Miguel Chevalier on "Orbits" in Beaugrenelle Paris

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The artist Miguel Chevalier - a pioneer of digital art - has moved to Beaugrenelle Paris with a monumental installation, "Orbits 2019", innovative work on light and time. Designed especially for the site, the work shows how the artistic use of technology and artificial intelligence makes it possible to create something new, in perpetual movement, like an echo of Beaugrenelle's uninterrupted and teeming activity.

The Centre Beaugrenelle is an innovative architecture, a slender and luminous structure designed by the architects Valode & Pistre, offering to sublimate the works exhibited as part of the various artistic commissions regularly awarded to great figures in the art world.
After several successful exhibitions the artist Miguel Chevalier - pioneer of digital art - invests Beaugrenelle Paris with a monumental installation, Orbits 2019, carried out under the supervision of Jérôme Neutres, in partnership with Burö Constance Breton.

As early as the 1980s, Miguel Chevalier was among the very first artists to seize the computer as a new palette to create paintings and sculptures of the digital age. With a desire to offer innovative experiences, Beaugrenelle shares with this artistic research the desire to present new forms, adapted to our new world.

Orbits 2019 invites visitors to enter an innovative artistic universe composed of works animated by infinite plays of light that give them a unique character.

Orbits 2019 new shapes for a new world

Orbits 2019 by Miguel Chevalier - Beaugrenelle Paris, 2019

Specially designed for the Beaugrenelle shopping centre, Orbits 2019 is an innovative work about light and time. The central piece, an imposing sculpture made up of 7000 LEDs controlled by an auto-generative software, stands 14 metres high in the heart of the atrium. The rings that structure it have been designed to resonate with the ellipses of the different levels of the atrium, as well as the glass roof, whose reflections constantly evolve according to the external light. This encounter with Miguel Chevalier's digital light, with its millions of variations, reveals an evolving and lively work. With this sculpture - his first monumental work using LEDs - the artist proposes a different way of experiencing art and making it animate a space.

Miguel Chevalier creates self-generative works that revolutionize the time and space of a work of art; it is thus never completely the same, like the days of Beaugrenelle, which resemble each other without ever repeating themselves. Paying homage with Orbits 2019 both to Calder's mobiles and to kinetic artists, Miguel Chevalier offers here a spectacle of coloured light flows embracing all the colours of the chromatic circle, constantly evolving, circulating from one ring to another, crossing each other, wandering in multiple random paths.

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A work that perfectly illustrates the dogma of the father of robotic art, Nicolas Schöffer: "Life is not repetitive".

In a second space in Beaugrenelle, Miguel Chevalier will complete his installation Orbits 2019 by a large "interactive table" on which visitors are invited to participate in the destructuring of a digital painting by passing their hands over the surface. Thanks to this technique, Miguel Chevalier adds a participatory dimension to the generative process and, more than ever, as Marcel Duchamp said a hundred years ago, "it is the viewers who make the painting".

Five questions to Miguel Chevalier

By Curator Jérôme Neutres.

J.N. : Orbits 2019 is a response to a special commission from Beaugrenelle in the series of his artist invitations: what motivated you in this commission?

M.C. What motivated me in this commission was the challenge of creating a work on the scale of the atrium, in dialogue with the architecture. Being visible both day and night, I saw the opportunity to continue my research on the LED technology I use, in order to create for the first time a monumental three-dimensional work.

N.J.. : in this exhibition Orbits 2019You will present two works; a giant light sculpture suspended in the atrium and "La Table des Convivialités" on level -1. What did you want to show through these two original installations that you have never seen before in your work?

M.C. These two facilities are complementary. Orbits 2019 is a work in dynamics which imposes itself by its size. This sculpture-installation is composed of 9 light rings of 1.50 to 3 meters, fixed to each other in cascade. Different coloured light choreographies are generated in real time giving life to these 9 rings. The light runs over the circular form, constantly transforming its volume, thanks to a software written by Claude Micheli.
" The Conviviality Table "is a smaller work of art. It is a generative and interactive digital installation that mixes real and virtual (software: Cyrille Henry / Antoine Villeret). The wooden top of a 5 x 3.50 metre table becomes the support of a projected virtual universe that evolves in real time.
Pixels, networks of lines, meshes, curves in colour or black and white interact with visitors who caress the table with their hands. Their movements disrupt the apparent order of the different superimposed frames. The playful and interactive side of this installation makes it original.

"La Table des convivialités" by Miguel Chevalier, 2019

N.J.. : You're one of the pioneers of so-called digital art. Remind us, in a few words, how you came to explore a new art medium in the 1980s.

