Unboxing + tapping + whisper with Rikita ASMR
Interview with Stephanie Vidal for Making Contact.
The circulation of images, their capture and collection in a world of display screens, is a recurrent theme in Caroline Delieutraz’s work. Unboxing + tapping + whisper with Rikita ASMR (Embedded Files) is the result of a collaboration with Rikita, a young YouTuber who makes ASMR videos. ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a widespread internet phenomenon that developed in 2008 thanks to YouTube. ASMR was originally practised by a small community of people who had found out that certain auditory and visual stimuli provoked a sensation of well-being that could sometimes culminate in what could be described as a non-sexual orgasm. For example, watching and listening to someone carefully handle an object can trigger the desired effect, known as tingles. The community has steadily grown these past few years. Through trial and error, certain triggers have been identified: whispering, tapping, cracking sounds and many other sub-categories.
Caroline Delieutraz : “The object’s value is determined by it’s potential as a trigger. A seemingly worthless object – a piece of wrapping material for example – can be of great value for ASMR. It is this reversal which interests me. I started by posting my own ASMR video on YouTube to see how it all worked, to understand the customs. My goal wasn’t to replicate ASMR videos, but more to infiltrate its community, and this is why I handed over a series of works (Embedded Files) to Rikita, so that she could ‘activate’ them by revealing their ASMR potential.”
Embedded Files evokes low-tech recording material. It is a collection of objects and images, chosen for their circulation rate and embedded in paraffin wax. Under the guise of a pseudonym, the young woman whispers binaurally into the ears of tens of thousands of internet users. She sometimes performs unboxing that refers to filming oneself opening packages. She describes the Embedded Files as she opens and discovers them, placing each of them in turn over a light box, revealing their contents.
Caroline Delieutraz : “I chose to collaborate with Rikita because she’s in control of her image – she only shows the bottom half of her face in her videos – while still preserving an amateur quality that conveys a certain sensitivity. I suggested a system slightly different from her usual video work, but open enough so that she could adapt to it. I believe she approached our collaboration quite naturally, as part of her practice. Like many actors in her community, she wishes to promote and advocate ASMR.”
By handling Caroline Delieutraz’s work, Rikita makes it sensually slide into the realm of ASMR: the Embedded Files become, like any other object in an ASMR video, a tool whose merit is judged solely on its ability to produce a relaxing sensation, as opposed to an aesthetic one. The artwork crosses over into a new field, just as everyday objects have crossed over into the art field since Duchamp’s found objects, allowing them to be viewed through a different spectrum than usual.
The video is accessible on Rikita’s YouTube channel under the name “ASMR Unboxing artistique – Tapping – Whispering – Ear to ear – EXPO sur Paris”. Under this title it will be viewed beyond the boundaries of the art world, altering its plane of existence.
Text written for the solo exhibition Unnamed Feelings, gallery 22,48 m², Paris, 2017.
To envision what radical otherness might be: the seal of impossibility with which such a venture is stamped simultaneously turns it into a tireless motor for creativity. If the ancient gods dealt with arousing the fantasizing function, the aura of mystery has shifted. Secularised, back down on earth, it has nested itself in another totem’s inwardness, just as hermetic: the machine, fantasized as a fully-fledged organism. Projection mechanisms, for their part, remain fundamentally the same. For the more we attempt to describe what eludes us, the more we end up describing ourselves. Hasn’t Jean Baudrillard already implied that “automation and personalisation aren’t contrary to each other at all. Automation is merely personalisation dreamed up at the object’s level”1? Caroline Delieutraz’s research attests to these implications: digital encryption of immemorial myths and the reinvestment of primary affects in the technosphere.
Certain of the key elements that guide her approach are outlined from the very title of her new monographic exhibition. To entitle it “Unnamed Feelings”, in reference to Metallica’s song The Unnamed Feeling, reflects the process of sampling the signs that populate everyday life, a process that is also found in the reproduction of a Kilim carpet’s pattern or the recontextualization of SNCF² luggage nets. In this way, Caroline Delieutraz updates certain iconic patterns, cognitive as well as affective, that circulate within contemporary visual culture. Seeing, thinking and feeling in a new media environment, through media which we’ve yet to fully tame, necessarily has an impact on content – on what is seen, on what is perceived and on what is felt in itself. It is then quite possible that the “unnamed feelings”, these nameless feelings, might refer to a new genre of YouTube video currently in vogue across the Atlantic: ASMR. This acronym for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” refers to a priori non-sexual physical stimulation -resolutely devoid of any scientific basis- awakened by the recording of sounds with stress-relieving properties, with all sorts of whispers, cracks and squeaks. While the emotional projection systems generated by the digital environment that surrounds us remain understudied, they supply a common ground for three series of artworks presented in the exhibition.
