The blind model, a photo session

September 6th, 2007

Olavo's view of himselfThe blind model is a photo session in which the model can only see what the camera sees.


I’m now more interested in photographing as a form of social interaction, than in the resulting photographs. Taking pictures of people modifies their behavior. A photo session can be a performance in itself, the resulting pictures being merely traces of this moment. The photographer / model relationship is a very asymmetrical one.

With the unrealized project The photographer is not a vicious man, I planned to automate the power of the photographer over the model. With The blind model, I personally assume that dominant role, to the extent of depriving the model of his/her sight - replacing it with the view from the camera. The bonus of this augmented vision for the model, with its layer of information about light and focus, and with its zoom, is tied to the loss of control over his/her own sight.

Me in the mirror photographing Claudia seeing exactly this picture, and twice herself Claudia's view of herself Claudia in grandeur

Following is good

One thing that got me excited a lot in beginning this new work, is that it follows a growing and diverse body of other works ! Take a look at these, all playing on exchanging our usual vision for another one : Mathieu Briand’s SYS*05, ReE*03/SE*/MOE*2-4, several alternative reality works pointed in notes from Chris O’Shea, and the famous Upside-Down Glasses from Carsten Höller. [update] Also explore the projects listed by Régine on WMMNA.

Of these pieces, I’ve only experienced SYS*05, ReE*03/SE*/MOE*2-4 from Mathieu Briand. It was during the Au delà du spectacle show, at beaubourg in 2000, and I must say that I loved the experience. I could have stayed for hours immersed in it. It was very addictive. You can switch your vision for that of another person in the room, leading to a mix of familiarity, as the place is the same, and strangeness - seeing your own back getting nearer and nearer as someone is walking toward you, for example. You are automatically reverted to your vision on a random or timed basis, which makes an interesting interruption in the alternative vision. Going back to your own vision - mediated by the video helmet - becomes an event in itself.

What I really want to keep from all these works is the gift of another perspective to the participant. But as I’m a little perverse, feelings of insecurity and manipulation do come bundled with that gift.

Prototyping is good too

During the very first try of the technical set-up, Marie was bending toward the ground when at the same time seeing herself from above, and she had a kind of out-of-body experience. At other times, she experienced the performance as film-like, and slightly perverse. Evocation of a David Lynch movies, and a strong reminiscence from the last scene of The Blair Witch Project came to her mind. That alone was an incentive enough to do a full prototype session.

The prototype set-upThe video glasses, housed in felt for peripheral vision maskingSeeing through the glasses

In the ensuing five prototype sessions, all done in one evening, Erica became aware that when she was tilting her head, she felt like the camera was following her movement. Another participant, Nicolas, explained it later by saying that it was as if his brain was keeping the image horizontal with respect with the ground, with the point of of origin of gravity.

Erica also said, in front of a mirror, that it was strange seeing herself three times, when in fact she was seeing herself twice - her back and her front reflected in the mirror. We have supposed that the third view of herself she was intuitively referring to was her physical body, felt by proprioception - the sixth sense we all share and that allows us to know where our hand is, even when we don’t see it.

New people might even be better

Nothing really new if you are neuro-scientist, for sure, but it was very stimulating to experiment directly with these phenomena. It’ll allow me to fine-tune the next session, finding ways to shape the experience. I also now see that - dissociating sight and sense of balance - I should be able to obtain poses and attitudes from my models that wouldn’t naturally come out in an usual photo session.

In term of social reactions I can expect, it seems pretty much the same standard reactions to some of my other performative installations, like Glory Hands or Glaçant. Boys try to get maximum control on the process or refuse to even try, girls play the game, and I suppose older men will too as usual. The funny thing is that all young men who refuse a performance have more or less the exact same way to do so, while stating that its about their own individual reason and feelings. Well, free will it is ! The photographer’s role as a predator is reinforced when the model’s unique view is what the photographer want to frame, to shoot. The asymmetry of the photo session is stronger than ever. And I suppose boys don’t like to play the part of the prey.

Olavo trying to find his markOlavo trying to find his markOlavo trying to find his mark

In any case, I’d like have a lot of different people experimenting The blind model. So, I plan to offer many more sessions, both in private places like apartments and studios and in public spaces like galleries and festivals. Please contact me if you’d like to arrange sessions.

Gender Benders t-shirts : queer statements for casual portraits

June 5th, 2007
After my first t-shirts series, here is another one that I am prototyping. This series play with the lexicon from gender studies and queer political movements. They created new words to identify old and new behaviors that weren’t named. I used this lexicon, making labels that would at first be perceived as oxymorons, social impossibility - or at least revealing something very odd about the wearer.

Here is my plan : faced with such a statement, worn and attached to a person, you’ll try to get a clearer image of what that oxymoron could be, as a person. And then you’ll discover, that, yes, that kind of person may as well exist.

