Laurent Montaron

Institut d’Art Contemporain

Laurent Montaron expands the cinematic space of his films into the real space of the gallery, treating light and sound as malleable physical materials. His audio installation Untitled (D’Après la Sonosphère d’Elipson) (After the Sonosphere of Elipson), 2006, a six-track recording of the string section of the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse tuning their instruments to the sine wave of a telephone dial tone, pours from a dodecahedral speaker suspended from the middle of the ceiling. A ten-minute recording continually loops, filling the space as if to model its contours with pulsing sound waves. Immediately following Sonosphere, Montaron steeps a small adjacent gallery in the blue neon light of Rounded with a Sleep, 2006—the title a quote from The Tempest. The icy hue—a precise shade that renders one’s veins nearly invisible—is similar to the lighting used in some German train stations to deter drug users for precisely this quality. Likewise, Montaron’s new installation Silent Key, 2009, treats silence as an autonomous material. In front of one wall of an empty room, a second wall of bricks extends from floor to ceiling. A narrow gap between the temporary architectural element and the gallery’s structural wall, revealing a messy support system, draws visitors toward an exit door. The silence of the space is punctuated by the recorded Morse code prosign—SK, or “silent key”—used to indicate the end of a message.

With its circuit of interlinking spaces, the exhibition as a whole echoes the elliptical quality of Montaron’s films, such as Will there be a sea battle tomorrow?, 2008. Revisiting an experiment developed at the Freiburg Institute of Parapsychology to test human powers of prediction, Montaron employs the Freiburg “Psi-recorder”—a random generator of symbols that test subjects attempt to anticipate. One can be only right or wrong. The film’s earnest subject, her hair pulled sharply back from her unmade face, concentrates before each response, which is duly recorded by a white-bearded lab technician. The data collection seems relentless and unending as the film seamlessly loops. In an installation in the neighboring gallery, How is it that this long night is interrupted?, 2008, Montaron gives this duality—one can either predict the future or not—a plastic form. Comprising two lightbulbs and a porcelain switch that triggers a generator programmed to randomly illuminate one bulb, the other, or both, the work mimics the mechanics of the Freiburg test while also evoking poetic surrender to an unknowable and contingent future. Pace, 2009, makes the film’s projector just as visible as the looping image of a fish heart slowly beating in an open palm. The mechanics of presentation are apparent, while the narrative explanation of the film is never revealed.

In Montaron’s new film, Balbvtio, 2009, two identical takes of the same script are projected in sync on two screens. A young boy, dressed in a red sweater, shoots pigeons down from a church’s vaulting and unwinds a note from a pigeon’s leg—a cryptic message in Esperanto. Shots of the boy’s indoor hunt alternate with scenes of him hard at work at his desk, translating a poetic text that begins, THE BODY OF THE RIVER KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES. On a display shelf near the screens on which the film was projected were four guns, not unlike the one wielded by the young marksman, wrapped in waxy black cloth and tucked into a nearby display shelf. This work, The Body of a river knows no boundaries, 2008, is in fact an assisted readymade, testifying both to the film’s truth and its fabrication.

Lillian Davies