined myself before the vestiges of knowledge that the interpretations of Emilie Benoist take and devour before reconstructing them in the future tense.

The landscape becomes a dreamscape.

Here you can visit ancient worlds while marvelling at the most modern finds. You can plunge your hand into wet earth and make out the shapes of modern scientific and aesthetic discoveries and the task is joyfully and boldly executed. A new boundary has been crossed between an awareness of geological and mental realms and dreamlike figures. More than an object of meditation, the landscape is first and foremost a hypothesis.

It is not by accident that the first pieces are inspired by the brain, its functions and dysfunctions and gradually move away from fact. Subtle movement accompanies plastic conversions. Then the landscape can be embodied by sound, it is a hypothesis to be heard, a mental fantasy. The landscape is also a place where space and construction are met with changes and uncertainty; it is disconcerting as if too small. That is why the ensemble of notes we are given to see and hear is arranged in such a way as to filter through the senses, rather than to be imposed upon them.

The hallucination, or rather the imagery that surrounds it, lasts because it is simultaneously subtle and overwhelming. By analysing the transcription of these moments of crises, we are developing a movement. An artist who creates according to the scientific credo is unfolding imperfect worlds. Emilie Benoist unfolds these worlds with so much grace that she crosses over into new models without ever loosing sight of them.

Memory, a guiding fervour.

Based on the research of Robert Hazen who published a study on minerals and their development due to the emergence and evolution of life rather than geological processes, this artwork reinvents beliefs akin to more ancient philosophies. We must not be surprised, therefore, by the troubled feelings that may invade us on viewing these objects, plans, drawings and sculptures that occupy the walls, the floor and the gallery space. Above all, memory records life, its ebb and flow and its regeneration.

Memory is an organ capable of both reflection and action. On viewing micro-mousse, my gaze and then my entire body were projected onto a shape that I recognised it as a fragment captured in time, but also as an image of this time, and then time suddenly lost all meaning in the presence of this unplaceable shape. Emilie Benoist appeals to our collective memory while revealing personal ones. The images seem to coincide yet share no obvious link, their essences travel; the objects mutate. The visitor’s imagination is broadened. We must decipher something, but words escape us.

Copies of Le Monde bound enigmatically to take the form of arrowheads and weapons, but also objects loaded with energy and covered with an invisible substance. Lead pencil covers the news yet reveals improbable snippets. The pewtery surface dissimulates illusion and secrets to healing, which is part of the intensity that develops as I approach, a sort of magical force.

Survival between layers of fiction.

I catch myself imagining a sound that I haven’t yet heard, yet seems within my reach. It was surely there underneath the objects, figures and colours of the work, an underlying quiver of a sound.

What if this were the bewitching scent of the past regenerated with each of my steps; the breath that binds me to the living world; the sound is the sonata of instinctive survival.

We must go out of our depth to find our way through these transformed lands, to conjure terror by abandoning ourselves to dream, to survive within a ritual, to experience accidents and to survive as to be reborn.

The stakes are as artistic as they are vital. A large drawing of part of a tree connects with that of a brain. I enter the piece and instinctively follow the meanders; I even imagine that I understand the mental metamorphoses as well as the chemical ones. I like to think that I am questioning images form other cultures and evaluating my own footprint. Among many others, the idea of composing a text comes to mind. A moving story ravelled in time, suddenly the fossilised world applies to every layer of life, of our lives, old remains are imbued with emotion, our perception expands and our exposure throws us into confusion.

Drifting through greys

What if, instead of opening to time, the present, the past and the future opened up into distinct and astonishing realms, quivering in the shadows, thunder stuck or peaceful depending on the dreamer’s mood and void of any paralysing anxiety.

In the greys that evoke a particular continental drift, the drawings and shapes testify to thrilling discoveries. At the place where worlds and beings meet there is a radiating material, destructive but necessary to make the image tremble, to attract curiosity to effect unknown laws upon its examiner in such as way to make them bend under the geometric structures as they turn around the object.

We have let something of ourselves go.

By harnessing this new species that breeds independently of our will, chemical as it is, we are signing our death warrant, our liberation. In such close quarters, no one dare stand still. The tools that the artist offers conceal uncertain consequences. Ash grazes cosmically sovereign skin.

And what if colour was black

Emilie Benoist evokes a colour: black, in India. Everything is oxidised. She dubitatively adds “What if the planet became black?” A black diamond against a black background, secretly and mysteriously moving from one point to another and staining everything in its path. Mankind silenced while vibrations erase every other colour and frisson of a shadow.

Polar

At opposites with this “unbreakable core of night”, to parody André Breton, another force is at work. A document on polar circles is consumed by white. A white that annihilates, or at least delays our vision; it displaces it. Because somewhere between, connected to a computer, a range of colours invades the drawing.

Radiation is the invisible enemy, designed with dazzling perception, it is the measure of the wind when the particles accelerate: a grand design in yellow expresses this nuclear simplicity.

By staying awake when I traverse the night, it seems to me that an object can blind me, a gulf is burrowed deep in my brain, the force of the wind forms pearls in my pupils, a new sound draws me into a magnetic field. Degeneracy is a breath of fresh air in our troubled time on Earth.

Pierre Giquel, January 2011- March 2012