In her videos as in her plastic work, Sarah del Pino focuses on what philosopher Donna Haraway calls “Wild Facts”, in other words, micro-events of reality, in observed elements – since they are invisible or dissimulated – which, in order to be seen, need to be “fictionalised”. In the framework of Galeries Nomades2018, the artist occupies the two floors of the MAC (Maison des Arts Contemporains) in Pérouges and introduces the spectator to a world that mixes anticipation with fragments of reality, futurist forms, and Ottoman tombs.
It all starts with a video that, with just a few images, makes us lose our bearings entirely. An isolated silo seen from a high-angle shot, the paths of a farmerless farm, robots circulating with extremely precise movements, all filmed at twilight: in the video Rêvent-elles de robots astronautes? (2017), Sarah del Pino presents a detour via science fiction to explore a very real farm, located in the Ain department in France. Based on a specific device, she describes this place in a way that draws on both fiction and documentary. The camera, installed on top of the robots that feed and clean the animals, sees the farm from machine level and shows their slow, disjointed movements. Like the laser that strives for a long time to identify the udders, to focus its attention on or the robot that seems to advance blindly, performing a clumsy ballet among the animals. One of the paradoxes of this mechanical system is the way in which it presents the cows in the field, as in the poignant close-up on one of their eyes. In a reverse shot of this entirely automatised farm, the artist reveals a great deal in the final shot. No trace of humanity here either; the only thing that we can perceive, behind curtains, is a large plasma screen that diffuses a blue light similar to the artificial light in which the animals live day and night.
The video Horizon B (2018), projected vertically onto a plexiglas disc, also refers to a science fiction fable: that of the noise that soil makes as it decomposes. Like an acoustician-geologist, Sarah del Pino sampled soil types and placed them in a small box filled with water in order to record their specific resonances, relating to their texture and chemical composition. Porous clay, powdery ochre: each one appears with their own colour, decomposition time, and aural identity. This almost abstract video, which recalls the metaphysical sequence of Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967) in which Jean-Luc Godard films a cup of coffee in close-up and from a low angle, produces a hypnotic effect in viewers who eventually lose track of what they’re seeing and immerse themselves in the soundscape.
With L’autel des mirages and Mirage inférieur (2018), the artist engages in another perceptual game, which is divided into three periods. First, she orientates the spectator’s gaze through an opaque picture rail, streaked with a border in changing colours, drawing a shifting horizon. After extending along this wall, the gaze finds itself absorbed by a black shape whose opacity and dynamism express the obsession that torments the artist: how can movement be produced out of a static medium? How can a moving image be devised when nothing is moving? This is where the four catafalques come in, whose volumes reproduce that
of the monolith on a smaller scale and that, lit up by flashlights placed on the floor, cast shadows over the surface of waxed canvases. Minimalist sculptures on one side, meticulous work on the inscription of colours and light-sculpting on the other, these works crystallise Sarah del Pino’s thoughts on still and moving images, as well as the role played by light for both.
Light is central to the artist’s work, to the extent that it can serve as a guideline for understanding her practice. Whether it be the indecisive lighting of the shadows cast in L’autel des mirages or that of the day-for-night that the farm in Rêvent-elles de robots astronautes? is awash with, it is light that sets forms in motion and causes colour to vibrate, bringing out shards of the real, underpinning the fictions invented by Sarah del Pino.