Modern Latitudes

“I like these pieces of writing that slide into brushstrokes. It is a representation of the world that aims to reach the point of getting us to move away from it in order to swing over into something else.”

“…for these images start off very small on a computer in an office, even if their strangeness and exoticism very soon give them an aura of divinity. Before shining forth, they start off as nothing. “ (1)

As part of her work in plastic art, since 2003 Pascale Rémita has been involved in a remarkable and painstaking deconstruction of the flux and images currently at work in our mediatised society. In a recent interview, referring to an imaginary narrative device, the writer Jean-Jacques Schuhl admitted to dreaming of the author as a kind of receiver. Following his example, Pascale Rémita has for a long time deliberately assumed a stance of capturing a ghostlike or hidden iconology. Conducted in the manner of an impersonal survey, her works are fragmented and anonymous accounts that challenge our relationship to imagery, its mobility and persistency. Retinal or mental in nature, this does indeed mean questioning status and movements, in what Benjamen called “the unconsciousness of vision”-the way in which our gaze appropriates and incorporates representations via collective, personal and affective memory. When she is not dipping into a huge pool of signs and particular retranslation, Pascale Rémita sounds out these images’ reception, as well as the optical combinations that they may assume in an exhibition context. Through data gleaned on the Internet, random and non-systematic archiving, the artist will not rest until she has auscultated the various strata and dimensions that make up and sustain our modern realm. Mimicking a process that is empirical rather than arbitrary, the original photograph that she has decided to “process” might thereby be transformed into a landscape at the root of a canvas or an enlargement; a report made while travelling might become the basis for a mental loop. By processing the pictorial matter using changeable and disconcerting focal lengths, the artist develops a complex and sensitive dubbing of contemporary codes and data. Landscaped perspectives, mountain or snow scenes, multiple and indistinct mineralogy-the subjects of Pascale Rémita’s canvasses foster a generalized aesthetic of the area and backdrop, shady spaces and infra-thin luminosiity. At the crossroads of temporality and topography, Pascale Rémita’s productions orchestrate surfaces and depths as if they were sound boxes or echo chambers. Via porosity and permeability, one of the distinctive features of the artist’s work lies in the way in which she challenges our familiar perceptions of the painted or filmed image. By developing an interplay of sensory correspondences using the illustrated or elliptical storyboard of her pieces, Pascale Rémita charts exploded and fragmented awareness of the phenomena.

Painting goes hand in hand here with the action or experience of the sieve and filter, a potential grid for perceiving the contents of the modern bubble. The artist readily employs and plucks references from the language of computing and the field of visual date processing. Such a vocabulary might act as a clue to explaining and approaching Pascale Rémita’s preconceptions or formal interests. If the artist delights in immersing herself in concepts from the imagery of telecommunication, which she makes her own, it is probably because they convey worldviews and representative notions. “Modern vision is one that has subjected to specific geometric laws the way representing distances between things and our distance to things, and thus the way of seeing them.” (2) While navigating in the world of images and its lexical spectrum, the artist is looking for monads and processes that imitate the existing methods of iconographical interpretation. Pascale Rémita’s work consequently brings out this way, whose technique invariably influences the inherent perception of the world in which we move, and which describes the framework of a contemporary paradigm. Entitled Contours actifs, Pascale Rémita’s twofold exhibition takes its name fro a notion in image processing and remote sensing. A contour actif (“active contour”) is a “set of points to be displaced in order to delineate an object outline”; it is also referred to as a “data extraction technique”. These elements may also be the generic by-line to the exhibition’s overall installation, like a story within a story. Pascale Rémita’ s production evolves via the entanglement of information and historical and cultural elements. Trough a corpus of animated and sound images, drawings and paintings, the artist’s pieces act as residual spaces, explained by effects of proximity and contiguity. It is therefore probably no coincidence that these pieces have titles such as Psychovision, Champs magnétique (“magnetic field “), Plasma or Mirage.

