1996 - POLE (with Nicolas Moulin)

Nicolas Moulin & Bertrand Lamarche, Pôle, 1996-2000
Installation audiovisuelle : diaporama quatre-vingts vues, dispositif sonore, dimensions variables

Start with a simple idea, add a slide projector and a turntable, and you have the pleasantly surprising Nicolas Moulin and Bertrand Lamarche installation, "Pole."
News photo
News photo
"Novomond -- Pole 41" (above) and "Novomond -- Pole 27" (top) by Nicolas Moulin
Now at the Gallery Koyanagi, a high-class Ginza art space that's avant-garde at heart, "Pole" is a low-tech piece that combines strangely ambiguous pictures of building exteriors with low-end audio feedback to create a weird and unsettling atmosphere. It is one of the most engaging works of art showing in Tokyo right now.
Granted, thing have been slow recently, but an otherwise boring Ginza gallery promenade last Saturday took a turn for the better when I stopped in at the Koyanagi, having first noticed the unending waves of feedback floating out through the door and onto Chuo-dori.
As readers old enough to have had vinyl records will know, turntables need to be grounded or they will hum. The turntable in "Pole" is purposely not grounded and sits on a thin yet dense sheet of plastic that vibrates because of the low-frequency signal the rotating turntable generates. Instead of a record, the pickup tracks a smooth, ungrooved vinyl disc, resulting in a slow, wavering electronic signal being generated. Because the sound is heavily amplified, this further vibrates the turntable -- the result is a feedback loop that acts as the spookily murmuring soundtrack for this installation.
The turntable was devised by Bertrand Lamarche, who collaborated with fellow Frenchman Moulin on "Pole." The visual projections for the piece are from an ongoing series Moulin calls "Novomond," a neologism he coined for "new world." There is a slide projector in the Koyanagi's darkened main exhibition room that slowly works its way around a carousel of 80 Novomond images, throwing them onto a large screen on the gallery's far wall.
I'm half-disinclined to reveal the process Moulin uses to make the Novomond images, as figuring this out for myself was part of the appeal of this piece. But here goes: Moulin photographs high-rise buildings and does so by positioning his camera flat against an exterior wall, pointing up toward the sky.
The resulting images trick the eye, appearing at first to be futuristic landscapes -- the walls as ground, the tops of the buildings as the horizon running across the frame, with the sky above. Whatever protrusions there are on the building's exterior (balconies, fire escapes, reflective windows) are perceived as architectural elements on this futuristic landscape.
The show's title, "Pole," refers both to the qualities of magnetism associated with the low-audio feedback and to the stark atmosphere Moulin's icy blue pictures impart -- if these really were landscapes, a viewer might imagine they had been taken at some Arctic research station.
In a very real way, everything depends on how you look at Moulin's work. By pointing his camera not at but rather alongside and up the big buildings found in our urban environments, the 31-year-old artist has achieved something all artists strive for -- namely bringing the viewer to a new way of seeing things we tend to take for granted.
Another refreshing thing about Moulin's art is the process of creation. Too many artists these days start with an idea and then bring in technicians to run computer programs that produce the actual work, be it a 3-D video or whatever. Moulin walks around with a camera, looking up and snapping the pictures that reveal his hidden landscapes (many of the Novomond images at the Koyanagi were taken while the artist was in Tokyo setting up this show). And when he needs a soundtrack, he and his buddy fool around with a turntable, some wires, and an amp and speakers.
In an unusual move, Moulin and the Koyanagi are offering 80 cm X 120 cm Novomond C-type prints as uniques (usually, photographic works are sold in editions ranging from several to hundreds). The reason for this, explains the artist, is that he is constantly walking around with his camera, producing more and more of these intriguing images.
Now that's process, pure and simple.

text by Monty Dipietro, JapanTimes 2001