ERIC LA CASA Installations (CD by Swarming)

The Way In
Latest release from the French sound artist Eric La Casa is called Installations (SWARMING 012) – four new installation works, each one a collaboration with a different fellow creator, and presented as a CD mounted inside a booklet with photographs and explanatory texts. In each case La Casa continues to explore, and develop, some of the preoccupations with space and architecture that we’ve noted on some of his previous releases.
First track is ‘De La Dilatation Du Paysage’, a 2006 collaboration with the painter and ceramicist Michaële-Andréa Schatt. It’s set in an art gallery (the Isabelle Gounod gallery), with speakers mounted on the walls playing back lists of words to the onlookers. An elaborate installation; the idea is that the words somehow create a “dialogue” with the paintings of Michaële-Andréa Schatt. The creators invest a lot of weight in these word-lists, intending them to carry meanings of history, theory, poetry, and technical design, to further the artistic contemplation of space, landscape, and garden. Schatt’s paintings don’t feature too heavily in the booklet; now that I look at her website, I find her landscapes and garden paintings are certainly colourful and lively, but also rather prosaic. There’s a slight tension between the loose sketchy paintings and the very precise word-art that’s going on here, but there’s also a certain poetry in the combined sound-effects (the use of rainfall is especially nice). The word-lists also have a certain resonance, even when translated from French into English; e.g. “Rustling Tessitura Linking Folding Creasing Beating”.
Secondly, we have ‘Double Exposition’, a work dated 2010 in which La Casa teams up with Seijiro Murayama. Famed Japanese drummer and improviser, Murayama’s work has appeared numerous times in these pages, I think most recently on Yan Jun’s elegant Postcards cassette. I see these two collaborated before on Supersedure for the Hibari Music label. This is another piece that’s very tied to the location where it’s made, in this case the Musee Zadkine in Paris; and once again the garden has an important role to play, The creators feel the garden space of this locale has been somewhat overlooked, a passageway on the way to other parts of the museum; so the plan is to emphasize the centrality of this space. In this way they hope to build a sonic replica of the entire museum, and confound the differences between inside and outside. It’s realised with a combination of instruments, percussion, voices, and microphones, and includes comments from visitors and onlookers woven into the very discreet mix. The editing has been executed with La Casa’s typical craft and attention to detail, with an ear very attuned to timbral differences. Fans of Murayama’s percussion work may feel slightly short-changed by these minimal beats and metallic scrapes, but let me tell you when he does play, he sure hits the right note.
Track three is the most sonically rich set on the disc and certainly delivers when it comes to drama and tension, almost a mini radio-drama in 19:59 mins. It also has the most elaborate title, ‘Tentative d’Épuisement (Sonore) d’Un Lieu’. Dating from 2016, the partner here is Arnau Horta, a fellow based at the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona. He is involved with sound art, but mostly from an analytical standpoint; his credentials place him as a teacher, critic, curator, and philosopher. The duo have set themselves a challenging task, an attempt to recreate the spirit of George Perec, who published a book in 1975 which recollected a catalogue of not-especially-interesting events around a small part of that famed city (Place Saint-Sulpice). I have never read a word of Perec, but admire the idea of someone prepared to document all these fleeting impressions of the quotidien in such exhaustive detail. It strikes me as sitting somewhere between Proust and Guy Debord. Naturally, great French intellectual that he was, he came up with a special word for it – “infraordinary“. La Casa and Horta both have their own sets of reasons for executing this work, and in their brief notes they also mention some of the challenges; “is that even possible?” exclaims the Spaniard, in a moment of exasperation. Possible or not, they have elected to try it, and the results are just fabulous. I love the kaleidoscopic effect of all this aural information colliding in unexpected ways, and compared to the other gallery-based pieces it’s a more all-encompassing vision, bordering on something as impossible as an M.C. Escher engraving. Without question, we can also align it with La Casa’s Paris Quotidien project, released in 2017.
Lastly we have ‘Surface-témoin’ with Jean-Luc Guionnet, dated 2005. I had no idea these two have a history of working together, but they have been making collaborative records since 2002 and would seem to be ideally suited for each other. Guionnet’s recent very bold pieces have been very exciting in the way they make use of unusual interior spaces, sometimes for music performance as well as field recordings. This particular piece has been carried out with the rigour of a research project, and there’s even a protocole de création printed here which details the four steps in its realisation. A particular location is involved, and the work involved interviewing people to answer written questions about the building; their voices have ended up on the record. From here the investigation into the building grows more precise and exploratory, concerned with such things as dimensions, numbers, dates, and other measurable quantities. Then the materials – including both the building and the voices of the people themselves – are subjected to a scientific analysis, by an architect, a sound engineer, and a linguist. Finally, this accumulated data is used to build the compositional work, all founded on the basis of a sine wave tone with a harmonic structure (evidently it’s possible to express this in numbers) which exactly corresponds to the width of the building’s entrance. What’s relevant here, I think, is that we have a composition / installation that is very precisely aligned with its subject matter / location, and the means of its realisation; through it, La Casa and Guionnet hope to arrive at an integrated statement that brings together their interests in space, architecture, and sound art, while asking questions about the “meaning” of an entrance. They also like the idea of a threshold, a place that is half-inside, half-outside, a passage to something else; indeed that particular theme is answered and echoed by the other tracks on this compilation. 21:22 mins of layered and complex sound is the result, surprisingly approachable and transparent considering the multiple ideas and intensive hours of effort involved in its creation; if I’m reading it right, it’s about three days of on-site effort compressed into a single work of sound art.
Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector,

The degree of separation, the missing link between the raw material and the work of art is the projectuality, the reasoned recontextualization of the elements chosen according to intuition or necessity. Classically these were pigments or substances such as clay and marble, from which to produce a more or less faithful interpretation of reality, or even its reinvention from scratch. A less immediate challenge, and certainly a more problematic one, lies in relating creatively to forms that already manifest themselves, in some way, as a simulacrum of reality, an “excerpt” of sensory experience captured through a technological medium.
Where the aim is not to document and archive certain phenomenologies, in fact, the doors are opened to a completely different field of investigation: sound sampling becomes a forced synthesis and synaesthesia from which to question the entire perceptual load and transform it, as far as possible, into an autonomous and personal expression.
Over the years, Éric La Casa’s (re)compositional practice has crystallized into a sort of “conceptual realism”: in the work of the French sound artist, life and art continually reflect on themselves, mirror one another in a game of crossed glances – sometimes obsessive, nearly always interrogative – which tend to undermine their presumed objectivity, their apparent “matter-of-factness”. Abandoning the illusory character of a mere descriptivism allows the recovery of the intrinsic spellbinding quality of concrete sounds and of the human voice as such, letters of a universal alphabet that retains the power to infuse one with a primal amazement, almost unaffected by one’s empirical knowledge of the world.
A collection complementary to the Intérieurs published last June, “intra-liminary” studies on some of the indoor spaces that make up the urban ecosystem experienced by the artist (the apartment, the atelier, the museum), Installations brings together four significant works, dated between 2005 and 2016, commissioned to La Casa and some of his long-time collaborators by mainly French galleries and festivals. These tracks, logically, are in turn the (impossible) stereophonic syntheses of complex installation environments, conceived for a collective fruition whose coordinates change depending on one’s positioning in the architectural space that houses them.
And it is the very structure of the Musée Zadkine in Paris, by synecdotic reduction, that “inhabits” the site-specific installation “Double exposition” (2010): a doubly twofold work already in its title, since even the Francophone term ‘exposition’ can be equally translated both as ‘exposure’ (photographic technique) and ‘exhibition’ (artistic display). Here La Casa proceeds to record the room tones around the museum, spaces which can now be discerned solely relying on their acoustic properties – intensity of natural resonance, sound permeability with the adjacent rooms and the outdoors.
The meta-narrative exercise also includes the interventions of percussionist Seijiro Murayama (drum beats, tonal vibrations of cymbals, acute vocalizations) and the courteous indications of the staff, the “native” population of that which, through the artist’s auditory reconstruction, gradually evolves from space to place, from object to subject: a living and breathing organism, arbitrarily reduced to a bare minimum in its endogenous replica, a sequence and summation of perspectives that do not resolve its identity but invite us to a more careful and unorthodox exploration of the museum’s spaces.
The work of art, therefore, as reflection of a structurally interlocking reality (emboîtement), an unsolvable montage of the “infra-ordinary” experience: on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of  writer Georges Perec’s birth – under a commission of MACBA in Barcelona – La Casa and Arnau Horta sonically reproduce the literary experiment conducted in “Espèces d’espaces” [“Species of Spaces”, 1974]. The dissection on paper of the three consecutive days Perec spent sitting at the café in Saint-Sulpice Square, a crowded corner of the Parisian metropolis, is transposed into the multi-channel dramaturgy of “Tentative d’épuisement (sonore) d’un lieu” [Attempt at exhausting the sound of a place] (2016): a controlled chaos of most familiar stimuli, grouped in sequential clusters according to a precise “taxophony” – patrons at the counter, tinkling spoons, car horns – alternating phases of saturation with others of decompression into the background buzz. An exercise in unraveling and fixing reality that throws its discreet details to the fore and which, like photography and cinema, may even turn into a sinister, almost demonic practice – a photographer, said Ferdinando Scianna’s father, is “one who kills the living and raises the dead”.
