Laurent Bolognini “Solo Show – Lux Ex Machina”
Louise Alexander Gallery, Porto Cervo, Italy
27/07/2013 to 28/08/2013
A solo show installation based on the persistence of vision, Laurent Bolognini invents light sculptures to rotary movements drawing unexpected geometric shapes, sculpting space, constantly redefining in a series of convolutions of light patterns. In these fascinating ephemeral impressions and these figures in dreamlike spatial-temporal rhythm constantly changing, plus a unique relationship, an unusual dialogue with music.
“It is the very first thing one sees when stepping into Laurent Bolognini’s studio.
Perched atop a sturdy tripod, it stands out against, and steals the show from, the unusual view of Paris showcased by the glass wall: in this part of the 13th arrondissement, the city of lights is stripped bare of all her usual old seductress tricks, and looks like a rainy Sao Paulo as captured by Andreas Gursky.
One can’t keep one’s eyes off it, yet it is difficult to figure out its exact nature. Is it an obsolete Soviet machine tool? A Klingon prop stolen from the set of Star Trek? Or rather a weird Arte Povera sculpture?
It is Laurent Bolognini who finally puts one’s mind at rest by telling it like it is: “It is a light machine” he quips nonchalantly, thus revealing the real character of this strange and enigmatic box, at once vaguely disturbing, childlike and a tad bit ironic. The expression “Light machine” he uses is typical not only of the vocabulary range he chooses to describe his work –he’s also very reluctant to use verbs like “create” or “design” and favours “manufacture” above all else- but ultimately of his very creative process: Laurent Bolognini is a an artist who stands halfway between fantasy and matter, instinct and technology; an highly pragmatic dreamer who refuses to grow up: “I have the feeling nothing has changed since my teen age years: I’m still trying to dismantle my moped engine to understand how it works”.
Laurent Bolognini has somehow managed to never lose sight of the child within him; that precocious, inquisitive child with a passion for science and space technologies he once was. And if he readily admits to neither considering him- self as an artist, nor being particularly impressed with the whole concept of “High Art”, such a statement coming from him is the exact opposite of arrogance: this admirer of Tinguely, Takis, Calder or Rebecca Horn takes art and artists very seriously, yet doesn’t take himself seriously at all, and claims to be a “do-it-yourselfer” who favours pragmatism over intellectualism. An ego-free, hands-on approach that is consistent the ethos and culture of a man who has lived several lives already: a trained photographer, he once shot album covers and rock star portraits for major record labels, briefly worked as a lorry driver for a fashion shoot production company, played assistant to Peter Lindbergh and Guy Bourdin, and was even involved in the makings of legendary 1980s NYC nightclub The Area -which changed themes every month, and was entirely redecorated accordingly each time- where he used to hang out with Jean-Michel Bas- quiat. His career as a lighting specialist started off as an accident, an odd job to make ends meet that wasn’t meant to last. After learning his trade on the job, he went on to become one of the most sought-after light professionals in the world of French contemporary ballet. He finally designed his first light machine in 1998, as part of a group project by art collective Les Alternateurs Volants: it was a rather simple light beam device designed to visually enhance a live performance of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini. The first in a series of increasingly sophisticated and monumental projects bringing together light and sound, performance and art. Yes, art. Because of course, one is not to believe Laurent Bolognini when he says he is not an artist, and what he does is not art: if he does keep away from the egotistic, aloof attitude that too often seems to go with being a present-day visual artist, and actively distrusts inspiration as a creative force to rather rely on technical research, he’s a genuine artist in the sense that he’s obsessed with an idea: give light a physicality, make it a tangible reality. He is a man on a quest, a bona fide monomaniac, who keeps going further and further, constantly pushing boundaries and challenging himself and his medium: in recent years, his focus has dramatically shifted from achieving gobsmacking visual effects (“The constant evolution of technology makes it so much more simple today that when I first started out, especially in terms of logistics and costs”) to adapting them to large scale, Andy Goldworthy-meets-James Turrell outdoors installations. A pantheist streak that goes hand in hand with his endearingly childish taste for bits and bobs and makeshift mechanisms, another longtime obsession of his, which translates into his current exploration of the aesthetic potential of the light machine per se.
But an artist’s identity cannot be summed up by mere processes, even clever ones, and the truth about Laurent Bolognini lies elsewhere. There’s a missing part in his creative equation if one does not understand what really makes him tick. The secret finally unravels when he digs from his archives an old photograph of a photon published in some obscure Italian science publication. A seemingly banal ray of light that literally moves him to tears. What does he see in it? “A particle that contains the whole universe, and Mankind is in there too, somewhere.” The mask has finally dropped: Bolognini’s proclaimed search for technological excellence is in reality a deeply existential journey. French writer Jean Paulhan once wrote: “A poet must walk in the dark if they want to see the light”. If not a poet, Bolognini is undoubtedly an alchemist who has turned funny-looking lead machines in Pandora’s boxes of light.” (Text by Jerôme Farssac)