Celui qui garde le ver


The one who keeps the worm

Antoine Schmitt with Joana Preiss, 1998

Antoine Schmitt: programs
Joana Preiss : voices

Installation performance a singer dialogs with a worm.

Given during the opening of the Ouverture 3 exhibition in the Château de Bionnay, in July 1998.
Also presented in the Glassbox gallery, in September 1998, with Studio Mobile and icono.
Celui Qui Garde le Ver presents itself like a performance-object during about 15 minutes. On a videoprojected screen, a visual entity programmed on computer, Le Ver (the worm), moves in an autonomous way, with little wandering jumps. In front of the screen, Joana Preiss improvises while singing, going from incantation to everyday sounds. Le Ver is sensible to sound: it halts at the slightest unusual sound, then it gets used to it and goes on wandering. The voice sometimes follows, sometimes provokes the jumps and disordered stops of Le Ver: Le Ver is at the same time living partition and instrument. A relationship starts to exist. Each one of them act and react according to the mood of the moment: each presentation of Celui Qui Garde Le Ver differs from the other ones.
Fruit of the collaboration with Joana Preiss, who is a contemporary and classical singer, Celui Qui Garde Le Ver primal and intimate encounter between a human being and an artificial creature around silence and sound, is a creation at the crossing of musical composition, sound performance and plastic art.

Genesis “Celui qui garde le ver”

For some time, I wanted to work on the confrontation between an artificial creature and a performer, that is someone used to work and to express herself with her body. Until then I made installations or objects in which entities with a complex behavior where confronted to the spectators. I wanted to go deeper in this work on the shape of the relationship that happens between the spectator and the entity. I wanted to make this relationship more pure, to work on the matter of the encounter between a human being and a non human being. My encounter with Joana was a turning point on this issue (even though we are both very human).
We knew some of each other’s work, and at this moment she was working on some partitions from John Cage. We really found a common ground around Cage and Philip K. Dick. John Cage for his approach of the living musical partition (“The artwork is not an object closed on itself, but a dynamic organism, the the interpret has to make live”), the importance he gives to silence and chance, the visual dimension of the music that he proposes. Philip K. Dick for his shifts of reality, its psychotic confrontations between humane machines and inhumane humans, his obsession with chance and destiny.
We started to work from a partition of Cage, but it introduced a third element in the encounter. We wanted to create an object-encounter as minimal as possible; Joana tried to improvise and we found out that this projected her in a very intimate manner in the relationship woth Le Ver. What appeared, was not Joana nor Le Ver, but their encounter, that is what we were looking for.
The behavior of le Ver (the worm) relatively to the sound is inspired from the behaviors of primitive animals: in the midst of silence, a sound implies the presence of another, and triggers listening. There is surprise and stop, that we can interpret as being fright or attention. Le Ver thus feels free in silence, but halts at the slightest sound. Then it gets used to the sound. At the beginning, Le Ver was very simple: it stopped brutally at all sounds, and his path was totally random. I injected a bit more will, and I augmented its self-trust, so that he often does not obey Joana, even though she could always command it if she really wanted to. We reached, after numerous rehearsals, a kind of equilibrium where Joana and Le Ver are more or less equal. The spectators cannot distinguish which one directs the other one, and in fact, this actually changes all the time, depending on the will of Joana and the internal state of Le Ver. It becomes very difficult to know if the sound come before or after the movement, to know which one causes the other. Even more so as Joana sometimes anticipates the movements of Le Ver. This ambiguity interests us very much, it accentuates the fusion between Joana and Le Ver in the whole object, and it opens a door to questioning.
We have also worked the shape of the voice. The Chants du Capricorne of Scelci were our starting point. We have worked a lot on the emotive quality of the sounds, and we settled on a primal incantation mode which can slide up to every days sounds of taming. These sounds imply an Other to which they are addressed, whether it is a pagan god and a frightened animal, and which exteriorize an internal emotion.
Today, Celui Qui Garde Le Ver has found its final shape. It has been presented twice at the Opening of the exhibition Ouverture 3 at the Château de Bionnay (France) on the 4th of July 1998

Antoine Schmitt – July 1998


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