Contour 2007 ENG

An interview with Nav Haq, curator of the third biennial for video art Decoder, Contour 2007.

[Nav Haq] Your work often takes into consideration its relationship with the viewer. It becomes like a form of ‘play’ or a game for people that encounter your work. It really is like piecing together a puzzle. Why does this appeal to you? 

[Cédric Noël] I like the concept of a puzzle. It’s full of connections and it offers a large number of possible images that can be realised and that fit just right. It’s even better, at the end, when small pieces of heaven fall onto to the wheat field! I am very interested in the idea of the potential image, in the imagery that is hidden within an object or a word. I try to conjure these images and to immediately give them an autonomy that goes further than their referents and the impulse that brought them to life. I am talking about the mental image, among others, which is a main concern in my work. In general, the mental image can be defined as the creation or the reproduction of an experience through the brain. If my work looks like a game, it is because of its connection to experience, in the sense of ‘gaining experience with’, especially with mechanisms that have to do with the production and the reception of an image. The spectator is invited to use his imagination. He can either play along or not, that’s his decision; it’s about his responsibility towards the image, which underlines that the reception of an experience is part of its realization.

[NH] On one level your work is about perception. To what extent do you think that the experiential side of encountering your work is intended to offer insight into one’s own perceptual mechanisms? 
[CN] This might sound a bit crazy, but my works are meant for eyes that have seen! In other words, for eyes that remember things. In order to illustrate this, I would like to refer to a technique that is used in theatre: the so-called hypotyposis, which is the evocation of an object or an action on stage, but solely with words. The actor describes a door or a battle and the audience envisions it. It’s like a superimposition, an image layer that covers the stage and what is already on it. It simultaneously evokes an objective vision of the object (in this example, the stage) and an interior, subjective vision (the door or the battle).

[NH] Your new work Ein Reich looks at possible alternative histories to the one we know. How does presenting different ‘fictionalisations’ within one of your works engage with our sense of what we know? 
[CN] I’m only interested in fiction when it causes hesitation, when it puts certainties at risk and destabilizes the whole individual. The reaction can even be physical, like a kind of nausea. The key to it is the hesitation in those places where there is a failure in the memory. Ein Reich triggers the hesitations of the memory and their consequences. We are easily thrown back into the abominable.

[NH] I think triggering ways of ‘imaging’ facts and scenarios is a distinct feature of your work, the fact that you are required to build up mental pictures. Do you believe people encounter this in other ways in their daily lives? 
[CN] In fact, it’s about very banal experiences. Mental representation is a normal brain activity. But it’s also about non-visual representations, about concepts or ideas without images, which are typical of communication in general. Of course there are a lot of media and activities that trigger mental representations: music, theatre, books, role-playing games (where you are obliged to play along), ... even sports. A lot of sports people intuitively use a mental image in order to recreate experiences. Others do it consciously in order to improve their performance. Take for example the dancer who mentally goes through her dance steps before the show. The advertising business also gladly nourishes itself with the research in this field. There are a lot of reports that demonstrate the connection between persuasive communication, the image and the mental image. One of my recent projects, SENSASS, is inspired by a study called ‘The efficiency factors of the development of mental images in advertisement’ (Camille Chamard, 2000). The title says it all. It’s about the different techniques that are used in order to provide the individual with an agreeable virtual experience of a product. It’s a question of mental trials which we are submitted to every day.

From the catalogue Decoder, Contour 2007.