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Plasticity vs. mimesis

Artist statement by Frédéric Mathevet
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My artistic work is cosmopolitan (Stenghers, 2022), it questions all the sensitive and symbolic forms that bear witness to our "mondiations" (Descola, 2021), that is to say how a given collective articulates the world , how to think about living together and thereby how to live and mentalize the limit between others (humans and non-humans) and oneself. Willingly relying on an ontogenesis inherited from the ontological turn (Latour, Descola, Ingold, Khon), my artistic productions are ecopraxies, moments of semiotic panics where we put back on the site the living semiotic chains that make our worlds.

I then made the choice of a labile, mutable and mobile plasticity which crosses all beings and which thinks semiosis in its image. So my workshop is necessarily interdisciplinary, even ultra-disciplinary, that is to say beyond the easy hashtags that classify, erect walls, and establish easy dichotomies inherited from our Western naturalist culture. On the contrary, my practice would reconnect with the formless (Bataille): it downgrades, it perpetually undermines the stability of nouns.

As a result, my practice is a series of hybrid arrangements, which mixes text, sound, object, image and which desperately seeks to make manifest the links, the stitches of these assemblies and the spatio-temporal meshes which manifest the coordinates of our collective on the horizon [cosmos _socius_intime] by which it is determined. But at the same time, what makes "work", nomadic, becomes a centrifugal space of metamorphoses, confrontations and contaminations. Couture, crossbreeding and rhapsody are the privileged poetic gestures of my studio auscultating our "great living cluster"(Ballif,1988). As such, my studio is the space of a perpetual excavation of the worlds that surround me.

Visual artist (Plastic artist) open to any polymorphism, to any mutability, I define myself as a "handyman" entangling media whether digital, pictorial or sound, like the vector of an intractable plastic language, in other words, which resists learning signs and constantly puts the arbitrariness and inequality of the signs that construct the real back on the operating table. Wandering music, wild installations (but which respect their environment), drawings, photographs, painting and writing, in tune with a present as it falls, question the collective memory, identity and global standardization promoted by a market law globalizing and all the semiocracies in force are leaving! My productions want to put back on the construction site the modes of habitability of the worlds and make the hypothesis of another possible sensible world.

Our workshop is a model of possible sensitive cosmopolitics. It leads research in art and with art to an ecopraxy: the renewable fabrication of the set of conditions favorable to the life of the collective, as broad as possible, without borders and without walls.

Gap, Metis links, conductions

There is, in my compositions, a link with mimesis (my past as a painter which still works on me?). But this new mimesis tries to free itself from the sonification syndrome inherited from spectralism and from all the easy forms of transposition of data (data bending) into manipulable sound data. Let us recall with Aristotle that mimesis is constructed with a deviation from the supposed real, noted in poetics (Aristotle, poetics, 4): "this one (outos), it is that one (ekheinos)" where the model (this one) is recognizable in its representation (that one). The two chosen demonstrative pronouns mark a gap that will be able to engage various forms of expression and a dynamism necessary for the passage between representation and model.This gap is the place of plasticity, a dynamic threshold that invites us to think of the passages between "this one" and "that one" as moments of mutability prey to the motilities of a plasticity in action. The initial equation of Aristotelian mimesis becomes more complex and the gap gives rise to "miscegenation" as defined by anthropologist François Laplantine.

“miscegenation is a thought and first of all an experience of disappropriation, of the absence of what one has left and of the uncertainty of what will spring from the encounter (emphasis mine). The metis condition is a most often painful condition. We walk away from what we were, we let go of what we had. (Laplantine 2009, 81)”
François Laplantine

Drawing the logical thread of these "Metis links" I began to define their modalities (it was a question of continuing to "write" with rigor). So I preferred to use the term "conduction" to describe the motilities at work. The following reference table takes account of these labilities by scrutinizing the temporary fixations, the moments of passage.

Direct physical conduction

Direct conduction concerns situations where a material transforms itself, that is to say, when a material changes state as well as situations where a material physically spreads into another.

Indirect physical conduction

 Indirect conduction refers to situations where the transformation of a material has significant consequences on another material.

Scripted figural conduction of simple materials

The figural conduction of scripted materials can be called "simple". The material is chosen for the scenario that inhabits it.

