• Pierre Clement

    vu/e par

    Ingrid Luquet-Gad

    Pierre Clement doesn’t invent images. He materializes those that already exist. Images lurking on the edge of the visible: we do not see them– or perhaps we no longer see them– even though they shape the world we inhabit. In this, he acknowledges a creeping mutation, the effects of which are felt by all. The cause, however, remains mostly ignored, perhaps even repressed. To us contemporaries, reality seems undeniably more and more abstract, encrypted, coded. We can stop there, or we can dare to spell out the ensuing observation: by wanting to optimize reality, we have lost control of the technological and pharmaceutical toolkits deployed for this purpose.


    Every atom, every molecule is altered, inextricably mixed with the organic and synthetic, just as every material, synthetic and psychical reality is in the process of being produced and reproduced. Yet, the logic is lacking in both the orientation to be given to these means– an arsenal that philosopher Peter Sloterdijk calls "anthropotechnical"– and their immediate, immanent and structuring ontological values.i Nothing adheres, nothing clings to the perfect functionality of effective and furtive tools– neither the shreds of fiction nor the rags of the imagination. It is thus necessary to materialize, visualize and translate the glyphs and signs emanating from our techniques whose links have been broken, which we no longer see, hear or understand to engage in a process of conjuration, even if it means through extrapolation.


    Pierre Clement’s practice is situated somewhere between materialization and extrapolation– the dosage and cursor varying depending on the exhibition. One of the constants is a process developed in 2015 for the exhibition Pttrn/Ptnt at Les Abattoirs in Toulouse. There for the first time he presented a series of sculptures composed of laminated, printed Plexiglas sheets superimposed like various Photoshop layers. Printed on each one were patterns obtained by typing certain keywords in Google Patent, such as "pattern," "grid" and "screen." The explicit indications having previously been erased by the artist, the decontextualized formal recurrence introduced a “starter language,” as the artist stated, condemned to never being updated.


    Something appears and yet never reaches us. Two years later at the Maison Salvan in Labège, the exhibition Keep your master channel sync’d with your master channel reoriented the random search for patterns via an image bank. This time, the key words summoned a resilient nature through the fungi, lichens and mold that we imagine are capable of surviving a possible "end of the world"– that is to say the end of our own, particular occurrence of the world among worlds.ii Rendered even more complex through the superimposition of layers by transparency and the addition of volumes, these proliferating impressions also cancel out the distinctions between surface and volume.


    In the exhibition space, any volume of a human scale that we could recognize as prehensible and proportionate to us, or that we could even identify according to the tried, tested and reassuring categories of "painting" and "sculpture," finds itself covered by a membrane of scientific hieroglyphics that undoes it. In Vision Quest at Galerie Valeria Cetraro in 2019, this membrane mixed with scientific visuals on a macro scale from space probes, and on a micro scale from microscopes. The impression of abstraction, synthesis and disembodiment experienced on a daily basis within the artistic field is then translated into forms addressed to both humans who perceive time and space, the cyclopean eye of the machine, and the exhibition photographs that certainly capture a more complete (real?) two-dimensional impression than ours as we struggle to untangle the various layers.


    That said, a second recurring feature must then be specified: the almost systematic addition of what the artist calls "decoys." Oyster shells (Pttrn/Ptnt), coarsely knotted nets (Keep your master channel sync'd with your master channel), as well as carabiners, padlocks, orange peels and arrowheads nonetheless weigh down the visualization of the synthetic world from an alternative side. Within it, from this sticky totality, tiny attempts at re-humanization emerge like fissures as witnessed by the miniscule gris-gris clinging to the side of a mountain of cold objectifying data. At times this second pole– that of extrapolation in relation to simple materialization– then appears more akin to the neo-primitivism of a humanity that, having lost control of its technology, is forced back to square one.


    In the exhibition Above Top Secret at Galerie Valeria Cetraro in 2018, Pierre Clement presented tree-like sculptures composed of syringes stuck into a base of water bottles depicting possible premises of life. These were seen again the following year with Altered Beast at Coherent in Brussels, this time planted in branches within a panorama recalling a survivalist imaginary thriving on forums, switchblades and rain ponchos setting the scene. In a certain way, the artist replays the codes of art with the learning of the civilizational process from scratch. Certainly, the gris-gris and other makeshift shelters bear explicit witness to this, but the process itself welcomes hazard and the unforeseen providing added value for the artist in relation to the initial modeling operation.


    As stated at the outset, Pierre Clement materializes images, and more precisely, the visualization systems that structure and produce reality even though they have been divorced from the human senses: the patterns of image banks; the grids, plans and layers of technical drawings; the data of scientific instruments. In doing so, he shares generational preoccupations with a genealogy of artists operating from the same observation. Amongst them, Trevor Paglen himself declares that he in particular tries to "[render] visible things that are hiding in plain sight."iii Pierre Clement distinguishes himself from this however through the unskilled, DIY and patched-up factor of his production that, more than an aesthetic, hypothesizes the horizon of a humanity reduced to its separate individuals. A humanity in which each individual– on their own scale and with the means at hand– could reenact the history of humanity’s technical development differently in hopes of a new beginning or final awakening of the condemned. Each will remain free to decide.


    Pierre Clement vu par Ingrid Luquet-Gad.

    Commande de Documents d'artistes Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

    Translated from the French by Katia Porro



    1. See Peter Sloterdijk, You Must Change Your Life, 2009, and Peter Sloterdijk, The Domestication of Being, 2000

    2. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World : On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2015.

    3. Trevor Paglen, “Trevor Paglen in conversation with Lauren Cornell,” in Mass Effect. Art and the internet in the twenty-first century, edited by Lauren Cornell and Ed Halter, MIT Press, 2015. p. 255.