Moment: Marais

For la Nuit Blanche, Paris. October 1 - 2, 2016

Installed for the Nuit Blanche of October 1 - 2, 2016 in Paris, "Moment Marais" occupied the courtyard of the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris (BHVP) in the Marais district of Paris. As with all Moment works, it uses background radiation to explore the experience of randomness, here in a site of great historical and visual richness. 

The Bibliothèque is housed in the former Hôtel de Lamoignon, much of which dates to the early 17th century. It has served over the years as the residence of various members of French royal and noble families before falling into industrial uses during the 19th century. It was eventually purchased by the City of Paris to house the current library, which has occupied the Hôtel since 1969.

The architecture is superb and is one of the jewels of Paris.

"Moment: Marais" consists of 47 linear lamps placed on the exterior sills of the windows opening on the courtyard. Each lamp is connected to a geiger counter which triggers the lamp each time a particle is detected. On average, each lamp will flash 15 - 25 times per minute.

Invisible in daylight, the flashes gradually emerge, the work revealing itself progressively as night falls and maintains its intensity until it gradually disappears with the sunrise. The work is totally silent. 

For the visual dynamics, see the video above.

"Moment: Marais" is based on the contemplation of real-world randomness, rendered visible through the indirect illumination of the building's façade triggered by the random presence of ionizing particles: each flash is thus a manifestation of a "real" event. Through the physics behind its generation, this radiation is inherently random. By virtue of its situation in this historic site, "Moment: Marais" juxtaposes two temporalities: that of an unpredictable and uncontrollable nature (the detected particles) and that of the intense historicization of the French cultural heritage. The project is anchored in the walls of the Hôtel de Lamoignon in order to plunge the visitor into a natural world outside of culture and historical time. The cultural heritage incarnated in the building's architecture is thus superposed on its absolute opposite.

This installation was conceived to trigger reflections on several dichotomies: order and chaos, the real and the symbolic, the purely physical and the values that we tie to the cultural, the nation vs. the universe, the momentary and this historical. It seeks to highlight and concretize these dualities in order to offer to the spectator the possibility to cross the lines often drawn between human values and a nature which is entirely outside these values.  

(Nuit Blanche (literally "White Night") is an annual Paris event where the city is open for art installations, concerts, performances, lectures, etc. from dusk to dawn. This year it ran from 7pm October 1 to 7am the following morning.)

I would like to thank everyone who aided in the execution of this piece, including Emmanuelle Toulet, Alain Durel and Hamid Mougamadou of the Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris; Dara Keth and Ivan Marquez of the Direction culturelle de la Ville de Paris; and my friends who assisted in the work's execution and installation: Stéphane Bientz, Catherine Facerias, Elisabeth Lebovici, Ariane Pick, Yves Prince, Benjamin Swaim. And most of all to Catherine Ruello. 

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