Artist: Vincent Malassis
Exhibition title: The Noisy World
Venue: Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, Brest, France
Date: June 8 – August 31, 2019
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain
It all began with the slightly crazy idea of a scientific research that would be associated with la Carène – a current music scene in Brest – in order to involve artist-researchers in studies on the impact of human-made noise on undersea life. Vincent Malassis reinvented himself as a (sonic) explorer of this fascinating territory that Jacques Cousteau called The Silent World. If only that his very first observation is that there is nothing silent under the waves! This is the origin of the title, with its futurist tinge. The artist records or appropriates, transforms, works on and for this first reproduction of his research, attempts a balancing act where the scientific process plays jokingly with the lights of the stage.
To begin, he installs an “accousmonium,” a kind of orchestra made up of speakers and amplifiers in the space of the Passerelle. The public is invited to enter this padded, black depth, to go past this apparatus, in order to discover that this assemblage is just an image and that Noisy World is on the whole very quiet save for the person who puts the only headset on his or her ears. Thanks to binaural technology, the artist proposes in this way the experience of spatially listening to his melody of the depths (composed from the sounds he gathered under the sea) to one spectator at a time. But to our surprise, these same sounds are “reproduced” by sound technicians in the studio. Behind a curtain, as if offstage of a cabaret, a completely strangely-made lobster-blue harp is waiting to be played. And finally, way in the back of the space, the image of an artificial iceberg flanked by a speaker acts as the climax of this joyfully foolish investigation.