Francesca Pola



How would the world appear if I rode a beam of light?
Albert Einstein

The "éclairages" that Michel Verjux has been realizing from the early 1980s onwards are revealing projections of beams of light - squares, cones, pyramids, cylinders and other geometric figures, more or less distorted or broken up - in a continuous and changeable dialogue with the concrete situations that arise in each of his works. In the reduction of the visual language to its physically and metaphorically former state - light - they concentrate and orient the complexity of the interaction between the object/action/situation on itself. This is intent on the disintegration of these components. At the same time, they stress its nature of a physical, material and existentially connoted presence, through the passage of time and the expansion of space. This space and time are constantly, physically limited to the situation of the exposition and, through this, are oxymoronically concrete metaphors of the superimposition and interaction of different places and moments in terms of a context and a story. Becoming images made aware of the encounter of the realities of appearance, showing and sight in the very locus of absence, expectation and recognition of possibilities that are not intuitable except by negation, these luminous eyes open onto the situation find their own dimension of authenticity in what Heidegger described as "a-letheia" : the truth that necessarily reveals and hides itself, unknowable evidence, the very opening of physicality in a dialoguing, present request for meaning.


Sight, visual, visible: index and metaphor

Michel Verjux works with the act of seeing as the locus of the encounter with reality: in the presence of matter through the light, it is possible to acquire consciousness of the specific language of the substantiality being instituted and start a new form of communication. The potentialities of this communication may have no truth other than the link with the visible: the reality of the situation is not metaphysical - it may limit itself to being metalinguistic, and take this path to reach its foundations just the same. In the world of language, pretence is always an active metaphor, a link to reality.

For his projections, Verjux uses the visible part of the spectrum, between the ultraviolet and infrared rays, and, by employing this physically expressive entity, produces what he himself describes - with terms referring to the sphere of linguistics - signs or indexes. The etymology of "sign" comprises a multiplicity of meanings: a minimal, first and irreducible entity; the origin and node of a relationship, and thus an illuminating subject, a sculpted and dialoguing space-image. An index is the sign that has an unrenounceable relationship with its own principal reality.

The artist's work is based on his awareness of the conventional nature of communication as a locus of shared signs, but it totally reverses its assumptions and results: through its reduction to its own possibility, he turns the psychic entity of the sign into a physical entity, giving it a renewed foundation and new communicative potentiality.

In the state of absence - the invisible rays of light, the illumination of nothing - space for the possibility of a new epiphanic presence opens up. The dialectic between the visual and the visible forms part of Verjux's work in its dimension of cognitive opening: although materiality is still present and invisible, it remains in the dimension of potentiality and acts as a permanent, concrete moment of self-forming constitution of the situation.

Thus Verjux's works begin to speak the language of intentionality: the intentionality of the situation, of the here and now, of the living fragment taken from becoming so that it may acquire the status of an image. The metaphor turns out to be not only a means of enriching language, but, above all, the constitutive nature of this, necessary "a priori" for the connection between the signifier and the signified.


Threshold, expectation, illumination of absence

Although Michel Verjux realizes his "éclairages" both indoors and in the open air, he always installs his works in spaces serving as passageways or connections where the physical limit is seen as the locus of union, stressing alterity. His beams of light cross rooms and situations, linking their multiform components to what they find elsewhere and emphasizing this possibility. In his installations, centripetal tensions in the concentration coexist with centrifugal ones in the projection. This also explains why, for Verjux, the interaction between natural and artificial light is important: they are both controlled (in a negative and a positive sense), in their cosmic dimension, and the static category of superimposition assumes the dynamic characteristics of interference, giving rise to its entrance in the real passage of time, which is the laically immanent physical and cultural component. Knowable infinity is before our eyes, and Verjux places us in the intermediate zone of the equilibrium of tensions, in this locus of their implosion-explosion where the privileged state of perception is seen as the climax of the gaze, the blind mirror of space and time.

Verjux locates the threshold of knowledge at the margins of our sight. His "éclairages" exist on the thresholds of vision in this encounter between the visible and the visual; on the thresholds of action since they become active in the physical and metaphorical locus of the passage; and on the thresholds of thought and reflection insofar as this is the region where consciousness of space, time, matter and light itself is acquired. But it is, above all, on the thresholds of active feeling, in the aesthetic emotion of the perception of oneself as a unrenounceable part of the total light-image, in this entrance to the blind eye of luminosity as experience that goes beyond sight, involving a dimension that is no longer purely physiological or psychic: this is the meaning of the projective dimension, the characteristic tension of each of his works. Deriving from this is the sensation of expectation - not in terms of mysticism and initiation, but in real, existential ones - that characterizes the experience of his installations.