Installation Pandinus Dictator, which is presented for the first time, starts from the altogether classic fascination for a dangerous animal: the scorpion. One year ago, in the autumn of 2015, Caroline Delieutraz finds out on the radio about the seizure of 119 scorpions belonging to protected species Pandinus Dictator. As rare as it is toxic, this scorpion from Cameroon’s tropical forest is worshiped by reptile aficionados. On specialised online bulletin board services, some even cast doubt about the very existence of this super-arachnid -notably presumed to be able to withstand nuclear radiation. To put emphasis on the fantasies fuelled by animals’ real or imagined qualities, the artist goes to the place where they are quarantined, accompanied by a studio photographer in order to take their pictures. From the resulting 94 individualised portraits, eight will be presented as part of “Unnamed Feelings” and they highlight distinctive features. An aspect underlined by the engraving for each frame where a diagram using categories derived from role playing cards evaluates their power according to the following variables: Venom, Strength, Resistance, Morphology, Self-control.
The video which accompanies the pictures combines online found footage of scorpion-shaped by-products -from the statuette to the office chair-, lines of text lifted from online bulletin boards and video recordings from behind-the-scenes of the photo shoot. The hand that can be seen positioning the scorpions on screen in order to ensure that they are at their most photogenic, echoes a number of prior artworks by Caroline Delieutraz. In the style of Andy Warhol’s iconic Time Capsules, an archival system made to hold onto time, which is as obsessional as it is rudimentary and that comes in the form of a simple cardboard box filled with mundane objects, the artist imagines a new form of storage. Embedded Files holds objects and images in the same way a floppy disk or a USB drive do. With the exception that in this case, what has been judged worthy of preservation is trapped within simple blocks of translucent wax. Captive, yet visible in fragments, much like foggy memories can be, these audio cassettes, CD and packaging fragments hybridise technology and DIY. A video accompanies their physical presentation, where one can witness their manipulation by an anonymous hand. The synchronous and perfectly choreographed gestures are simultaneously reminiscent of infomercials and Youtube’s user- generated videos, from the book leafed through on screen to the much-vaunted ASMR videos with soothing properties.
If falling back from the human to the non-human is inevitable, the opposite path seems even thornier. The question of imagining the other, when it would not radically be such, machine or animal, neither entirely similar to itself, is confronted to a major imagination shortage. In the wake of budding cyberculture, the ideal of a “new flesh” develops in the 90s, that is to say, a virtualised body relieved of its physical ties. Yet, to signify the other, only one attribute seems to be self-sufficient, an eternal return to the same: the colour blue. With Blue Skins, Caroline Delieutraz maps the apparition and the transformation of this motif in popular cultural productions through comic books, animation, and films, methodically classifying these “tiny blue men” by order of appearance – the first occurrence being “The Beast” in X-Men in 1963. Presented under glass, following a display that is usually associated with conceptual artworks from the 70s, the piece shows the persistence of mythical and immemorial blueprints emanating from cyberculture, at the same time as an upheaval in the way to express the emotions produced by these fictions.
Faced with chaotic emotions, classification is reassuring. By aligning, in chronological order, representations of the unknown, or by covering a domestic fabric with a geometric drawing of a disturbing animal, a semblance of order is restored. These micro-narratives and taming rituals cobbled together by users of a supposedly neutral technology thus provide an orderly bedrock. On the basis of which the mind can finally truly imagine the sudden appearance of other possible futures – and these futures are “Unnamed” because they are firmly hybrid.
1. Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects, Paris, Gallimard, 2014, p. 158
2. The French national railway company.
Traduction : Edouard Isar
Landscape in the Age of Google Earth (extract)
The Net, Google Street View and Google Earth offer the photographic double of our planet that the nineteenth century could only dream of. They are breathing new life into the landscape genre and point to a necessary rethinking of the concept itself.
“With this simple device you can go on a hike in your iving room and be transporte to a Swiss glacier, romantic highland wilds or the pleasant banks of the Rhine and the Elbe, or delight in the sight of the architectural wonders of the world.” This 1858 Germand advertisement for a stereoscope (1) is representative of the fantasy, born with photography, of the constituion of a replica of the planet that one could consult at home. Today the Web, Google Earth (since 2005) and Google Street View (since 2007) seem to have made that a reality. So much so, perhaps, that they have made landscape photograpy obsolete, at least insofar as it has been practiced since the medimum was invented.
