Far away so close ---------------------
It was in March 2001 that a group of artists, including Noëlle Pujol, went to Morocco
to taker part in a workshop organized by Le pavillon, a study program at the palais de Tokyo,
in collaboration with Le Fresnoy (Studio national des arts contemporains). During this
ten-days stay pujol compiled digital video material, shooting in the cities, villages and the desert
and edited it for "Touching from a Distance". the version presented in the exhibition is titled Marweb -
the name of the search engine/portal site www.marweb.net - and consists of three individual parts.
Arguably central to this piece is a sequence set in a rural cyber café. As Pujol reports, it is a popular
meeting spot for the whole family - a place where the age and social background don't matter.
Theres is however one thing most of the people have in common: lots of them come there to
establish contact with the outside world, especially France, their aim being to obtain visas and,
hence, the possibility of leaving their home country. The way Pujol captures this situation is very reduced.
She has installed the camera at a fixed angle on the desk with the camera focused on the shop front - window
partioned by wooden bars with a huge Microsoft Windows logo in the upper right part. During the day the traffic
on the street in front of the cyber café causes most of the movement within the static picture: people
dressed in traditionnal fashion as well as cars and others vehicles pass by. This activity somehow corresponds
to a moving hand resting on a mouse that is located on the desk in front of the camera.
Another set of formal correspondences also sets the outside in relation to the inside. It is curious
to notice how the Windows logo (itself an abstracted window icon) corresponds to the window front of the
cyber café and, moreover, to the windows of the building on the other side of the street. At night the situation
changes in so far as the outside is "deactivated" by natural darkness, while the inside of the cyber café is lit
and gets crowed with the people.
Pujol's visual choreography suggest a couple of things. Drawing upon the story of analogies between media
and vehicle (e.g. the windows of a train correspond to the sequential frames of a film), the artist
uses the formalized setting to undermine the very notion of movement itself. The space of the cyber café is
entirely circumscribed by the Windows logo. After the sun has set this becomes even more obvious, as
the window on which this logo is somewhat proudly presented signifies the enclosure of this space;
the light that emanates from the ceiling turns the shop window into some sort of mirror, reflecting the interior
of the cyber café.
The sense of immobility recurs un the second "Marweb" video. Camels rest in the desert, eating out of the boxes
that are ornamented with gasoline combines logos, such as Shell. The legs of the most polular vehicle of the desert
are locked, however, bringing to mind the difficulties of leaving the country while exposing the false ideology
of globalisation that promises everybody mobility in a borderless world.
The third video shows a man busy with some repetitive work. His body is somehow suspended in the air as we
don't see on what ground he is actually standing. While the landscape is sparsely filled with objects (telecommunication
masts, a minaret) there is no sense of scale and, therefore, no sense of distance. It is as if teh body floats in
immaterial space - an aspect that adds up to the leitmotif of (im)mobility and establishes a link to Pujol's overaching
interest in the relationship between body and machine.
Text published in the exhibition catalog "touching from a distance", germinations 13,
Crawford Municipal Gallery, feb-march 2002.