Text written for the solo exhibition Unnamed Feelings, gallery 22,48 m², Paris, 2017.

To envision what radical otherness might be: the seal of impossibility with which such a venture is stamped simultaneously turns it into a tireless motor for creativity. If the ancient gods dealt with arousing the fantasizing function, the aura of mystery has shifted. Secularised, back down on earth, it has nested itself in another totem’s inwardness, just as hermetic: the machine, fantasized as a fully-fledged organism. Projection mechanisms, for their part, remain fundamentally the same. For the more we attempt to describe what eludes us, the more we end up describing ourselves. Hasn’t Jean Baudrillard already implied that “automation and personalisation aren’t contrary to each other at all. Automation is merely personalisation dreamed up at the object’s level”1? Caroline Delieutraz’s research attests to these implications: digital encryption of immemorial myths and the reinvestment of primary affects in the technosphere.

Certain of the key elements that guide her approach are outlined from the very title of her new monographic exhibition. To entitle it “Unnamed Feelings”, in reference to Metallica’s song The Unnamed Feeling, reflects the process of sampling the signs that populate everyday life, a process that is also found in the reproduction of a Kilim carpet’s pattern or the recontextualization of SNCF² luggage nets. In this way, Caroline Delieutraz updates certain iconic patterns, cognitive as well as affective, that circulate within contemporary visual culture. Seeing, thinking and feeling in a new media environment, through media which we’ve yet to fully tame, necessarily has an impact on content – on what is seen, on what is perceived and on what is felt in itself. It is then quite possible that the “unnamed feelings”, these nameless feelings, might refer to a new genre of YouTube video currently in vogue across the Atlantic: ASMR. This acronym for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” refers to a priori non-sexual physical stimulation -resolutely devoid of any scientific basis- awakened by the recording of sounds with stress-relieving properties, with all sorts of whispers, cracks and squeaks. While the emotional projection systems generated by the digital environment that surrounds us remain understudied, they supply a common ground for three series of artworks presented in the exhibition.

Installation Pandinus Dictator, which is presented for the first time, starts from the altogether classic fascination for a dangerous animal: the scorpion. One year ago, in the autumn of 2015, Caroline Delieutraz finds out on the radio about the seizure of 119 scorpions belonging to protected species Pandinus Dictator. As rare as it is toxic, this scorpion from Cameroon’s tropical forest is worshiped by reptile aficionados. On specialised online bulletin board services, some even cast doubt about the very existence of this super-arachnid -notably presumed to be able to withstand nuclear radiation. To put emphasis on the fantasies fuelled by animals’ real or imagined qualities, the artist goes to the place where they are quarantined, accompanied by a studio photographer in order to take their pictures. From the resulting 94 individualised portraits, eight will be presented as part of “Unnamed Feelings” and they highlight distinctive features. An aspect underlined by the engraving for each frame where a diagram using categories derived from role playing cards evaluates their power according to the following variables: Venom, Strength, Resistance, Morphology, Self-control.

The video which accompanies the pictures combines online found footage of scorpion-shaped by-products -from the statuette to the office chair-, lines of text lifted from online bulletin boards and video recordings from behind-the-scenes of the photo shoot. The hand that can be seen positioning the scorpions on screen in order to ensure that they are at their most photogenic, echoes a number of prior artworks by Caroline Delieutraz. In the style of Andy Warhol’s iconic Time Capsules, an archival system made to hold onto time, which is as obsessional as it is rudimentary and that comes in the form of a simple cardboard box filled with mundane objects, the artist imagines a new form of storage. Embedded Files holds objects and images in the same way a floppy disk or a USB drive do. With the exception that in this case, what has been judged worthy of preservation is trapped within simple blocks of translucent wax. Captive, yet visible in fragments, much like foggy memories can be, these audio cassettes, CD and packaging fragments hybridise technology and DIY. A video accompanies their physical presentation, where one can witness their manipulation by an anonymous hand. The synchronous and perfectly choreographed gestures are simultaneously reminiscent of infomercials and Youtube’s user- generated videos, from the book leafed through on screen to the much-vaunted ASMR videos with soothing properties.

If falling back from the human to the non-human is inevitable, the opposite path seems even thornier. The question of imagining the other, when it would not radically be such, machine or animal, neither entirely similar to itself, is confronted to a major imagination shortage. In the wake of budding cyberculture, the ideal of a “new flesh” develops in the 90s, that is to say, a virtualised body relieved of its physical ties. Yet, to signify the other, only one attribute seems to be self-sufficient, an eternal return to the same: the colour blue. With Blue Skins, Caroline Delieutraz maps the apparition and the transformation of this motif in popular cultural productions through comic books, animation, and films, methodically classifying these “tiny blue men” by order of appearance – the first occurrence being “The Beast” in X-Men in 1963. Presented under glass, following a display that is usually associated with conceptual artworks from the 70s, the piece shows the persistence of mythical and immemorial blueprints emanating from cyberculture, at the same time as an upheaval in the way to express the emotions produced by these fictions.

Faced with chaotic emotions, classification is reassuring. By aligning, in chronological order, representations of the unknown, or by covering a domestic fabric with a geometric drawing of a disturbing animal, a semblance of order is restored. These micro-narratives and taming rituals cobbled together by users of a supposedly neutral technology thus provide an orderly bedrock. On the basis of which the mind can finally truly imagine the sudden appearance of other possible futures – and these futures are “Unnamed” because they are firmly hybrid.

1. Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects, Paris, Gallimard, 2014, p. 158
2. The French national railway company.

Traduction : Edouard Isar