M.C. : At the end of the 1970s, during my studies at the Beaux-Arts in Paris, I was interested in various artists who marked the 60s and 70s, such as Yves Klein and Lucio Fontana, who were for me two forms of pictorial absolutes. I was also interested in Man Ray's rayograms, which showed that photography was an artistic medium in itself, as was video with the work of the South Korean Nam June Paik. I couldn't see how to go beyond all these avant-gardes, all these "deconstructions" and negations of the field of art and painting.
In the early 1980s, computer technology was increasingly present in the media and people were beginning to talk about the information society. It is this still virgin territory, unexplored by contemporary artistic creation, that I wanted to explore further. At that time, there was no teaching in art schools of the computer tool. Only scientific laboratories or television channels had access to these computer tools. It was almost impossible to have access to computers to create artistic works. Consumer computing simply did not exist. I could only create fixed or animated 2D works on photographic media or record my work on magnetic tapes. With the advent of microcomputing in the late 1980s, I was gradually able to have my own hardware at home and create simple programs independently. In spite of this rudimentary and artisanal character, the possibilities of the computer tool seemed to me to be unlimited. The software already provided a fabulous catalogue of shapes and colours from which I could work on the variation of images. This is what has nourished and oriented all my research until today...

J.N. : Orbits 2019 is a work in a public space as you like to make it. What is the difference between a work open to all audiences and a piece in a museum or a private collection? Do you conceive them in the same spirit?

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M.C.. : My installations in heritage spaces, museums or public spaces, are designed and adapted to the place where they are presented, according to the local context. With my digital art installations, I give a new reading of the place and I try to establish a dialogue with the architecture.

What differentiates the public space of the museum is the change of scale. There's a real challenge in getting out of the small screen and onto a monumental scale. What's interesting is to introduce art where you don't expect it and make it visible to people who may not go to museums. The work also introduces poetry into the public space and allows users to re-appropriate this space where people usually just pass by. The work becomes a meeting place, a space of conviviality.

N.J.. : The artistic project you dream one day to realize ?

M.C.. Fractal Flower in vitro" presented at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris in 2009. For the latter, I invited the composer Jacopo Baboni Schilingi to create a specific generative music and the nose Annick Menardo to imagine an olfactory universe in relation to my virtual gardens. The installation "In-Out - Paradis Artificiels" presented at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire in 2017 was a totally immersive space with a 360° projection and a musical universe created by Jacopo Baboni Schilingi.

Finally, in 2012, I built an exceptional immersive installation at the Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux-de-Provence, projected over 7,000 m2 with 70 video projectors. This installation was likely to create new body sensations and conducive to a total immersion combining image and sound.

The project that I dream of carrying out continues these different experiments. It would be a total work of art, a monumental multi-sensorial installation in a large natural space such as a cave or a former closed quarry. This perennial creation entitled "From Parietal to Digital" would introduce a new bridge between these two art forms that everything seems to oppose.
It would be a sort of Plato's cave, where all the senses of the visitor would be solicited (visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile via interactivity). This is the ambitious goal I would dream of setting up with Yves Coppens.

Miguel Chevalier was born in Mexico City in 1959. He lives and works in Paris. He is a graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 1981 and the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs de Paris design section in 1983. He was awarded the Lavoisier Fellowship for the Pratt Institute at New York in 1984 and was the winner of the Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto, Japan in 1994.
Since 1978, Miguel Chevalier has been using computer science as a means of expression in the field of plastic arts. He has established himself internationally as one of the pioneers of virtual art and the digital.

His work, experimental and multidisciplinary, addresses the question of immateriality in art, as well as computer-induced logics such as hybridization, generativity, interactivity, and the networking. It develops different themes, such as the relationship between nature and artifice, the observation of flows and networks that organize our contemporary societies, the imaginary of architecture and virtual cities, the transposition of motifs from Islamic art in the digital world. The images they deliver us perpetually question our relationship to the world.
His works are most often in the form of large-scale digital installations projected on a large scale. He creates site-specific works that revisit, through digital art, the history and the architecture of the place, giving a new reading. He also creates sculptures using 3D printing or laser cutting techniques that materialize his virtual worlds.

Miguel Chevalier holds numerous exhibitions in museums, art centres and galleries. all over the world. He also carries out projects in public and architectural spaces.

Miguel Chevalier's work pursues a constant dialogue with the history of art, in a continuity and metamorphosis of vocabulary, to explore and experiment a new pictorial language.

Exhibition Orbits 2019 by Miguel Chevalier - Beaugrenelle Paris, 12 rue Linois, 75015 Paris /Atrium Magnetic. Until November 7th (10am - 8.30pm Monday to Saturday)

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