Cas de figures by Julie Sas is a stage installed at art3. It is accessed by first walking through a reception area and down three steps. The walls are white, as are the floor tiles. The stage consists of four curtains hung cylindrically, each measuring sixty centimetres in diameter. These curtains, hung from the ceiling, fall to the floor and form wide folds. On these curtains, other curtains are painted, which also fall to the floor and form equally wide folds, creating shadowplay. At irregular intervals, sounds, whose sources are hidden within the circular curtains, resonate within the space for a few seconds. There are four voices associated with each curtain that sometimes speak alone, sometimes together, uttering some semblances of English words whose meaning cannot be made out precisely, nor can any kind of sentence structure be ascertained.
Witnesses have reported since ancient times that to predict the future or make the voices of elusive entities heard, individuals known as ventriloquists speak with their stomachs.
There are stomachs that talk. And there are stomachs that converse. And there are stomachs that articulate. And there are stomachs that utter. And there are stomachs that pronounce. And there are stomachs that dictate. And there are stomachs that shout. And there are stomachs that go on and on. And there are stomachs that chat. And there are stomachs that shoot their mouths off.
We never know where the sound of the voice is coming from.
Who is speaking? What is speaking? Who is spoken of? By whom? Who is making what speak? Why?
For several years now, Julie Sas has questioned the practices of anonymity, forms of invisibility, secrecy, discretion, or silence in the spheres of art, literature, music, and politics. These practices raise many questions about identity and modes of iteration and orality and appear to be the principal material of this exhibition.
But where do the voices come from? Another voice, that of the mediation of this exhibition, but also a booklet given to visitors on their way out, informs them that these voices are those of a community of individuals based in Ireland, who meet via an encrypted online chat room to attempt to transcribe the language of their inner monologues.
However, Julie Sas revealed to me at a meeting several days after my visit that she had built the exhibition on various levels of deceit. First level: the trompe l’œil of curtains painted onto curtains. The two other levels, more difficult to detect, are the artificiality of the voices heard and the fictional nature of the community of Irish individuals. This fiction was invented by submitting the audio files to several people without indicating their nature or origins and asking them to imagine what they could be. It thus masks the true origins of the voices, which were derived from a series of very short audio files available on the internet and produced by Google Deepmind, which is developing artificial intelligence capable of pronouncing words of its own invention that resemble real words.
Julia Sas uses ventriloquist procedures since she disassociates the information received by the spectator from its source. She thus questions the conditions of existence of a simulacrum, as well as the statement of a so-called truth, and in this way her presentation assumes a highly political dimension. We are familiar with the occasionally pernicious appearances that serve certain discourses or projects of domination. Ventriloquism thus emerges as a paradoxical tool, equally capable of revealing or hiding realities.