Scripted figural conduction of complex materials

The figural conduction is said to be "complex" when the chosen material is inseparable from its textualization and narrative. social use, historical relationship, function, relationship to the body... it carries with it all the worldliness of a given collective.

reference table of sound objects and their modes of appearance

However, this questioning of mimesis also, necessarily, questions the notion of hylomorphism.

In a world of fluid processes, how can emergent forms be produced to last? (Ingold 2013, 227)"

It is the very notion of "sound object" as defined by Pierre Schaeffer that the plasticity of conductions calls into question. It became the logic that there were more place- and time-dependent, temporary and labile "sound-objects" rather than fixed objects related to studio listening alone. The modalities of appearance of these "sound objects" would lead me to rethink the composition of sound and music. The table opposite shows the modes of appearance of these sound-objects according to two saliences: figural and experiential.

"Experiential" means the immediate sensible experience of the sound-object (lived or supposed); "figural" designates the putting into text of the sensible (lived or supposed).

Case study #1_ Fresh off the boat

Fresh off the boat is a graphic score for Oud and paper that questions Mediterranean migratory movements, current and past. It is also linked to autobiographical elements.
On sewing paper, three elements are superimposed: An Oud (for which we will choose a Syrian tuning) drawn to scale 1, then the sky map of January 24, 1952 at 12 p.m., visible from the geographical coordinates 45° 27' 34.5" N 4°30'20.0" E of the day and place of my father's birth (whose history is also linked to the migratory history of France), finally the map of the Mediterranean on which I have no noted only numbers: those of dead migrants identified by United for Intercultural Action and geolocated on the outskirts or in the Schengen area.

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Photogramme 1

2 187 / 5 000

It is the mythological story of the Oud, the filial relationship that it describes, which allows this encounter: Lamech, sixth grandson of Adam, bereaved, hung the body of his dead son on a tree. Staying by her side, he cried and implored the sky. Then, the drying body of the son and the wood of the tree became one. And the father continued to sing his distress by addressing the stars with this new instrument made of body (probably stretched nerves and guts) and wood whose shape was inspired by the bleached carcass of the deceased.

This drawing is then cut out to be laid out so that an instrumentalist can read it. The squares of the sewing paper become a measure of time: one second.

The superposition acts here as a scripted conduction, which engages in the interpretation device to make the score visible to the public. The drawing also retains all traces of its creation. The game indications are also pasted there, of which here are some extracts necessary for the understanding of this graphic score:

(...)The performance takes place for a restricted audience. Each person should be able to hear the sounds, which should be subtle, and see both the score and the actions of the performer.
The audience is distributed around the table.
Read the pages one after the other.
On each page, the 1cm/1cm squares are read one after the other in the traditional Western reading direction: left to right, top to bottom.

Each black trace belonging to the sky chart reading is interpreted as an action to be produced either on the instrument or outside the instrument.

* On the instrument (shown in blue):
The stars are played at the exact place where they are on the soundboard or on the strings according to the playing indications indicated.

* outside the instrument: if the stars are outside the representation of the Oud, the sound action to be produced is done on a sheet of paper borrowed from the photocopy pile prepared as specified in the performance part. The actions are done in the order of the actions necessary for the realization of a paper boat and according to the rhythm proposed by the layout of the star chart of the sky map.

His actions usually chain as follows:
1. paper manipulation (pick up, turn over, open);
2. Fold the paper;
3. mark the fold with the fingernail on the table. When a boat is finished, the performer sweeps it up and knocks it to the ground (this gesture does not count as an action, it is left to the interpreter's discretion.) (...)

In this form of Metis writing, it is important to make visible the score which is no longer quite this neutral object placed on a desk. Its visibility contributes to the meaning of the work. In the same way, all the paper boats, which the performer will produce as a sound element, are also strong symbolic elements in the production of meaning in the piece. This supposes, during the work of composition, to open the conductions not only to the summoned sound objects, but to the objects (things), to the gestures and to the setting in space of the piece being written. The table already mentioned above opens up to all the humans and non-humans present during the interpretation.