By placing the label as near to the collar as possible, I make sure that it will be carried along with any portrait of the wearer. Think about all these semi-drunk party photographs, or those group portrait during family events. Precisely, I want the gender benders labels to be recorded on these casual portraits, the ones that go directly in the friends and family album.

A french version of the shirts is coming… Anyone for another language?

First series, more labels to come…



MTF then FTM. Kind of cryptic, but it’s about transformation. A person may as well change (physically) to another sex, and why not, change again a few years or a few decades later.

Heteroflexible Virgin. Can you be heteroflexible only if you are sexually active? Or are you heteroflexible by definition when you never had sex with anybody?

Macho-feminist Drag. Machism and feminism are often interleaved in today’s people personality. So in drag persons too, queens or kings alike.



Fag Who Fucks Girls
. I tend to identify myself with this one. Or, more precisely, sometimes some people put me in the fag category. Last time, I was wearing a flower in my hair… This label is another way to state that the sexuality and gender appearence link is arbitrary.

Homophobic Gay Pornstar. Some of the gay pornstars are, in their private life, heterosexual. As there is a lot of homophobia in the heterosexual population, it’s statistically probable that we could find a good number of homophobic gay pornstars.

We want you !
As you can see, there is a few gender benders t-shirts worn at a few places around the world - Paris and Montréal, really. I’d like that to expand, so don’t hesitate to e-mail me if you want a nice unique t-shirt: I distribute them purely at cost.

Debugging life : update on an open source readymade

May 28th, 2007

There is not that much of life debuggers yet, just over fifty, but a couple of people already told me that the interface is oppressive, confusing. And that I don’t give enough information on the home page for people to understand the project, before they sign-in. It’s true, and I don’t want to avoid that!

Bad marketing
Debugging life is really an open source readymade : I used a professional code, and put it to use in the way that seemed… an evidence. Struggling with the tool is part of the process, and simplifying the interface too much would change the byproducts generated.

Moreover, debugging life is mainly a text based project. Files and pictures can and have been upoladed, but narrativity is the central focus. I hope in time it will slowly evolve in a maze of connected texts, and the complex interface will be fully part of that maze.

I have slighty devoided of that line, thought. I have made a few changes to guide the newcomers when they’ll add their first bug: an emphasis on a link, a more logical redirection after the password choice, and that’s about all. I plan to ease just a little bit more the barrier to entry, too. As stated, the home page is clearly light, and adding just a few teasers won’t alter the project too much.

Good marketing
Since I gave it a new start, debugging life has been featured at Dorkbot Paris #2. I used the opportunity to play with a business like presentation, not a lot more than 10 slides, 20 minutes precisely, and a very, very big font. It was nice to be linked from here and there (Écrans, Bioject…)

And Juuso, from, was kind enough to mention debugging life to his readers - mainly game creators that could probably understand the idea of toying with a debugger just for fun…

Bugs severity levels

Debugging life (re)launched, bug track life with me

December 11th, 2006

Last year I worked on the development of a DVD Game title, in a small multimedia studio of around a dozen people.

One of the most fascinating tool that we used was a bug tracker. A bug tracking system is a resolution oriented project manager, with a very strong emphasis on ultra-communication through a web and e-mail based interface. Every single problem in the project is supposed to be filed, commented, revised, fixed, then closed.

It leads to sometimes endless back and forth message exchanges, vigorous denials, pseudo-retreats, all the bread and butter of a common project with a deadline.

As I was totally fascinated by the tool, I discovered that a lot of the others inside the company were slightly avoiding to use the bug tracker, or even clearly refusing to use it.

Because it was a tool we used at the client request, some of them saw it like an invasive surveillance of their way of work. Others viewed it as no more than useless additional work.

Tracking for fun and profit…

For my part, I used it a lot, even attaching notes only for myself to the various bug reported. I even found some fun in crafting a precise and detailed final report when closing a bug. And watching the list of unresolved bugs get shorter and shorter was a relief : there was an end to that tunnel of errors…

Mantis Bug Tracker

I am not sure that the bug tracking tool produced a better final game. But I found the process was producing an amazing by-product. Permanent exchange, endless argumentation, categorization and recategorization led to a unexpected amount of text. Even better, that text formed a snapshot of the relation between the people exchanging. Albeit a totally distorted one, as each one of the participant would play a role when using the bug tracker, carefully avoiding to report certain feelings about the issues.

Going big ! with

As an artist, I wanted to do something with that tool : I knew that it produced a amazing vortex of text, reports, categories and links about each issue. Moreover, the process itself was pure ideology of communication made real. I took the naive way, as I often like : if we use a so sophisticated tool for so trivial projects, what a great use of it we could do on a bigger scale. Everybody would like a better life. We had to debug life.

It’s a kind of joke, for sure. Because we know that we can’t resolve every problem with a bunch of PHP scripts. The definition of what is dysfunctional in life in general is not even possible : is death a bug ? is sleep a bug ? or features ?

