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WHAT COULD BE / WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

2015Two plastic volumes,
each 120 x 180 x 14 cm


Could you describe this piece? 

It is a collaborative artwork I made with the Leipzig-based duo FAMED. The piece is composed of two white rectangular volumes bearing a sentence each. “What could be” is engraved on the right rectangle while the sentence “What could have been” is simply sketched on the left. One could describe it as a meditation on time, history how we relate to the future and the past.

The piece seems inverting our relation to time. It shows the future as already engraved sentence.– What could be – and the past as a not yet engraved one. How do you relate to this inversion ?

In a very strong article “Identité narrative et communauté historique” the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur proposes an interesting definition of the past. He argues that the conception in which Past is only what happened, what cannot be changed, is poor and insufficient. Ricoeur goes on explaining that when we try to historically reconstruct, to recompose what has been in the past, the way people lived, the way people perceived the world, we have to take into account the fact that people in the past had a future, what one can name the “future of the past”. The people from before had dreams, desires, utopias, that constitute a reservoir of potentiality, which is part of our History. Ricoeur points out that we are made – the present, our present – is made of those unaccomplished promises. Thus, one important part of re-reading the traditions that have been transmitted to us consists in seeing these unachieved promises.

How is potentiality addressed in this piece?

The piece stands right at the heart of this reflection by Paul Ricoeur and it invites to meditate on what is the past – What could have been – and how we usually relate to the future. Future, as I said, is generally considered as being a time where things are to be written, not yet written, and the past is normally – in the western historical perspective, at least – seen as a time where things have been written, things have happened. The asymmetry of this piece – created by the engraved and sketched texts – creates a sort of instability with regards to time, where the future seems to be engraved and the past is still open to interpretation, suspended in a way that one could start by considering the unachieved promises – what could have been – in order to revolt against an engraved future, where things seem to be absolutely set.

What do you mean by “revolt” and “engraved future”?

The two white rectangles look very much like tomb stones. But they are presented in such a way that they are not yet fixed. They are, in a way, waiting. One very strong element of our generation, born at The end of History, is this never ending struggle that we need to carry on against this idea that the future is written. By engraving it on the stones – What could be – we are actually showing this aspect, where even the dreams, at the end of the 20th century, even the utopias seem to be condemned. The apocalyptic culture that we are living in tends to burry the utopian perspectives – What could be – even before they are born. Thus, the piece invites to a double disequilibrium : re-opening the past to see in it the unachieved, the promises that were not fulfilled and with this new relation to the past, trying to un-engrave the engraved futures, to bring back possibilities into the world and turn the page of our on-going apocalyptic culture.

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