Composed of sounds, images, and objects in varied and close relations, Cecile Beau's installations are driven by the play of contradictory vanishing points. Here, the visible and the invisible mix. The pure and the impure intersect. Perception's radars are dazed, dazzled by enigmatic and timeless murmurs. These are forests, rivers, horizons, and hazes that breathe as in the earliest hours of the day. These are factories, machines, mechanisms, illusions, and extracts, all testifying to a quasi-clinical interest in things. The blade of her scalpel slices open sensorial perspectives beneath a steady light and with a depth of field that is hallucinatory to say the least.
And with a certain modesty, but not without a touch of malice, she seems to be trying to conceal her toolbox-full, one imagines, of digital and electronic devices. She buries these instruments under tree roots and beach pebbles, in cloud vapor, and dresses them up in organic and inorganic matter that has been distilled, diverted, decontextualized. The organic materials soon take on an air of mystery within the empty spaces that welcome them. Their austerity becomes necessary. Her work is stripped of human presence, saturated with air, water, and mineral, until only the viewer's body remains truly discernible, now elevated to the rank of protagonist, invited to get lost among a network of felted and muffled stimuli. The real world can be detected-but just barely-through weave of sound samples. The sounds themselves are perfectly ordinary, but the process of amplification, dissimulation, spatialization, and infiltration completely transforms them.
Unlike many contemporary installations, there's no question here of playing with different ways to immerse or envelope the viewer. The visual and acoustic phenomena, once worked over by Cecile Beau, remain distanced, like the beings in a microscopic biotope that we've never even dreamed of. The perceptive tool follows them like an autofocus, making ever-finer distinctions, scrutinizing the inaudible. The eyes open. The eardrums relax. Cecile Beau takes a variety of approaches in gathering her materials, including collecting, recording, and splicing. She scours reality for her supply of fragments, which she then selects, positions, connects, and juxtaposes until she achieves the strange hybrids that she offers to her viewers. The resulting spaces sparkle with the emptiness they contain. The sounds call out across the silence that enfolds them. Unreal, almost mutant, her atmospheres function as containers, trapping the investigating consciousness. Here time and space collide, as in film, in which fluid sequences are brusquely solidified and precipitated into materiality.
Cecile Beau's works appear less as spectacles created by internal theatricality and decorative effects than as experience, defined as a personal putting-to-the-test of a thing, a material, a structure, or a phenomenon. Each new series, each new project sets off in a different direction from its antecedents, yet nonetheless remains connected to them by a kind of resonance. In a certain way, they all enjoy a privileged relationship with contemplation, revealed in the rhythm that they communicate to those who confront them. Though this contemplation takes on incredibly various forms and instances, it almost always requires the patience and the availability of the body, which sets up an oscillation between inside and outside. The rustling confusion of ideas, memories, and desires hurtles up against presence and the sensory apparati of objects and phenomena. The senses open and close. Memory whispers unprecedented impressions. The intellect hums as words link up with gestures. The viewer's amnesia begins swaying like a backwash, or a tide that, in pulling back, finally lets one glimpse enigmatic traces.
Emile Soulier, translated by Cole Swensen