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Antoine Schmitt, in Quest for the Digital Absolute

The time table of Antoine Schmitt is quite heavily loaded. He is exposing in the Galerie Charlot ; next week-end (june 9-10) he shows its connected robots concert in Gaîté Lyrique, and plans for a lot of other events, as shows his agenda.

What strikes is his quest for purity. His first published work dates back to 1995, and he defined the global terms of his artistic project in the Computer Art Manifesto (1998 for the third « rough » version). At the core of it, a very demanding requirement (which we would not sign ourself, as fare as we are an artist) : « the work must not contain any image, images sequence, sound, music, word, phrase, in short any form which sould bear meaning by themselves » (Our free translation from French).

He has made some transgressions, for example the Christ mourant (Dying Christ) or Avec Determination which we can take as his two extreme excursions towards mysticim and eroticism, respectively. There is also a sort of minimalist figurative art in Nabaz’mob, opera for 100 smart rabbits (with Jean-Jacques Birgé). But his fans who, like ourself, hope to see him go towards more popular kinds of work , and mor easy to get along with, will probably wait a long time, if not forever.

On this line, he drew high a clear signal in Art Karslruhe with his new series of works, Ballets quantiques (Quantic ballets), which prove the depth of his commitment. No compromise ! You must be happy with matrices of white pixels against black background, and feed your aesthetic appetite with their mathematical genesis and cyclic moves from order to chaos and back. Following the practice of many abstract painters, Schmitt does not give meaningful names to these works (beyond their general title, with its connotations of dancing and nuclear physics). This series name is followed, for each work, by two numbers. The first is used in the generating equation, the second is the number of displayed pixels. Both are expressions of complexity : the pixels for a Shannonian measurement of information, the first one for something like the length of the full evolution loop).

The miracle is that beauty emerges actually from these hightly ascetic constructs. We could make a comparison with the watercolorist quest for transparency, who dreams to reach perfection when no pigment at all would be used, and nevertheless the subject would spring in full power from the blank paper. The great artists, some Rembrandt engravings or Picasso sketches for instance, practice this kind of sorcery with few lines. The difference is that their art is based on their instinct and longly disciplined hand, when Antoine Schmitt, and the algorists in general, get the miracle out of formal equations… and, of course, of their empirical experience of their effects.

Then let’s enjoy ! And, if we expect more meaning out of these generative forms of art, let us wait to see it surge out of more complex formulas, from a higher « star height » ( as says poetically the theory of automata). And not from any compromise with figurative mimesis, betraying the digital purity.