Dominique Truco: Interview with Fabien Lerat, November 2001 (francais)

Movement is one of the fundamental manifestations of life. This mobility is a "moving" force in both senses of the word, and Fabien Lerat approaches it, takes the measure of it, scans it, and offers it up with versatility through a body of work that those "in presence" are singularly invited to animate with the breath of their own lives.

What is being explored hic et nunc is the multiple, shifting facet-structure of humanity.

Dominique Truco: A 16, Manteau, Liaison, Ellipse, Lonely Planet: your works always look for commitment from the viewer. Offered up in this way to the experience of the individual or the group — do they follow rules?

Fabien Lerat: I determine them the way each instant determines, and without any rules about how things happen.

The rules of the game are each person's way of saying "I". Personally, I'm issuing an invitation to the presence of a present time.

Most of the works are sociable, and they require individuals to come together ephemerally. The idea is to call on each person's knowledge — which mostly occurs through signs of recognition, because in many cases, as soon as a few people find themselves face to face they're brought into representation. Some identify with this representation, some don't. But my pieces draw on presences more than representations, so as to gauge, perhaps, all the distances that draw us together and separate us. These are the links that the works put "in presence", with the difficulty of the present, and that of the relationship to time as experienced by each person. Time is totally horizontal, and everything that crosses this horizontality creates breaks. Without this sharing of the present, we could all, more or less, get along together. As soon as we're "in presence", we're sensitive.

DT: Does this mean that the "I" is part of the game?

FL: My proposals are parameters to be tried out — to measure, or to survey. We're mobilised in a state that places us, all of a sudden, at a distance from our usual responsibilities. We have to find a responsiveness such as I'm trying to bring about. What these pieces can create is a breathing space in which another consciousness of oneself and others can appear. It isn't directly in the field of the political or the cultural, the family-bound or the economic. It's a vacant space in which each individual, staying at (just about) arm's length, can find himself.

DT: Is it a question of expressing one's difference?

FL: It's a question of getting back to what we have in common. Or of exulting in what we have in common. This is what's happening in Manteau ("Overcoat"), which tests out a chain. We're all networked — each one indivisible. Manteau is simultaneously worn by ten people, and the participants can have an influence all down the line, equally. Which, as I've observed at times, doesn't rule out the possibility that there's somebody waiting to grab the power.
Manteau is also what allows everybody to be here. It's the stratosphere…

DT: In the experience of your works, what do we measure ourselves against?

FL: We measure our being-here. Being-here in a relatedness that every individual sizes up by reference to every other individual.

One measures onself against indeterminacy, in the sense that one measures onseself against something that changes according to the measurement.

Change can be evaluated by the number of changing viewpoints that exist inside or outside one or other proposal. Between what you see and what you planned to see, there's always something that has changed, something that's in motion; because it's difficult to be exclusively contemplative.

DT: … "Like an angle", as you say. And you make it sense-perceptible in a dizzying work entitled Colonne ("Column").

FL: Colonne creates a space in which the unconscious opens up, the same way that the right angle between each column and the viewer is ready to open up in its fall, and by the smallest displacement of air that we can produce. Colonne is made up of twisted latex columns whose levels are indexed on the navels of a few of my friends, of different heights and sexes. The encounter between the horizontal axis of a navel and a column forms a right angle. In the hypothetical fall of one or the other, the gradation of the angle goes from 90° to 180°. Here, you experience the void in a stunning way. Each fall strikes the mind. It's a small death for a quick mourning.

DT: Do your forms constitute invitations to total freedom?

FL: Yes, and that's the greatest constraint. Each individual, when he does anything, takes account of the pleasure he gets from doing it, and explains it to himself at some time or another.

"It is often non-sense that illuminates sense", to quote Gilles Deleuze. And this is also what was disarming about the Dadaists: they thought they could do anything. It's totally impossible; but the ambition was magnificent.

DT: So — what appears to consciousness through the experience of Habitation Hélicoïdale seems completely different?

FL: What's operating in this form is the work of one form on another. A pyramidal form of pink material, 4.5 metres high, which rotates in an elliptical way when it attains its highest point of regularity. It's taut in the cutting plane, and encloses a second pyramid, perfectly regular but not completely stretched out, to the floor. Walking around is possible, in these spaces. There's room for several people, some within the smaller pyramid. There's a ladder that sustains the structure and gives access to the upper part, where there's a platform like a rostrum that opens onto a new vista.

Up there, a person may be walking above somebody else's head. This loss of contact with the ground suspends the horizontality of viewpoints, which is the basis of human relationships.

DT: Habitation Ascensionnelle, which you're currently creating for the Musée de Strasbourg, seems to be structured along the same formal axes: horizontality, verticality, etc. What perception will it produce?

FL: Habitation Ascensionnelle is an endless habitation.

