a broken interview with dominique gonzalez-foerster
by benjamin weil
flash art, march-april 1992

A letter to send
dear benjamin,
to further our talks about my project for an exhibition in a magazine, a letter to send,1 i want it to be close in spirit to the colored rooms (like l'amethyste2): rather than having a full explanatory text, i thought about a colored background with some clues, such as a fragment of a date and a few evocative words. i believe it would be more challenging than a fully written story, and could stimulate an (auto)biographic search...one then might either complete this letter to send or not, send it or not.

to: bw
"i read biographies. the original mapping of behaviors, the structure of characters, the irretrievable facts, experiences which cannot be told, transmissions to enact, correct researches, a daily life to organize... to put oneself into another subjectivity; adaptation as a form of reconstruction. the vocabulary used, the hidden character..."3

dear dominique,
as an introduction to the exhibition in the magazine, i was thinking of your multiple, les couleurs de ton histoire4 (colors of your story) as a starting point, which would follow the conversation when you told me about the way memory structures are often associated with colors which vary according to the generation one belongs to: the color as a "clue" to memories, which often happen to be visual; each age group has its own "pool" of colors as memory support. you evoked the purples, pinks, and crimsons of your childhood, and i talked to you about the beiges, browns, and oranges which are linked to mine.

Color rooms
to: bw
the color is an entry into a narrative. the "color rooms" and the clues they usually contain give a certain number of elements to which the viewer adds what he/she needs to comprehend the work, link these various existing elements. it is not quite like reading, although reading is a possible way of completion; rather it is a way to generate a narrative, therefore emphasizing the importance of interpretation.


to: dgf
the most obvious fragmented narrative in your work is the series of "rêves"5 (dreams) which you described on colored plexiglas panels: color, fragmented memories as clues to enact a story, your maybe...

to: bw
to transform the viewer into a detective, generate a seeking spirit for a research, a curiousity for other stories unless it is one's own: to stress the importance of all kinds of narratives as self-languages and the value of all clues or vocabularies. les couleurs de ton histoire simply are recipients to provoke/contain this kind of search.

to: dgf
le jeu don't on a perdu la régle (a game whose rule has been lost) epitomizes your work, somehow mapping the development of yoru investigation. amnesia is revealed by the absence of rules; color environments are constituent of the board, while clues and characters are the pawns players move around according to their own organization, therefore establishing their own stories.

to: dgf
we then could discuss portrait de groupe: revenants,6 in which you add form to colors which reveals the strong link between your work and literature as another form of fiction. you mentioned how the reading of ghosts, a novel by paul auster, was of crucial importance to this work, how you found a similarity between the novelist as a storyteller and your position as a visual artist.

to: bw
"...one should spend some time working on one's own story, track its marks, make notes on specificities and parallels..."7

Les couleurs de ton histoire
to: bw
in les couleurs de ton histoire, the frames and colors exist as an invitation to contribute something which belongs to oneself, adding one's own images to the pre-existing structure or not. it somehow works as an accelerator to tell about oneself.

le mystére de la chambre jaune8 (the mystery of the yellow room) whose title you borrowed,9 evokes the atmosphere of those mansions where each room is named after a color. each color room has its own story, its own mystery, it shows another kind of reference your work makes to novels.

to: bw
(reading notes)10 do we represent our lives as stories because we reclaim the narrative structures of fiction? do we even conform the construction of our lives to those narratives? or is it the other way round? which comes first, narratives and fictional stories, or time lived as a narrative? the person who tells his/her dreams in the morning somehow reinvents the narrative every day...

Orange room
the letter to send originates in the orange room. it is somehow a ghost room. whose memories does it belong to?

to: dgf
in the same light, these portraits installations ("portraits/biographies") usually have as their subject a woman, such as ada byron11 or esther schipper.12 they are usually built around clues you found in their biographies.

to: bw
"...a few weeks later, investigation progressively displaced amnesia. he writes a letter with no recipient which will keep him informed about himself...since i was not able to retrieve my memory, i became a sort of historian of the self. it now seems to me that anyone could desire to initiate this kind of research for one's own, whether an amnesiac or not; to investigate, deepen, explore eventual extensions (of one's story), retrieve a vocabulary; going to libraries, consulting data banks, towns and parks..."13

to: dgf
what also seems to be at stake in your work is the distance you attempt to take vis-á-vis time: the various elements you present eventually refer to time. however, you seem to systematize the fragmentation of the narrative which somehow defines a timeless quality in your work. you expect the viewer to undertake the job of associating these elements to construct a narrative which becomes part of their own timing.

where is the viewer? isn't he/she the character of your/his own story? the boundaries seem to blur...

color: fiction. white, an absence of color: amnesia. i am currently working on a piece about amnesia.14 amnesia as a white construction.