This is what Caroline Delieutraz set out to demonstrate with her Deux Visions, a series of stereoscopic-like diptychs juxtaposing shots from La France de Raymond Depardon (2010) and screen grabs of Google Street View images of the same places that he photographed. Both sets of images were made around the same time and following similar operating procedures. In 2004, Depardon set out on a very long drive to the four corners of France, stopping from time to time to take pictures without getting out of his camper. In 2008, Google Cars equippped with multi-lens cameras began crisscrossing France, recording all of the country’s streets within a few years. Depardon’s photos represent his choices, of course, the opposite of Google’s systematic approach, yet the pictures he took with is view camera bear a startlingly close resemblance to those automated and pre-set snapshots.
Delieutraz’s series signals a change in era, or even condition–now called the post-photographic conditions. (2) Characterized by a surperabondance of images and theri dematerialization (or “fluidity,” if we want to follow André Gunthert in foregrounding their power of circulations and distribution), (3) and their accessibility on networks, this new condition encourages appropriationist practices that require neither ownership of a camera nor leaving home. These practices are of two kinds. Some artists deal in images emptied of their meaning. Others, on the contrary, make use of direct access to new sources. Together, they have made landscape photography the most revitalized genre in recent years.
Plublished in Art Press number 440, january 2017.
(1) A device that makes it possible to see images in three dimensions by means of the juxtaposition of two photographs taken from two slightly different viewpoints. This advertisement is cited by Bernd Stiegler in Images de la photographie, Hermann, 2016, pp. 47-48.
(2) Joan Fontcuberta (editor), La Condition post-photographique. Le Mois de la photo à Montréal/Kerber Verlag, 2015.
(3) André Gunthert, L’Image partagée. La photographie numérique, Textuel, 2015.
DIX NOTES POUR "DEUX VISIONS"
Ten notes for Deux visions
1. Let’s explore the world [http://geoguessr.com]. Geoguessr The game, created by the Swedish Anton Wallén, is entirely based on Google Street View. Dropped randomly on the planet, the player must find where he is with the greatest accuracy possible pointing it at the map. If the user does not have the chance of getting in an urban center, he travels the roads searching for a sign, a signage an alphabet, an advertising track, a vernacular element to supply the vegetal environment that often does not give enough information. In most cases an atmosphere of anxiety emerges mixed with the deep boredom to browse through the countryside or the desert on a screen, digital peregrination punctuated by the occasional encounter of frozen characters, blurred. What is the nature of this monster image that seems to deny any framing that deploys to infinity and fulfill a sort of holistic fantasy? The triad Google Earth, Google Map and Google Street View would pass almost all photographic assignments for trivial epiphenomenas. What to extract from Google Street View [GSV]?
2. Deux visions is a series started in late 2012 The principle is of a formidable simplicity.; Caroline Delieutraz selects one of the photographs of La France by Raymond Depardon from the pocket edition and add the closest equivalent found on GSV. The localization, which may take half a day for the artist, then the screenshot, define the new frame. It would be wrong to see in Deux visions a simple stealing. The Photography of Depardon is used here as a beacon; it dictates its law but will necessarily be informed or weakened in return. From the point of view of forms and contents, we must admit the absence of polarity between the two images, even a change of season does not lead to any real contradiction. An abyss, hardly commensurable, separates these two images and their plan of visuality.
3. From 2004 to 2010 Raymond Depardon traveled in France in his Trigano van. He parsimoniously chooses the location to set his photographic chamber. “Slowly, he wrote, I went to the public space,to the lived space, to the territory.” The shots from the photographic chamber, posture that Depardon considers as “the essence of the photographic act in itself,” condition a particular framing. Since 2006, Google hybrid cars runs territories always better equipped. The Google Car slowly breaks free from the driver and continues its systematic absorption of the landscape with its fifteen lenses and automated shootings from a height of 2.40 meters. Caroline Delieutraz often comes with a story, or rather say a latent possibility: “Google Car and Depardon’s van may have crossed a day.” The images Caroline Delieutraz confronts are indeed very weakly asynchronous ; The intensity of Deux visions comes largely from this very special temporality. There is of course a new way of thinking the re-photography between appropriationism and Then & Now type documentary practice.
