Human Fiction

Action – Creation – Critique

Micro Macro Expo in Lille: Filtered Realites

From one million to seven million, that’s the population growth of our planet between the xixth and xxist centuries 1. That’s more than a boom. How can a planet hold so many of us? Overpopulation is literally a growing problem. With the growth of the population, and thus human activity, as well as our greater capacity for precision, changes and contrasts are inevitable. We have mega huge shopping centers and nanotechnology, giant metropolises, empty villages.

The contemporary art expo Micro Macro in Lille at the Gare St. Sauveur recently took on this theme: it explored the topic of size and number. In our world, the infinite is possible in both ways: small and large. The artworks in the expo imagined the impact of size, distance, perception, and time, and how these factors can be used to fabricate a story, to go from real to imaginary. Although the relationship between reality and the imaginary was a strong current through the entire expo, three works stood out.

Cityscape 2095, by Yannick Jacquet and Thomas Vaquié

The first was an animated film portrait by Yannick Jacquet and Thomas Vaquié, entitled Cityscape 2095. In the city of the future, things are not so different, and at the same time more crowded, messy, loud, multicultural and metallic than ever before. The art piece was a looping animated film that the viewer sees through glass windows. So, from the point of view of a passer-by it’s as though you’re looking out of a window over a cityscape. It was in a dimly-lit room and accompanied by city sounds recorded to match the video. The sun sets gradually, we see the city at night, and after about five to eight minutes, the sun is rising again. The colors are vivid, the sound evocative, and the visual details are a lot of fun.

This cityscape video is really a story in and of itself, a science fiction without words. We can literally project ourselves into the future, and imagine what it would be like there. The vision remains fairly neutral, we don’t see either suffering or happiness, just architecture. The people of the city are present (in the honking horns, moving cars, lights turning on and off) but invisible. Telling the future this way leaves us to imagine that the city will remain essentially the same, even as they expand and homogenize. It’s a kind of realism of the future, we can imagine cities in the future actually looking this way.

Flock, by Bernd Oppl

The other two pieces explored how a video can fabricate and determine a point of view, one different from the “real” view of someone present, behind the camera. Flock by Bernd Oppl was a miniature model of a room, spinning on its side like a wheel, with a handful of black beads rolling along the inside as it turned. A video camera in the center is pointed towards the ground, and so films the beads as they are pulled downward by gravity. The video was projected on to the wall behind it in real time. Seeing the dark mass moving along the walls is enough to think of Paranormal Activity or Kubrick’s The Shining.

Not only does it make you think of a horror movie, but it shows just how easy it can be to create a haunting atmosphere on screen and, more generally, trick the mind into seeing something imaginary instead of the reality behind the camera. The mind creates its own fiction. Here, the camera appears as a better story teller than truth teller. What the camera shows (a haunted room) is totally different from what the live person sees (a model room rotating on its side).

Al-Anim, by Alain Josseau

In the third piece, the artist constructs an explicit visual fiction before the eyes of the viewer. Al-Amin by Alain Josseau played with the idea of the camera constructing reality, but took it a step further than Oppl by using a very political context. This piece is similar to the previous in that a turning disk model of city streets is video-recorded live and displayed on a miniature TV set. It really looks like footage of a city seen from above, especially from the point of view of a pilot. The sound is a real recording from a recent military air mission, in which journalists and civilians were fatally mistaken for enemy targets.

The text from the expo’s program describes it as the “fictionalization” of reality —the real sound recording set to a fake image 2. It seems to me to be as much about how one person’s point of view can be filtered through a what we call a “lens,” a metaphor for a point of view or a bias. The camera here is a physical lens through which reality (the model city) is filtered to appear as the view from a helicopter, and stands for whatever the pilot’s vision is filtered through (bias, orders, distance, etc.). This metaphor is rich on many levels. The the video camera represents the distance of the pilots from reality on the ground. Reality in the artwork is the model neighborhood that appears real on screen. Reality in the situation recreated was a mistaken identity. The distance and the “lens” alter visions and allows us to see what we perceive and not an objective reality. The greater the distance then, this piece seems to argue, the easier it is to misinterpret the visual field, or the message. When our perception is filtered through something like a video camera, seeing reality is all the more difficult.

Here we find a critique, not of the grounds of armed conflict, but a reminder of the imperfections of the methods employed to carry it out. This piece shows how easily a story is extrapolated when at a distance. Ironically, the distance in this case comes from technology that is intended to be efficient, effective, and reduce casualties. Here, technology creates a distance between parties which leads to the fictionalization of reality. The artwork, in a way, compares the construction of the viewpoints of the pilots to the making of a movie. The model is not so different than the ones used to make the original Star Wars. Both the Flock and Al-Amin also critique media itself, and the messages passed from one side of the globe to another, from one side of the television set to another.

For all of these works, they take reality and pass it through a filter whether it be a camera or our imagination, or both, in order to see what happens. In the case of Al-Amin, we think we have the real aerial footage until we realize that the model is being filmed. In the case of Flock, it’s the difference between rolling beads and a mysterious mass floating along the walls of an unknown room. The main problem is the passage of information when the scale is enlarged and perception is filtered. As for the Cityscape 2095, reality is filtered not through a camera lens, but through time. We imagine what today’s world might become if things continue to move in the same direction. Each of the fictional narratives implied by these three pieces, then, is constructed from something set in reality, whether it be a model, a sound recording, or the contemporary city.


  1. Según una estimación, la esperanza de vida al nacer aumentó de 30 a 67 años entre 1800 y 2005, lo que dio lugar a un veloz crecimiento de la población: esta ha pasado de 1.000 millones en 1810 a más de 7.000 millones en 2012: “According one estimation, life expectancy has risen from 30 to 67 years between 1800 and 2005, which has given way to a swift rise in population: it has gone from 1,000 million in 1810 to more than 7,000 million in 2012.” Ref: Palacios, Issac, “11 de julio, Día Mundial de la Población,” June 11, 2014, *Radio Ciudana IMER 

  2. En convoquant tous les moyens de reproduction, de reconsitution et de « fictionnalisation » du réel, cette installation multiplie, croise et empile les méditations, jouant sur tous les registres du faux. : “By using all means of reproduction, reconstruction and ‘fictionalization’ of reality, this installation multiplies, crosses and piles up meditations, playing on all registers of false.” Ref: Lille 3000, Guide Visiteurs FR, Micro Macro, 25 mai – 14 septembre 2014, Gare Saint Sauveur, Lille 

By Laura Deavers, on November 13, 2014. Top.

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