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Virtualia : revive old illusionist arts

Jean-Paul Favand trimming the lights for Saint-Etienne-du-Mont (photography by Jean Mulatier).

The Virtualia show in CDA (Enghien-les-Bains) takes to a high level the contradictions, and charms, of a revival. Its designer, Jean-Paul Favand, uses the most advanced techology to ressuscitate great remains of the pre-cinema era. His discourse brings the nostalgy of a lost analogic Eden, quoting the surrealist André Breton on this line (see below). On the other hand, he does not conceal that the light and movement techniques used in the 19th century for a work like Saint-Etienne-du-Mont could not give today satisfactory results. And on this way, like Viollet-le-Duc restoring the French cathedrals, he brings them to a new level of perfection. As he says himself : "We use digital technology as a tool to make up for human intervention, automate it and force the light borne illusion in a total respect of what is being".

The show opens from april 24 to june 30, and is largely worth the trip to Enghien. There is plenty of beauty for the amateurs, of (mild) eroticism for the voyeurs, of technology for the geeks, of souvenirs for the historians and the passeists, of meditation topics for the philosophers... and of fun for the kids. Give a look to the website. Want you some examples ?

The nymphs dressed, or undressed, by light explosions.

- For the voyeurs : "The gods, goddesses and other nymphs will unveil themselves of their digital clothes with light explosions".
- For the geeks : Paésine let you visualise on many different manners, including multi-plane vision, the richness of a paesina (a "landscape stone").
- For the historians : the main part of the show, and the catalog, give you detailed insights on the pre-cinema era, with its mechanical and light effects, of which Jean-Paul Favand is a great collector (he is also the creator of the Musée des arts forains, at Paris-Bercy)
- For the philosophers : meditate the quotation from André Breton : "The analogical method, honored in the Middle Ages, has been rudely replaced by the logical one, which has led us to the dead end we know. The first duty of poets and artists is to restate it with all its prerogatives".You can also see this show of a convincing example of digital art capacity to make do with anything, including itself, in the flow of the global processes that Henry Jenkins calls "spreadable media" [Jenkins 2013].
- For the kids : Do it yourself presents you a set of contorted roots and white shells. Imagnie the shell is an eye, the root the body or head of animal, and dream.

Paesine : a "landscape stone", which the digital system will let you appreciate as never your eyes alone could.

Let's conclude with some words of Jean-Paul Favand, interviewed by Thierry Voisin (Télérama, our translation) : "Lighting ... is here to reveal the work, while respecting it, and to guide the spectator's eye. For the painted canvasses of Morieux, I play only with light, without anything added. On the other hand, for the Saint-Etienne-du-Mont church, I use several light sources : a video projector on front, another one from behind, traditional ones for ambient, LED to enhance some details that do not appear with the video and torches to give life and warmth. ... For the Fête du Roi Soleil, during the sensual vallet of the nymphs, clothed by digital light, light creates illusion. ... The mechanical movement is amplified by augmented reality. Video helps to transform and animate characters, otherwise unmoving. I add interactivity : the audience's claps rythm fireworks, the rockets of which unveil the nudit of these charming creatures".



Paris ACM Siggraph, the French chapter of ACM Siggraph, worldwide non-profit organization of computer graphics.




Les Algoristes, an association of artists using their own algorithms in their work.





Galerie Charlot An important supporter of digital art.