The project is a somewhat special public order. It is a question of transmission since the materiality of this order consists of a set of elements comprising images broadcast in public places, through original prints, the edition of two posters, a book, exhibitions and a photographic collection made available for research. We often imagine the public commission in the form of sculptures in public space. Nicolas Floc’h looks back on how he was able to carry out the project and replaces it in his underwater practice carried out in conjunction with scientists at several sites; the questioning of the representation of invisible landscapes that do not exist in the artistic genealogy, the position of the artist and the citizen. Interview with an artist who was a fisherman.
You have just completed the public order for a project in the Calanques National Park. How was the project built?
Nicolas Floc’h I responded to a call for projects from the Camargo Foundation, the Pythéas Institute and the Calanques National Park which offered artists to work on the territory of the park. My project on underwater landscapes was selected. I proposed to carry out a photographic inventory between 0 and 30 meters deep, following the coast for 162 kilometers between La Ciotat and Marseille. After a first phase of work, supported by many actors in the area and relayed by the plastic arts advisor of Paca, the project was accepted and I was able to finalize it thanks to this device. Often, public commission is associated with objects constructed and placed in public space. By proposing to reveal a natural heritage and to provide a substantial set of documents, I was not building an object, but I was giving as many people as possible access to an invisible part of the territory. Thus, I chose to restore the project in the form of 30,000 images, my photographic collection, accessible and usable for research by printing posters sent to schools in the region, by 50 small prints distributed in public places. and by the publication of a book distributed in libraries and bookstores. This global proposal is working. It is a citizen contribution for the perception of a territory.
So practicing on different terrains allows you to make comparisons?
Nicolas Floc’h “Productive Landscapes” is carried out simultaneously on the various French maritime facades with sub-assemblies. To the west, “Initium maris”, on Breton territory, goes from the Atlantic to the English Channel. “The color of water” covers the north coast and “Invisible”, in the creeks, represents the entry point into the Mediterranean. Secondly, I compare these territories with other zones in France or elsewhere in the world. These comparisons highlight phenomena that make visible often abstract manifestations such as global warming, ocean acidification, anthropogenic pressures … With global warming, we are witnessing a faster and more visible displacement of ecosystems in the ocean than on earth. I work to represent the living and the interactions between the ocean, the earth, the atmosphere and the ice, these interconnections that the ocean, more than any other environment, allows us to approach and understand in an obvious way.
Why did you choose the form of the inventory?
Nicolas Floc’h We do not know the underwater landscape of our own coasts. Photographically, this image is missing. We represent wildlife, sporting performance or expedition in an anthropocentric way, but what extends under the gaze, in its banality, is not revealed. The first thing is to bring out a representation of these vast landscapes. The second observation is that they change more quickly than on earth and that it seems essential to me to record a state at a given moment. Scientists accumulate data, photographic fragments and carry out follow-ups. We often have information on the evolution of ecosystems, but no representation at the scale of the landscape, which is what I do from wide-angle panoramic views.
Why the choice of black and white for this inventory?
Nicolas Floc’h Black and white stimulates the imagination, it places us in an indefinite space. Are we on Earth, on another planet? Is it day or night? Its use allows you to move away from certain stereotypes and a certain exoticism. He takes us back to the history of photography and that of the landscape. We think of the geological missions in the United States which allowed the discovery of unknown landscapes, of the photographers of the Great Depression revealing the crisis at work on faces or urban views; or the Becher industrial inventory or that of the Datar. The carbon prints of the underwater landscapes of the creeks conjure up these places and these eras, the transformations of living things, of these spaces invisible to many and yet so close.