In several places the artist acts as geographer or psychographer. Sequence shots of earthly environments, flat mapping of desert-scapes and vastness, Pascale Rémita’s painting is like something between cartography and topology. The whiteness of the canvas recalls the navigators’ terra incognita, with the white spot conventionally representing the unknown or unexplored. In remote sensing, we also refer to image zones or segmentation. This is to distinguish the image’s geometrical features, properties and intensity. The models from which Rémita draws her inspiration include SPOT satellite images, geo-strategic programmes or systems of shape recognition, stereovision and the tracking of moving objects. The artist views and apprehends our relationship with the world in the form of network of exchanges, thereby challenging this active presence of the world and its echo, via the notion of imaginary vision or fossil images. There is very much a sense of déjà vu at work in her works. The artist refers to “intuitive landscapes” when describing the sensitive and mnesic apprehension characteristic of her work. Here, territory should be understood in a broad sense-a flurry of reflections, shocks, and collisions, physical and visual shifts. Displayed in appositional and collage form, her pieces develop within a movement of networked elements; frames of micro or intra fictions orchestrate these units, establishing a dynamic of linkage. The sequencing that Pascale Rémita regularly uses in the layout of her paintings seems to be something directly out of animated imagery, taken from the process of repetition and giving the impression of segmented movement or of stationary scanning. The artist’s triptychs are a case in point. Trough this multi-stage editing, some of her canvases see to come from a video shot and vice versa. In the video Au bord du paysage, the action is similar to a long transit with neither beginning nor end-travelling that conveys a sense of crossing as a way of bordering a subject or territory. Au bord du paysage (lit. “at the landscape’s edge”), the utterance might appear as a postulate or a programme. (3)

In literary criticism, we refer in particular to internal and external focalisation about a type of narrative and to the point of view adopted therein. Pascale Rémita’s work is something of real-time experimentation of the omniscient system of images that surrounds and envelopes us. In this respect, it is worth nothing that we talk about a panoptic vision when we encounter the “sentiment of an invisible omniscience.”. (4)

By taking an interest in the migration of these reproductions and their journeys in the realm of media, we are at the same time questioning our relationship to them, as unwittingly immersed spectators. Entangling the infinitesimal and the macrocosm, the artist constructs huge kaleidoscopic prism. Light and chromatic processing play a preponderant role in this crystalline, mineral cosmology. The organic, cellular and shapeless occupy a not insignificant place in the subjects of Rémita’s works. The H2O series presents forms with a vague peripheries, reminiscent of globular clusters and lamps in clinical laboratories. Drops, liquefaction, frost or snow are avatars or intermediary states that recur on several occasions, as do chiaroscuro or twilight blue. Behind the fragments and details probably lie utopia and the metaphor of a global vision-in the literal as well as the figurative sense-somewhere between hypothetical panning and improbable zooming, setting out to explore observable or hidden layers. A journey to both ends of the visible world. Exploration turned true narration. The artist’s diptychs that set a watercolor depicting a mountaineer gazing elsewhere alongside oil paintings of white quartz are possibly allegories or a mise en abyme illustrating her practice. “Knowledge by entanglement is knowledge by the abyss-an endless journey into the world of things, the acute awareness of being involved in it, the deep longing for a life within these folds.” (5) Working trough analogies between pictorial texture and territory, the reliefs or contours of the subjects of her paintings can become motifs in their own right. Trough an anamorphic interplay, in perhaps a garment or piece of fabric, we can discern the camouflage print, trough the effect of distance or closeness. Echappée, Attractive – point-the names of Pascale Rémita’s exhibitions appear as avatars of the fleeting and fading. Wavering between graphic interest and digital drawing, the natural element merges into something else and vice versa. It is often a case of to-ings and fro-ings, a twofold movement between captation and reformulation. The figurative is brought to bear in a constant and unstoppable tension with the abstract.

