Towards an Active Perception of Things, by Patrick Amine

Pascal Dombis’s video installation entitled What_Next ? is tackling ontological questions through answers provided by Internet search engines. These programmes, including the universally famous Google, are used to find simple and precise information on the World Wide Web.
With this installation in mind, Pascal Dombis has collected over the years hundreds of thousands of pictures corresponding to such questions as “Where Do We Come From?’’, “What Are We Here For ?”, “Where Are We Going ?” and in different language context: “Wer sind wir?”, “Où allons-nous ?”, “Dove andiamo ?”, “¿De dónde venimos?”…
In this kind of artistic gesture, the Internet is exploited as a creative process. Dombis makes no selection of the pictures produced. He is not interested in their discrete particularities or aesthetic qualities, but in their excessive accumulation as well as in the various mindscapes conjured up. If considered separately, most of the images obtained on the internet from such fundamental questions are indeed of no interest. They specifically do not provide any concrete answer but once juxtaposed and interwoven, give birth to visual spaces containing semantic translations and displacements, which in turn prove to be relevant to the metaphysical questions initially raised.
The artist makes use of a peculiar video-playing software which makes it possible to play those sequences at aleatory speed, from super fast 300 images per second (when pictures cannot be read any more) to super slow motion (several seconds for one single image which of course becomes very easy to decode). The variation of speed gives the viewer access to many possible “sensation-al’’ environments: vertigo, alacrity, infinitude, swoon, or dejà-vu… It also makes it possible for the viewer to catch a glimpse of his own image, then. The installation, so to speak, works as a projective mental test.
Such a scheme does not provide any answer to the questions “Where do we come from?’’ “Who are we ?” or “Where are we going?”. The crux of the matter is rather to explore the mental spaces deriving from the excessive accumulation of images to be found on the internet, opening thus to contemporary metaphysical ontological questions. Henceforth, the real question unfolds as a dolphic oracle. The iconographic maelström finally appears as a phenomenological suspension of the world, as it does lead to the terminal formula: “Know Thyself”. It is as if Husserl were revisiting oracles : by attaining awareness of oneself through substraction from the surrounding world, one rediscovers it anew and different. Such a digital videoweb installation, in which the vertigo of images becomes some kind of Jocean epiphany, should be considered as an open fragment of enigmatic reality still to be deciphered in its symbolic ambivalence.


Patrick Amine

September 2011

Translation : Didier Girard