From place to situation

One of the fundamental aspects of Michel Verjux's work is its dialogue with the situation - in other words, with a context that is investigated and assimilated not only with regard to its morphological, structural and architectural aspects, but also concerning its established, active identity. Consequently Verjux's work is not purely - or even primarily - architectural, but rather it is fundamentally anthropological. This anthropological dimension involves the appropriation and necessarily active intervention in the very course of the cognitive process: thus Verjux's work tends towards a functional deconstruction, the reduction of the signifier as a vehicle of the new meaning. Verjux's oxymoronic "structuring deconstruction" has illustrious precedents: Marcel Duchamp, Dadaism and certain tendencies in Conceptual Art, together with a dialogue with artists of the generation immediately before his, whose work is characterized by intense interaction with reality (they include Daniel Buren, François Morellet and Niele Toroni, as well as Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt and Richard Serra), and is at the same time the heir to and parricide of idealist, Constructivist and spiritualist utopias (for instance, those of Piet Mondrian and Kasimir Malevich). There are also philosophical references, specifically linked to the problems of language and communication, such as Ferdinand de Saussure, Roman Jakobson, Charles Sanders Peirce and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Thus interaction with spatiality takes place on various levels of analysis.
First of all, the light beam reveals the surface and its nodes of meaning, and constantly problematizes the distinction between space as an abstract and conceptual entity and place as a concrete, psychological reality, since these allow their identities and morphologies to correspond, making the imaginary situation actual.

Moreover, the environment in which Verjux's works are realized is involved in the dialogue between natural and artificial light, where everything is matter in fluent becoming: there is never annulment, but rather reciprocal development of the two aspects, which leads to the correspondence of the time when the hours of the day change, often of the very changing of the seasons, with the time of the beam of light, thereby generating the time of the exposition. After crossing the threshold of the place, one is immediately immersed in the situation.

In Verjux's work, the geometric, material, physical and existential definitions of the place correspond: abstract spatial delimitation, a restricted part of a larger surface, a section relating to an entity occupying it (a person, a thing, a function), depth of memory. The history of the place makes itself felt through its new life in the situation. It is a scenic situation, a real situation: situation light.


Duration and spatial-temporal progression

Michel Verjux's language is a progressive one: despite its immediacy and communicative power, it has a narrative, theatrical dimension deriving from the fact that it is the image of temporality. The scenographic nature of his installations dialogues with a reality of which they themselves are, at the same time, a faithful mirror and a "mise en scène", without, however, the mediation of a stage. Thus real and scenic temporality correspond: they are the time of the exposition, defined by the dynamic idea of duration. This duration is a complete segment of time and, at the same time, it is - in a Bergsonian manner - internalized time, infinity concentrated in an instant, charged by the original flux of the states of conscience. Once again, the analysis of Verjux's work is linked to the field of linguistics: phonemic duration - defined as the time required to utter a particular sound - frequently has a distinguishing value, like the variations according to the different degrees of temporality that we find differentiated connotatively in the artist's installations. Because of the impossibility of modifying the "speed" of light - in the physical, symbolic and philosophical senses - the "éclairage" has proved itself to be the indexation/indication of the path, the origin and the destination, the auroral situation of vision.


The maieutics of the sign

Michel Verjux describes himself as a therapist of vision. His art is intended to make the eye knowledgeable, to add indices and new signs to the visual language in order to enrich the perception of reality beyond the exclusively empirical or idealistic prospects. The infinity towards which Verjux's beams of light project us does not belong to a metaphysical dimension, but is concretely situated in our experience of the situation with which we are asked to interact: the breath of light assimilates the context and its identity in order to restore to us the history and - burdened with our presence - the actuality of the place and its time.

The psychic methodology adopted by Verjux may be compared to Socratic maieutics, with an induction, a request for active intervention, a dialogue intended to elicit the truth, which is already present in a latent form in the interlocutor. The purpose of these maieutics is to show the relationship existing between the various levels of reality, without concealing the physical components, but rather highlighting them through the activation of the sign.

The role of the spectator as the activator of the work through his or her gaze is of fundamental importance for Verjux's art, the primary aim of which is that of communication and expression. The first result of the reduction of the work to illumination is the image of concentrated, complex and multifunctional unity. The interposition of the spectator between the source of light and the surface onto which the beam of light is projected generates further superimposition of reality, stressing the physical nature of the situation on a complex range of levels.
The "éclairages" are, at the same time, sculptural intervention in space and dynamic interaction with the place: they are self-forming material structures that open up the "here and now" of the situation to the concrete and perceptible infinity of temporality and the tension of knowledge.

In Verjux's installations, the eye, the organ of sight, assumes remarkable communicative power: although the spectator's eye is the "sine qua non" of the creative event, it is, on the other hand, the eye of the beam of light that creates the mirroring and revelation of spatiality and the progression of temporality. This monocular image swallows up the classic perspective scheme, taking the gaze beyond the image and annulling the concept of distance in the correspondence of the viewpoint and the horizon. This is the zero degree of language and, starting from this, by progressive stages of action/acquisition, it is possible for Verjux to define the relationships implied in the experience taking place. The simultaneity of the internal-external and natural-artificial interactions mean that the eye is the locus of the superimposition and fresh propagation of the intervention. Forms of intervention that may be generalized and applied to different situations - as the artist himself has described them - the works of Michel Verjux express the aesthetic of reduction as the physical and metaphorical clarification of reality. The dimension of the projection expresses this collapse of distance and, at the same time, makes the link and interposition possible by placing us on the threshold of sight and leaving open the space of action, thought and feeling.

Francesca Pola

Milan 30 September 2001


Francesca Pola, «Situazione luce (Situation Light)», dans catalogue MICHEL VERJUX, ll buon uso della luce nella luce, éd. A arte Studio Invernizzi, Milan, 2001, p. 11-14 (version anglaise).