Then back again to the atelier: not La Casa’s, but that of painter Michaële-Andréa Schatt, protagonist of the inaugural exhibition at Galerie Isabelle Gounod in Boulogne-Billancourt, who supported the creation of “De la dilatation du paysage” [Enlarging the landscape] (2006). A new contrast between the reconfiguration of directly recorded sounds and a detailed verbal classification is consumed in this place of slowness and intent cogitation, of crisis and its putative resolution in the art work. Objects, actions and concepts Schatt previously listed by mental association are then neatly displayed/arranged on the mutable sonic surface like a minimal pattern, a neutral dialectical counterpoint to the noises that permeate and surround artistic creation and, on a further level, the exhibited paintings.
paysage processus peinture pli robe dépeindre dépli dérobe posture tissage découpage arpentage nomenclature bruissage tessiture rélier insinuer plisser battement montage rupture contrecoller rythme trame langage polissage surface tablature viser entrelacs fêlure vagabonder flexion réflexion inflexion manteau
Lastly, carried out with the collaboration of experimental composer Jean-Luc Guionnet – as previously on the quadruple album Home: Handover (Potlatch, 2014) – is the most programmatic and formally abstract reconnaissance, conceived for the Lieux Communs Festival in Montreuil. “Surface-témoin” [Show surface] (2005) is focused on the community’s perception of a precise context: questioned by the two artists, passers-by make assumptions about the size of the building, the year of its foundation and its supposed function, as well as considerations of visual, auditory and sensational character; an architect, an engineer, and a linguist subsequently intervene with further technical examinations; the third survey consists in the calculation of the standing wave, meaning the interference of two opposite waves of the same frequency. The collected materials are then irregularly distributed on twelve monophonic tracks, played at random through the speakers arranged in the installation environment.
Once again immersed in the “intra-liminary” domain, La Casa keeps analyzing the possibility of a personal synthesis between what is and how it appears, listening with insatiable curiosity to the whole sphere of “otherness” before delving into his intuitions and satisfying his projectual disposition with lucid determination. Michele Palozzo, December 2020

------------------------ (italian version)

Il grado di separazione, il tassello mancante tra la materia grezza e l’opera d’arte è la progettualità, la ricontestualizzazione ragionata degli elementi prescelti secondo intuito o necessità. Classicamente si è trattato di pigmenti o di sostanze come l’argilla e il marmo, a partire dai quali produrre un’interpretazione più o meno fedele del reale, o finanche una sua reinvenzione ex novo. Una sfida meno immediata, e senz’altro più problematica, risiede nel relazionarsi in maniera creativa a forme che si presentano già, in qualche modo, come un simulacro della realtà, un “brano” dell’esperienza sensoriale catturato tramite un medium tecnologico.
Laddove lo scopo non è quello di documentare e archiviare determinate fenomenologie, infatti, si aprono le porte a tutt’altro terreno d’indagine: il campionamento sonoro diviene una forzosa sintesi e sinestesia a partire da cui mettere in discussione l’intero portato percettivo e trasformarlo, per quanto possibile, in espressione autonoma e personale.
Col passare degli anni la pratica (ri)compositiva di Éric La Casa si è andata cristallizzando in una sorta di “realismo concettuale”: nell’opera del sound artist francese la vita e l’arte riflettono continuamente su se stesse, si rispecchiano l’una nell’altra in un gioco di sguardi incrociati – talvolta ossessivi, quasi sempre interrogativi – che tendono a incrinarne la presunta oggettività, l’apparente “matter-of-factness”. Abbandonare il carattere illusorio di un mero descrittivismo consente il recupero dell’intrinseca qualità affabulatoria dei suoni concreti e della voce umana in quanto tale, lettere di un alfabeto universale che serba il potere di infonderci uno stupore primigenio, quasi incondizionato dalla conoscenza empirica del mondo.
Raccolta complementare agli Intérieurs pubblicati lo scorso giugno, studi “intra-liminari” su alcuni degli spazi chiusi che costituiscono l’ecosistema urbano esperito dall’artista (l’appartamento, l’atelier, il museo), Installations accosta quattro significative opere, datate tra il 2005 e il 2016, commissionate a La Casa e a suoi collaboratori di lunga data da gallerie e festival prevalentemente francesi. Le presenti tracce, logicamente, sono a loro volta (impossibili) sintesi stereofoniche di ambienti installativi complessi, pensati per una fruizione collettiva le cui coordinate cambiano a seconda della propria collocazione nello spazio architettonico che li ospita.
Ed è la struttura stessa del Musée Zadkine di Parigi, per riduzione sineddotica, ad “abitare” l’installazione site-specific “Double exposition” (2010): opera doppiamente duplice già nel titolo, poiché anche il termine francofono ‘exposition’ può tradursi egualmente sia come ‘esposizione’ (tecnica fotografica) che come ‘mostra’ (allestimento d’arte). La Casa procede qui a prelevare i  room tones delle sale del museo, le quali si distinguono ora unicamente in base alle loro proprietà acustiche – l’intensità della risonanza naturale, la permeabilità sonora con le stanze adiacenti e con l’esterno.
