press release

The means used by Julius are at once simple and extremely precise: sound diffusers (loudspeakers of varying sizes) are arranged in the space in question and connected with varied materials, in particular pigments covering the membrane, or spread on another element (sheets of glass or steel, for example, themselves set on loudpseakers). The music thus has to pass through the materials chosen and "animates" them by giving them the energy of a specific vibration. The "small music", which is at times very low and rumbling, can also produce, in a small song that is only just audible, a feeling of lightness and fluidity which seem close to natural noises (insects, a babbling stream, wind, etc.). In fact, though, all the musical works are more or less worked out by the artist, whether the initial acoustic material he uses stems from reality and the natural world or not (recording), or whether it is purely artificial (synthesized music made by computer). So in spite of the economy of means, we should not underestimate the importance of the very worked technique and character of the works. We find the same paradox between the very "formal" attention of the installations (the purged character of the exhibitions) and the intuitive and invariably sensitive aspect of the work: this has to do with the fact that Julius "constructs" the links between visual and acoustic sensations with a great deal of attentiveness, not to say concentration, for he is always very careful to achieve the best possible encounter between them so as to create a unique, one-off space, with two dimensions.

Floating (2004, FRAC Languedoc-Roussillon collection) is very typical of this link between the visible and the audible, which is here a simple vibration through two heavy sheets of steel. It is as if the matter were coming to life, and with it the place where it is set--here, specifically, the floor, almost the same grey colour as the sheets, with the loudspeakers turned towards it.

Ink drawings have always gone hand in hand with the acoustic pieces (the artist also devises his installations on the basis of small drawings which illustrate the permanent interaction of the visual and the acoustic, and six of them are on view in the exhibition), but it was from the mid-1990s on that he embarked on the production of large wall pieces. Involved here were photographs of his pieces with pigments, giving rise to a re-interpretation on computer, then to a print run on an ink printer, an old office Epson through which the sheets of Korean paper pass, here again in a strange tension between modern and traditional elements. The wonderful large work made for this show, For Cello, consists of 36 prints of these pigment stains photographed and then reinstated as if identically by printer. What emerges from this masterly ensemble is a sense of motion; but it can also be regarded either as a score based on which everyone can develop their "small music", or as the visual equivalent of the different acoustic sensations

and vibrations that are perceived in the whole exhibition space. The relation between the works and nature is often explained by the titles: Desert Piece and Large Grey--or to Block the View of the Landscape evoke, needless to say, a constructed nature, worked out like an abstract or conventional garden (the flower pots often used by the artist are an obvious symbol of "culture"), but, despite this, keeping a link with an "original nature", which can be dreamt up by means of our senses concentrated on what hampers them, in fact on everything they encounter (coloured pepper, cement, earth, etc.).Why Green, Why Color? is a work in progress which spreads with each showing: it is like a "small orchestra" which mixes several pieces of small music and a wide variety of elements (in particular peppers for cooking which also give rise to olfactory sensations), either used directly or shown as images, in an endless repetition which opens up the perceptible even more to the dimension of thought (what am I seeing? what is seeing? Isn't it also remembering what one has seen and smelt?) The lights form a manner of presentation which permits an internalization of the whole, and it takes time to perceive everything the artist has to tell us, in order to let ourselves be swept up in this general song.

Lastly, Music for the Eyes is a work which plays on the organic closeness of the eyes and ears: by placing loudspeakers over the eyes, the viewer lying down (and blind) perceives the music being broadcast in him in an inward way. He thus feels his own body like a space of passage where vibrations activate the keenest of feelings, and even "images" conjured up by Julius's musicians. Is our memory not universally formed by natural noises and by everything that the world gives us to feel and sense, starting with those elements, water, wind, rain and even, with insects' songs, summer heat?

Rolf Julius's oeuvre is thus a work of restitution or restoration of what is felt and experienced by the human being, with simple means: the artist does not try to "create", or modify the elements of the world. He is quite content to put them in a new situation or technical and formal arrangement, so that they are also perceived by people other than himself with the same acuteness, the same sense of fullness, and the same freedom. So art is not a matter of "deranging the senses" (Rimbaud), but a harmonious development, always there to be conquered in time by each individual. As such, it is also an experience of happiness and life.

Emmanuel Latreille Director, FRAC Languedoc-Roussillon Translated by Simon Pleasance


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Rolf Julius - Listen to black