But it’s a serious joke, that could teach us what people consider to be a bug in life - their life - and what they would like to see fixed. A tentative database of small and big grief, not unlike the “cahiers de doléances” of the french revolution : debugging life.

Upside Down T-shirt motifs

November 15th, 2006

I started to think about making T-shirt series some years ago. I had an intense rebound on that last year, with a lot of potential motifs and sketches. But I wasn’t sure about the way to print them. It was supposed to be limited editions, or better said, each T-shirt would be a one-off. Standard transfers do not look good enough. Silkscreening is not a light enough process to experiment. So… It was all postponed.

Just two weeks ago, a friend showed me half a dozen beautiful T-shirts she made. What was new to me, is that they were printed with Flex patterns. Flex is a kind of vinyl, and its looks nice, very close to a silkscreened T-shirt that would have a thick ink print. A one-off T-shirt looks as nice as a big series.

So starting now, I’m making T-shirts ! First series : Upside-Down. A classical T-shirt pattern printed wrongfully.

54 Upside Down22 Upside Down84 Upside Down

37 Upside Down24 Upside Down

Better photos coming, but for the moment, here is a preview of the first test batch…

Composition 22 37 84 Upside Down

If you want to proudly wear an upside down sport number, just contact me : I’m making one for you in exchange of just what they cost me. No profit intended here.

Next T-shirt series, to be presented on /Atelier : Gender Benders, new paradoxes of the queer lexicon.

Les bouches écrasées - Squeezed mouths

July 13th, 2006

Here is some pictures from a series I started in early 2005, shooting during parties and familly gathering. When I decide to start a new session, I try to convince every man in the room to let me shoot him with my right hand as I squeeze his mouth with my left hand.
It’s a portrait study. With a small dose of gender study : I decided to squeeze only men. No women, because squeezing the face of a woman would mean something totally different, given the genders relationships as they are.

Les bouches écrasées - MarcorelLes bouches écrasées - MarcLes bouches écrasées - PatrickLes bouches écraséesLes bouches écrasées - Jean-PaulLes bouches écrasées - Jean-Louis

Why do I found them to be beautiful in such a pose, ridiculed, unglorious and suffering? I think it’s because, all strong men as they are, they accepted to loose a little bit of social status, becoming fragile for a moment.

Sneakers for free

July 13th, 2006

Logos and brands are everywhere. It seems that nobody would wear a non-branded pair of sneakers ! But, hey, those branded sneakers are costly, and with the hot summer we have every year, going barefoot is really preferable. So I made sneakers for free for my friends, drawing a logo directly on their feet from memory. and we documented it with a polaroid and a large format camera.

Last summer, I was at a wedding party in the french countryside. Everybody was slowly going barefoot, enjoying the feeling of the grass as the night was falling. We were talking with complete strangers, and my way of socializing is by the mean of micro performances. I guess any gathering, any party, is just a field of experimentation to me.

So I grabbed some pen and markers I always have with me, and began to give a present to anyone that would accept it : a pair of free sneakers, only from the best brands.

Sneakers for free - AdidasSneakers for free - NikeSneakers for free - ConverseSneakers for free - PumaSneakers for free - Converse All Star

I made a few polaroid with my SX-70 to document the gift of the sneakers, and my friend Marc joined me with his large format camera, taking black and white picture using the natural light. Here is his raw contact sheet :

Sneakers for free - Large format contact sheet

There was a collective effort at work in collecting visual memories about the most well known sneaker brands. Because, coming for a wedding party, nobody was wearing any of those brand that night.

The photographer is not a vicious man

July 3rd, 2006

I probably like too much to undress people. Just a few days after the september 2005 session of Ex/timité - where dozens of people have pressed their skin on my scanner - iMAL made a call for participation in a workshop. They were setting up a three-weeks-long run, with a pack of talented people helping up to ten artists to piece together their interactive installations.
A few hours later, I came up with a nice idea for the call, an idea I’d really like to experiment : The photographer is not a vicious man. An interactive installation that could have the same effect on the participant as a low grade glamour photographer would have on a beginner model: push that person to undress more !

The Photographer, croquis

The title came from a song composed by Philip Glass. And the set mimic a photography studio set, where only the photographer is missing. iMAL liked the project. But unfortunately, I was unable to arrange to go to Bruxelles to work on it and set it up, for lack of time and fund for the project.

So this a stalled project for the moment.

But you can read more, in french, on the dedicated page.

An atelier with a dose of RSS

July 3rd, 2006

This new section of is supposed to stand for the Atelier Visits that are part of the life of a painter or a sculptor. I have no atelier, studio or workshop where you could just look around and see works in progress, unfinished, or just about to be finished. Now there is this blog-styled, RSSized part of my website. This is not a portfolio and it’s not a news page either, but rather an invitation to keep an eye on what’s going on, for both friends and strangers.

Sorry, the Atelier is in english only. That’s because my french to english translation skills are really not that good. So it’s far easier for me to write those notes directly in english, for a bit of internationalism.