Exercise Against Architecture / 2017-2018 / Video Installation.
The `person’ as absolute value, with its indestructible features and specific force, forged by the whole of the Western tradition as the organizing myth of the Subject – the person with its passions, its will, its character (or banality) — is absent, dead, swept out of our functional universe.
Jean Baudrillard, in « The Consumer Society, Myths and Structures », 1970
From the 60s, Western Europe and North America experienced a strong growth accompanied by an urban transformation, in Paris in particular, which saw its second important transformation after the Haussmann’s renovation under Napoleon III between 1852 and 1870. A large number of radical and still actual criticisms on these urban phenomena were born in this new functional context redefining not only the city, but also the society in general and the individual in particular.
In Jacques Tati’s « Playtime » (1967), we see individuals confronted with the materials and the sounds (or the absence of sound) of modernity. Everything seems to have been transformed so quickly (we do not see any traces of historical Paris except in pictures) that we seem to be in a period of adaptation, where the characters are experimenting all these new spaces. The film shows aseptic, soundproof, transparent surfaces that seem to have been imposed on the population. The choice of Tati in “Playtime” is to observe many types of characters in a kind of aquarium of modernity, where we meet adherents or soft rebellious to this new urbanism and where everything ends with a chaotic party that reinstalls a disorder missing in essence to the functionalized society. It is interesting to observe that the materials of the « functional modernity » in Playtime are still substantially the same (glass, steel, marble …) currently after 50 years.
Urban transformations, especially in Seoul, therefore always propose the same paradigm. We see the passage of complex spaces marked by duration and individual decisions to simplified, sanitized and simulated spaces. Walls in particular, as the basic elements of architecture, offer little openings and often return the image as a silent mirror.
The 5 video sequences of “Exercise Against Architecture” were collected from situations encountered in public spaces during the last two years, mainly in Seoul and Taipei.
The characters in these short sequences all have the characteristic of using a piece of architecture as the receptacle for their blows or exercises.
Inert object par excellence, a virtual wall has in this installation a voice dictating the instructions to these participants.
Endlessly stricking or pushing a wall or a pile like some automatons, these harmless characters attack architecture. Are they not gradually undermining the foundations, thus regaining a power and an initiative that are increasingly beyond the reach of individuals in today’s cities?
Text : Julien Coignet