L’esercizio meta-narrativo passa anche per gli interventi del percussionista Seijiro Murayama (colpi di tamburo, vibrazioni tonali di piatti, vocalizzi acuti) e le cortesi indicazioni dello staff, popolazione “nativa” di quello che, attraverso la ricostruzione auditiva dell’artista, evolve man mano da spazio a luogo, da oggetto a soggetto: un organismo vivente e respirante, arbitrariamente ridotto ai minimi termini in una sua replica endogena, sequenza e sommatoria di prospettive che non ne risolvono l’identità ma invitano a un’esplorazione più attenta e inortodossa degli spazi museali.
L’opera d’arte, dunque, come riflesso di una realtà strutturata a incastro (emboîtement), un montaggio irrisolvibile dell’esperienza “infra-ordinaria”: in occasione dell’ottantesimo anniversario della nascita dello scrittore Georges Perec – su commissione del MACBA di Barcellona – La Casa e Arnau Horta ne ripropongono in forma sonora l’esperimento letterario condotto in “Espèces d’espaces” [“Specie di spazi”, 1974]. Il dissezionamento su carta dei tre giorni consecutivi trascorsi da Perec sedendo al caffè di piazza Saint-Sulpice, un angolo affollato della metropoli parigina, è trasposto nella drammaturgia multicanale di “Tentative d’épuisement (sonore) d’un lieu” (2016): un caos controllato di stimoli quantomai familiari, raggruppati in cluster sequenziali secondo una precisa “tassofonia” – avventori al bancone, cucchiaini tintinnanti, clacson – che alterna fasi di saturazione ad altre di decompressione nel brusio di sottofondo. Un esercizio di sbrogliamento e fissaggio della realtà che ne scaraventa in primo piano i dettagli discreti e che, al pari della fotografia e del cinema, può persino sfociare in una pratica sinistra, quasi demoniaca – il fotografo, disse il padre di Ferdinando Scianna, è “uno che ammazza i vivi e resuscita i morti”.
Poi il ritorno nell’atelier: non il proprio, bensì quello della pittrice Michaële-Andréa Schatt, protagonista della mostra inaugurale della Galerie Isabelle Gounod a Boulogne-Billancourt, col supporto della quale viene realizzato “De la dilatation du paysage” (2006). Un nuovo contrasto tra la riconfigurazione dei suoni in presa diretta e una puntuale classificazione verbale si consuma in questo luogo della lentezza e dell’intento cogitare, della crisi e della sua putativa risoluzione nell’opera. Oggetti, azioni e concetti previamente elencati da Schatt per associazione mentale sono poi ordinatamente esposti/disposti sulla mutevole superficie sonora come un pattern minimale, neutrale contrappunto dialettico ai rumori che permeano e circondano la creazione artistica e, a un livello ulteriore, i dipinti in mostra.

paysage processus peinture pli robe dépeindre dépli dérobe posture tissage découpage arpentage nomenclature bruissage tessiture rélier insinuer plisser battement montage rupture contrecoller rythme trame langage polissage surface tablature viser entrelacs fêlure vagabonder flexion réflexion inflexion manteau

Avviene infine con la collaborazione del compositore sperimentale Jean-Luc Guionnet – come già nel quadruplo album Home: Handover (Potlatch, 2014) – la ricognizione più programmatica e formalmente astratta, realizzata per il Festival Lieux Communs a Montreuil. “Surface-témoin” (2005) è rivolta alla percezione di un preciso contesto da parte della collettività: interrogati dai due artisti, i passanti fanno ipotesi sulle dimensioni dello stabile, sull’anno della sua fondazione e sulla presunta funzione, oltre a considerazioni di carattere visivo, uditivo e sensazionale; successivamente intervengono un architetto, un ingegnere e un linguista per un’ulteriore disamina di carattere tecnico; il terzo rilievo consiste nel calcolo dell’onda stazionaria, ossia l’interferenza di due onde contrarie della stessa frequenza. I materiali collezionati sono poi ripartiti irregolarmente su dodici piste monofoniche, riprodotte secondo procedimenti casuali attraverso gli speaker disposti nell’ambiente installativo.
Ancora una volta immerso nel dominio “intra-liminare”, La Casa prosegue analizzando la possibilità di una personale sintesi tra ciò che è e come esso appare, ascoltando con insaziabile curiosità l’intero insieme “altro” prima di dar fondo alle sue intuizioni e soddisfare con lucida determinazione la sua indole progettuale.