When Hervé Graumann created a painter-machine, gave it a name and something to work with (ink, paper, and electricity), he did not realize that he had just created a personage which was to plunge him into obsession and challenge the very individuality of his artistic production. If at first “Raoul Pictor” was indeed something produced by Graumann (after all, hadn’t he written all the lines of code in the program?), it now seems it has gotten paint all over its author. Is it possible that the author, an individual who creates and expresses himself, has now been reduced to the mute speech of his machines?
Without hiding behind such questions of identity, Graumann nonetheless situates his work on that abstract, blurry boundary between author and machine. In his project for documenta’s website, it is hard to know who is expressing himself and who is the depressive, abandoned figure calling for help. Yet the latter is doing just that from a specific place on the World Wide Web. Furthermore, he can only be reached there. (Or is he in fact only on the viewer’s screen)?
In fact, it all begins with a blank screen. By moving the cursor with a mouse over the screen, one moves a white disc that looks something like the beam of a flashlight. Little by little, this shape reveals a text that is legible only by sweeping it with the beam of light: “ugh! this isn’t my day,” then “no” and “for how long?” Or “total darkness, locked up,” then “alone” and “locked up, alone, lost! alone, forgotten.” One can never predict where the words, brought to life but broken to bits and spread over the screen, written in small letters or big, will appear next; nor can we say whence they come, nor who is uttering them. Yet suddenly a window appears, allowing one to write directly to email@example.com, like a despairing appeal for contact. It remains to be seen who the person to be contacted will be, or what will become of the messages.
As much as man may be seduced by the machine, he nonetheless fears it. Similarly, Graumann’s work plays on both these feelings. Neither a positivist nor a catastrophist, he can make machines execute a number of operations sufficient to feign their independence, enough for them to have an opportunity to seduce us, thereby revealing yet another form of human genius.
The Hole (d’après l.o.s.t.), 2000 – sérigraphie noir et blanc / black and white serigraphy – 70 x 100 cm.