4. The Google’s way of photographing is radically opposed to the statement of Depardon. If we want to make connections with the field of art and go with anachronism, GSV could echo the attempt of unsubjectivisation fairly typical of American art from 1960-1970. I think for example, of Ed Ruscha, especially of the books Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), Some Los Angeles Apartments (1965) and, of course, Every Buildings on the Sunset Strip (1966). In the last one, the layout of the photographs and their discontinuity on the accordion format is not without evoking the photographs connections on GSV. These covering or offset effects are sometimes present in the screenshots of Caroline Delieutraz as evidenced for example by this unexpected typographical concretion on the sign SANIJURA.
5. Caroline Delieutraz betrays Depardon because she “locates” precisely the screenshot by the https address, while the photographer was satisfied, at best, by a reference to a municipality. Geographer Michel Lussaut emphasizes that for Depardon “the “where?”, inquisitor of the location is repudiated in first intention.” We have understood that the intentionalities differ. It is extremely troubling to try to “find” approximatively the framing of Depardon, lost in the overhang of the image. If the internet link discovered by Caroline Delieutraz still allows the geolocation of place today, we will not find necessarily the same image captured by the artist. Google servers database are regularly updated. In some cases, Caroline Delieutraz’s screenshot becomes the relic of the Google Car passage, until the very likely widespread exhumation by Google because since a few days, GSV incorporates a Time Travel feature. This is particularly noticeable if you compare for example the montage of the “Prairie de la Rencontre (Prairie of the Meeting)”, on which we see from far away, the equestrian statue of Napoleon 1st, and seven views, between April 2008 and February 2011, now available on GSV.
6. Each constituent part of Deux visions is both a kind of diptych and an address to move in the fixity.
7. We can almost always notice about artists working with Google Street View, that they must find a pulse to the making, a protocol to extract the image from the continuum. Jon Rafman stalks incongruities indiscretions; Mishka Henner, prostitutes; Michael Wolf, the Eiffel Tower or the rude fingers ; Doug Rickard, stricken American suburbs; Nicholas Mason, snowstorms and powdered skies. Caroline Delieutraz uses Depardon to reach, too, the state of capture and break with the fascination as the totalitarian anguish related to the Google project.
8. Deux visions never gets rid of the double image, which clearly differentiates the book series Raymond La France self-published by photographer Anders Pascal in March 2014. Caroline Delieutraz does not conceive the GSV screenshot without simultaneous confrontation with Depardon’s photography. In this and even though GSV does not get at any time in the game, Joachim Koester’s Histories (set of six diptychs, 2003-2005, FRAC Bretagne) seems to me now the most interesting re-photographing attempt to highlight. Displaying the book page photography on one side and the updated one of the represented place on the other side, Joachim Koester questions finely some photo conceptualism icons, particularly evidenced by this incredible Ed Ruscha, 6565 Fountain Ave. The house seems empty forever, Fountain Blu lettering has disappeared from the front but the space is still for rent, the 1965 now renting turns however into now leasing in 2005.
9. For the exhibition Stereo view at the gallery 22.48 m2, Caroline Delieutraz has decided to show for the first time Deux visions into frames. The few formal similitudes between this new display and the framing on 19th century cardboards, in which two nearly identical photographic views were arranged side by side, explain the choice of the title of the exhibition. The stereoscopic cards were however not meant to be framed; the double image should be viewed with an optical device to suddenly form one image, giving the illusion of relief. The flourishing market and the success of stereoscopic views led quickly to publishing stereograms piracy since 1857. But doesn’t the power of fascination come primarily from the simple repetition of the image, from its dual nature? This question is more strongly asked today because our access to historical copies is not necessarily provided with the binocular viewfinder. This connection with Deux visions also comes with contrast, since here no simultaneous recording, no recovery and no illusion merge the two images. The relief is neither optical nor sound, it still seems possible to use metaphors such as buzzing or Larsen effect to describe these corrupting parasite images. The title Stereo view embeds both an outdated materiality and a rock side. It counterbalances and accompanies then the post Internet dimension of the exhibition. I would be careful, however, to give a precise definition of “post Internet”. Indefinite extension term that provides for more than five years as the paradigm of extreme contemporaneity, everyone seems to manipulate more or less consciously the extension to fit their own interests.
10. On the wall of the gallery, a screenshot printed cohabits with a torn page of the book La France de Raymond Depardon; behind the frame that houses the two images is the https address. The amputee pocket book is presented in the same exhibition, it reflects the passage from the codex form to the canvas form, Internet becoming the mode of percolation. The historical practice of re-photographing moves again in a game of mobility and re-materialization, informed by the Net-art and digital visual culture, the liquidity flows and the persistence of white cube. Post Internet?
Benoît Buquet, exhibition catalogue Stereo View, éd. 22,48m², Avril 2014.