If we can talk about Pascale Rémita’s videos in terms of nomadism, it is because the displacement is orchestrated in the same way as the pictorial work, somewhere between disappearance and remembrance. Reverie and roaming form one and instances of reminiscence and latent periods. The artist puts it like this:”Mixing mediums makes it is possible to highlight and chart the course taken from the place where we are towards an unknown but dreamed-of destination.” The sites of heterotopias, these images are also a weighted investigation and the way in which we weight them. Dating from 2002, the Civil subjects series is symptomatic of a recurrent paradox in Rémita’s work-the subjects in question are deserted buildings and abandoned sites. Any human presence is apparent through suggestion or absence. The wide TV coverage of images of the Gulf War and subsequent conflicts spring to mind. Military registers or ones pertaining to video surveillance, aiming and targets are signs of all time that some have dubbed the “age of suspicion”. Doubts about what is being seen, like the polymorphic nature of what is there to see. Evidence through imagery has become a relative decoy. The painting in which drops visible on a glass pane serve in fact to reveal the presence of the glass will stay in our minds. Emblematic of Pascale Rémita’s plastic peregrinations through textures and depths, this piece takes the same approach as if the painting were a screen. The series of palm trees appears to be a declension of archetypal figures framed in an elegant and neutral way. The leaves seem to be bathed in the blue-tinted, sun-filled atmosphere of West Coast California. The connotations it gives off are somewhat akin to a visual album with an indistinct mix of urbanity and exoticism, a feeling of recognition but uncertainty about the origin. A sensational climatology and cosmopolitism are combined with the allusive and evocative power of these vignettes, describing as many traces of wandering:”I don’t look through the camera but carry the seeing object with me, setting it down on the ground here and there.” (6)

An endless Work in progress, Pascale Rémita’s art insidiously jostles the viewer’s vistas of expectation. In his most recent work, Jacques Rancières notably remarked:”The problem is not to set reality against its appearance. It is to build other realities.” (7) Via the notions of off camera and point of view, the artist experiences a novel way of confounding the position of who is looking and at what, while at the same time revealing and itemizing a certain Zeitgeist. We could see it as the experience of a seer conducted in its various accepted facets and boundary positions. Likening transit to a slideshow, Pascale Rémita’s work is something of a mental and sensory journey, focusing on a reality with moving facets and contours in a constant state of modelling. It is a crossing things whose subject does not make up the events themselves, but the repercussions they give rise to. A rhythm of intervals, a melody of slowing down and scrolling, a sense of detachment and invasion. Cool memories that alternate contemplation and a melancholic approach, visual disturbance and impressionistic road movies. A dialogue skimming hazy limits and evanescent edges, the artist’s works evolve as a furtive submersion into the potentialities of objects and territories. In the game of successive duplications, of images within an image, Pascale Rémita’s invites us to our own delightful displacement within the decor. Seeing up close to look ourselves from far.

Frédéric Emprou, 2010

(1) Olivier Assayas, in the inteview Là où se fabrique le fantasme du monde, Purple fashion, Winter 2004.
(2) Guy Hocquenghem, René Schérer, L’âme atomique, Albin Michel, 1986
(3) With their common partiality for wandering, mobilis in mobile and auto-poetry, the artist’s works may in some respects be compared with those of Stefan Altenburger. Photographs of Swiss undergrowth, wavering between wary evanescence and diaphanous, fascinating futility spring to mind. We may also recall Altenburger’s video entitled Promenade in which the decor is completely in keeping with the atmosphere and architecture of one of Rémita’s paintings.
(4) Wikipedia article.
(5) Georges Didi-Huberman, l’image survivante, histoire de l’art et du temps des fantômes selon Aby Warburg, Minuit, 2002.
(6) Gary Hill, in Louis-José Lestocart, A discussion with Gary Hill, Art press n° 210, February 1996.
(7) Jacques Rancières, Le spectateur émancipé, La Fabrique, 2008.