Artists: Florian Sumi (with Emma Balimaka, Adrien Cruellas, Dragovan)
Exhibition title: MEMBRAINS
Curated by: Céline Poulin
Venue: CAC Brétigny, Brétigny-sur-Orge, France
Date: May 26 – July 21, 2018
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and CAC Brétigny
Before MEMBRAINS, by Céline Poulin
Fiona putting makeup on while words are exchanged between Emma and Medhi, shooting out rapid fire for one, flowing in a murmur for the other. The camera is rolling, literally cir-cling, as François endlessly winds around the various characters. Masked by the shadows, I observe this dizzying merry-go-round. Are these really characters? The position of each, embodied in words, is confused, multifaceted. In Brussels Florian met Emma Balimaka, who practices white magic. They talked a lot. The text he drafted for the characters springs from those words, that interpretation of the world. Then each of them rewrote their text, the lines they were to speak before the camera’s roving eye. In white magic, writing is fundamental; it delineates the imprint of desire to make it effective. It makes visible what is not to help it attain another level of reality. So that the wish is realized.
I didn’t watch the making of the other films. They will be installed on their totem-screens in Brétigny, built with the help of Les Fabriqueurs, a Fab-lab with which Sumi worked thanks to Le Cube. I saw a long shot of Emma Balimaka, bathed in an orangey light, her skin covered in a sienna powder, telling us how magic works, which connects all things, according to her. I heard Sumi recite the lines of his exchange with Marcel, an acupunctu-rist… I discovered Sumi’s work when he was still at the fine arts school in Dijon, studying under Marc-Camille Chaimowicz, and his ways of making art never cease to amaze me. The interaction that develops between him and the people sharing in his work is just like the subjects of his research, complex and hard to summarize, for everything is interlinked at many levels. You could say that everything in what Sumi does is holistic, that is, each element is part of a whole, and everything is connected.
I haven’t yet viewed the films created by Sumi and Adrien Cruellas, not to mention the exhibition, so I can’t really tell you about them. New age references to a mystical or cos-mological understanding will surely be seen alongside queer, technical and laboratory imagery. “Do you believe this?” That is not the question. What is important is what that produces. What that produces in terms of sensations, actions, and of course images. Cell bubbles burst and reproduce when a game of solitaire appears all by itself in CGI. A film shows a table. Its natural marble top inevitably conjures up a mineral force whereas its metal legs and their strong lines point us towards a Mad Max world of science fiction. At this writing, in Sumi’s studio others pieces of furniture are being fashioned with the help of an expert leather worker by the name of Dragovan. A seat delicately hollowed out of the solid wood of a tree trunk displays the tree’s bark and veins. The seat of another chair is all stretched leather, wedding the modern technology of metal with the animal nature of a skin that reveals hints of its origins. The production lab of effective micro-organizations is modeled beneath the sure hand of Adrien Cruellas, here again linking the spare, strip-ped-down figure of a lab biology to the teaming figure of Eastern medicine.
There is a fascinating and allegorical beauty in these filmed images and fashioned objects. I wrote that Florian Sumi is like a mad savant and yet he tells me he is nothing other than a savant. In terms of knowledge, he transmits that of others, taking care to grasp its true substance, as much theoretical as esthetic, so that from all those separate areas of knowledge a new world will spring.