Fresh off the boat is indeed a Metis piece: between the concert and the performance (its interpretation lasts about 1 hour 10 minutes), it is also an installation that takes shape during the interpretation. Listeners are necessarily spectators if they want to grasp the meaning of the play. Its creation took place on a Saint Etienne, performed by Bertrand Chavarria-Aldrete in the fall of 2022.

Etude decroissante 2

Case Study#2_ Decreasingstudy for music box

This is the generic name given to the vegetation of the land that is being prepared to be deeply transformed, to which corresponds a sign to facilitate the reading of a map. Here a perfectly round, empty, null O.
However, I am surprised when I find this execution project map for the A85 motorway (entrusted by an engineer) to see how carefully said hardwoods are represented. On a 1/1000 scale map, the size of the representations varies, their spacing seems to correspond to real distances. I then imagine this pleasant wooded area crossed by the CR8. And I see and hear these same hardwoods that are going to be scrapped to make way for a highway.
I think of J.G. Ballard, of Crash. The highway is like the car: the symbol of a society that has imagined itself as modern. It is today the symptom of a capitalism at the end of its course that the news (the free circulation of a virus) makes bitter. So I pierce the map. By respecting each of these hardwoods. I pierce the paper made of the same fiber, encrusting an absence to paradoxically reveal their presence. The paper will then be used as music paper for a music box. I calculate each of my gestures as a minimum energy. No more. I economize.

Little pocket symphony that reminds me of all the nomadic musical experiences that I carried out in the field, respecting the environment that saw them born, whistling, snapping my fingers, tapping on the little metal box that preciously preserves the liquorice candies that I like.

My work takes on the appearance of an idiotic aesthetic, or an aesthetic of idiocy.

"The idiot, in the Greek sense, is one who does not speak the Greek language, and who is thus separated from the civilized community. We find this meaning with the word “idiom”, a quasi-private language, which therefore excludes communication governed by transparency and anonymization, that is to say the interchangeability of speakers. But Deleuze's idiot, whom he borrows from Dostoyevsky to make him a conceptual character, is the one who always slows down others, the one who resists the way in which the situation is presented, whose urgencies mobilize thought or action."
Stengers, Isabelle (2007), LA PROPOSITION COSMOPOLITIQUE, in Lolive,Jacques ,Soubeyran, Olivier (2007) , L’émergence des cosmopolitiques. Paris: La Découverte |Recherches,pp.45-68

My casual DIYs are silly. The faulty connections, the multiple conductions which displace mimesis and which I practice without shame, are beyond language. Undoubtedly "on the evening of writing" (Malabou 2005).

But they are putting the signs back in the works. They question what is maintained. They pierce the doxa. They are cosmopolitical propositions every time because they perpetually construct our oikos.

In the light of Simondon (1969), the formation of things ("individuation") is a process of morphogenesis. The form is emergent and not determined and imposed in advance. This static "matter-form" relationship will be replaced by a dynamic "material-force" relationship by Deleuze and Guattari in the treatise on nomadology (1980).

The essential relationship is no longer matter-forms (or substances-attributes) ; but neither is it in the continuous development of form and the continuous variation of matter. It is presented here as a direct material-force relationship.
DELEUZE GUATTARI 1980 : 422-423

The relaxed handyman in our workshop is nomadic, he moves with the material, his choreography marries the flows of the material that he modulates at the same time. He makes the gap inherent in mimesis the site of a plasticity in action. And like the hunter

"following a track", and who "must remain attentive to all the visual signals and other sensory cues presented to him in a constantly changing environment, and he must adapt his itinerary accordingly.  ”
(INGOLD 2013, 226)

However, our relaxed handyman is not at home everywhere assuming a common and unique world-city. Our handyman thinks and creates at the same time the living conditions of the place where he finds himself, welcoming heterogeneity and otherness, unconditionally. The questioning of the hylemorphic model, independent of the model of mimesis assumed by Aristotle, is also a way of organizing society, and the plastic practice of sound and music intends to test all the modalities of thinking about another possible sensible world.


15 February 2023
Review status
Double-blind peer review
Cite as
Mathevet, Frédéric. 2023. "Plasticity vs mimesis." ECHO, a journal of music, thought and technology 4. doi: 10.47041/COOB7176

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