There's no ascension, only changes of viewpoint. And this work sharpens that idea, speculating about the desire to raise oneself up a bit more, but with the idea of removing oneself from the present. It's a temporised ascension through a form that limits and un-limits. It's not erected, but suspended in the museum's long glass hall, stroking the floor. Like Brancusi's Endless Column, this Habitation Ascensionnelle is an endless habitation comprising three pyramidal bodies placed end-to-end, suspended in an 18-metre helical movement. I think of it as a vibration, a vocal cord. Inside it, every sound carries and reflects. The pink of the material, traversed by the yellow incidences of natural light, should generate a reddening similar to an almost-blood-like activity. Here, my idea is for each person to find connections that evade our deployments. For example: to put one's head at the centre of a space of vacuity.

DT: Are you ever surprised by the behaviour your works bring out in people?

FL: Behaviour doesn't surprise me. But I'm constantly recentred by it, because one's always moving away from something that is. So I'm called, and re-called, by what's being played out, or said, or experienced. I understand and discover things that cover me up, the way words cover up thoughts. Actions uncover them. Actions find… In seeking and finding, there are two problematics. Seeking means expecting not to find. It's waiting; and this dimension of time can be sumptuous. Finding's what we don't expect when we seek. If we seek with the hope of finding, we're in conditioned time, and this conditioning can limit us.

DT: Have you found things you weren't looking for?

FL: I'd like to find what it is that summons each of us to be "here", despite our different times.

This would be the moment of our greatest humanity.

Our time, whether individual or collective, is constantly held back by our judgement. I'd like to find the distance which is infinite mobility. To open our eyes. To look beyond conditions, and in that way free ourselves from them. To open up and go beyond.

DT: To look long and attentively is an exercise in consideration?

FL: It's envisaging. A 16 is a piece to "envisage". In A 16, which is a loop of stretch fabric, we're always in the open somewhere. What covers doesn't hide. From the outside, A 16 reveals bodies, despite the clothes. Inside, it's the piece that gives the face of the other person. When you've found the point of confidence, you can rest on the other person. The one with the other. And this point of confidence is the point of tension. The further away you are, the closer you are. It's at this moment that there's this face… The point in question isn't always attained, because the other person can be looked at without being looked at, and he can be there without being there. I've come across this many times.

DT: Are you a "proximity" type of person?

FL: I'm there for the other person, and his proximity. And this juxtaposes with infinite distance. To create a link and an exchange means asking the other person for something, and in this request there's a form of withdrawal.

DT: In Vénissieux, we'll be in the presence of what works? FL: Liaison, Praticable, Ellipse.
Liaison is made up of eleven rings 30 mm thick. Ten of them are 60 cm in diameter, and one is 90 cm. The work's laid out on the floor, perfectly horizontal, with these eleven circles all attached to one another. Some are arranged in threes or fours, and some have just one link to the others. Together they form an irregular pattern. You can place yourself above a given circle and bring it up to the level of your waist, or higher, or lower, and find yourself face to face with other people, able to move about in a circular space that invites you to rotate around yourself. The pattern predisposes, but a priori each of those "in presence" arranges it according to his instantaneous perception, in his own centre. And the instant is made up of the other people in presence.

You think through the other person, who understands.

DT: How many Liaisons are there?

FL: Two! One's grey and one's eosin. Our bonds are like that: either mental or physical. The grey has one particular overdetermination, and the red has another. There are two types of bond, but they're always present simultaneously.

DT: As far as my own bond with Ellipse is concerned, it remains somewhat vague…

FL: I understand your hesitation, because I'd like images to fall, and yet with Ellipse I've produced one. But as Georg Simmel says, "We recognise our centre as being both inside and outside us". Ellipse is a ridge between ourselves and others. It's a geometrical form inhabited by a landscape — a landscape overrun by the material that figures it. An ellipse is made up of two mobile points that preclude a centre. The composition of this oval mountain range creates an interior and an exterior that you can get to by crossing the highest point. It's made of yellow taffeta, and the ridge is in black crêpe, objectifying the passages of perception, from both sides, for adults. All the passages a child can see into are in yellow taffeta.

DT: Is the adult in the salient?

FL: The adult burns up his relationships. Adult self-consciousness creates the highest peaks, the hardest stones — those that resist erosion.

Ellipse is a mountain chain that's entirely structured by ravines. Every fold's a place of water. It's calibrated neither on our behaviour nor our perceptions. At this scale, we're Gullivers. We have a bird's eye view.

DT: Your works never occupy space, but seem to take it or give it. Is this the case with Praticable?

FL: Praticable is a perception of deployed time acting on the space of its presentation during the modification of its figures.

Praticable has two surfaces: one flexible, the other rigid. Also, the possibility of occupying 36 different states: from the flat to the upright, via the flexible surface or the rigid surface, in angular or rounded shapes. Mobility's a question for the viewers and the guests. There are eight wooden panels making up a regular oval, joined together by a rubber strut. On one side there's red oxide paint; on the other, anthracite-grey polyethylene foam. Four of the panels are rectangles, and four are quarter circles. But the figures always end up as open circles.

DT: Open — as you yourself seem to be, to all possible experiences and in a large diversity of materials.

FL: As far as I'm concerned, matter's a composite of materials and perceptions involved in experience. The materials I like are always placed in a non-conforming situation. What's called Manteau, or Théâtre, or Liaison, or any other piece, doesn't conform to the body of anyone in particular. And yet these works are the same… through what happens inside, which is of the order of demobilisation.