CRITICAL FUSION (Handle with care!)

Cirtical Fusion
13th September 2008

Faced with the difficulty of defining the significant evolution of techniques connected with my work, I have realised that I need to make explicit the metaphorical concept I have come up with : Critical Fusion.

In order that the concept might be understood, the only possibility is to write its manifesto or rather to manifest its writing. However, if there is one field of activity that I find difficult, it is that of putting the written word before the action, however laconic the first and however fleeting the second. I must therefore resign myself to sending out to the Dump the project for the theoretical work, which for all this seems no less essential.

The starting point of the analysis was the difficulty I had defining the encounter between my work on immersion, made possible thanks to virtual reality, and my interest in acting on the real world, as well as on physical and social space. The line between these two practices, of course, had nothing to do with technology, which seemed to separate them, but probably more to do with the concept of the situation as represented by the materialisation of the two.

When they are not limited to simulation, virtual environments enable symbolic materialisation (World Skin, The Tunnel Under the Atlantic, Crossing Talks, The Important Questions etc). In the 80s, video allowed me to place my interlocutors (B. Lavier, J-M. Alberola, J. Le Gac, Takis, B. Woodrow, M. Raysse, J-L. Vilmouth etc.) in situations giving rise to the same uncertainty, the same relative indetermination, as did virtual worlds in respect of the future scenarios of the result achieved. Strangely enough, later it was virtual reality which gave me the desire to reactivate the capacity of the real world to reveal its limits when there is a non-fortuitous encounter with a symbolic catalyser.

Virtual reality only exists through a definition of its rules. There are more and more fictions which replace the pre-written script, sacrosanct vestiges of historical determinism, a set of rules set out in ‘the Bible’ (the term given in the world of the media to the set of graphic, behavioural and scenario rules which give a coherence to the film or the series that is broadcast).

Reality shows are of the kind which let loose a group of motivated volunteers into a prearranged universe, as though they were laboratory mice. I have labelled FUSION the introduction of fiction into the very universe of real life. Immersion enables the spectator/real life to pop up in the world of fiction, while fusion reverses the process by introducing fiction into reality. Reality shows depend on this process of fusion. We can also understand that the spinning 3-D captions when CNN announces the latest episodes of the Gulf War contribute to creating confusion in the often doubtful overlap between the two types of reality : fiction and news. The performance society probably begins at the point where our critical ability disappears. Yet there are signs that lead us to believe that it is the empirical acculturation of the inhabitants of our informed planet that leads them to imagine, at first sight, that the pictures of planes crashing into the twin towers are probably an extract from the latest Hollywood action film. It is probably a positive sign that we remain naturally sceptical where past generations, passive accomplices of a triumphant performance, would have applied the necessary but vulnerable ‘suspension of disbelief’. It is just as reassuring to know that we can then accept the obvious, that beyond the challenge of the human and historical consequences, September 11th marks the culmination of a phenomenon that is not to be neglected : the generalised possibility of symbolic expression within the very matter of the world. The fact that the starting point was the twin towers and the lever the international media did not detract from the reality of the act that swept across the planet. Rather than flesh, it is spirits that are struck and it is our era that has made the phenomenon possible.

In the field of art, the number of examples is growing as quickly as the network, a necessary but seldom sufficient condition for the application of critical fusion. From the Yes Men to Stelarc, from hackers to Banksy, the number of forms and settings is infinite. From the public space within the body to the façades of tower blocks and the paths of the net, they cover the fields of human activity and the social space, introducing clues, keys to interpretation, moments of doubt and questioning. Critical Fusion distinguishes itself through the intention of formal and illusory practices which might be satisfied with the spectacular or the childish, without applying these to an interpretation of the world. For the same reasons, with the intention of acting on the world on his level, the artist excludes none of these dimensions from the range of acts on hand during the crisis.

Contrary to FUSION, which betrays the effect through the intention, CRITICAL FUSION – a metaphoric contraction of the CRITICAL MASS which weakens the balance of the atom and that of ATOMIC FUSION likely to produce energy that is, it is true, devastating but immense – translates a symbolic action based on the intrusion of fiction into reality for critical reasons. And it is this objective that makes all the difference. By substituting revelation (decoding) for entertainment, CRITICAL FUSION introduces the context of a highly realistic application to the notion of situation.

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