In her performances, which intersect dance and drawing, Pauline Dufour displays her body in a virtual space to create a link with nature. Holding with her hands the controls of the VR tilt brush and the helmet on her head, the artist accompanies us during the exploration of the potential of a virtual reality whose territory is both real and ghostly.
In quarantine, the boundaries between reality and fiction blur as in a science fiction movie. The performances of the French artist resignify and question this new reality? that we are living. Once again, art can save us.
From her home in Nantes, where she is going through these days of confinement, the French artist tells us:
-How did you get from dance, through drawing and engraving, to the performances drawn with virtual reality?
“I started dance practice in my childhood, along with gymnastics that I practiced 15 hours a week in a club. Suddenly, due to a knee accident, I had to leave the sport at age 14. I began to question myself again and at that moment the drawing came: first with the evening classes at Beaux Arts in Limoges from the age of 15, then with the Bac * of Art and Literature and, finally, I attended the School of Decorative Arts in Strasbourg (HEAR). It is there that I discovered practices such as engraving or lithography that are fascinating because they allow you to be in an ancient workshop atmosphere, with demanding manipulations and knowledge, but also with the possibility of experimenting. That’s what I like, experimentation with practices.
In 2017, I was offered a creative residency to make my first virtual drawing: Junglefever. Doing the performance for a public is another form of experimentation for me. The virtual drawing places the body and the creative process at the center of practice.”
* Abbreviation for Baccalauréat, an emblematic French high school diploma that enables access to higher education.
-Your interdisciplinary work explores a parallel reality, an “other” reality. How do you feel during performances while your body unfolds?
“It is a very new experience and full of potential. It offers the possibility of collaborating with musicians, photographers or cameramen and very soon I would like to add a choreographer and a scientist! It is also a sensual and very demanding experience. I am still far from what I would like to do in terms of body movement.”
-What relationship does your work have with architecture and space in general? In your performances, how are real and virtual space articulated?
“My father was an architect. In the old way, he drew with rotrings, in a built and delicate way. He drew the space he saw, the space he observed while traveling. This forged my gaze and nurtured very strong roots for me around the notions of space, scale and Architecture as “Major Art”. The first documents I drew on were architectural plans. An old plan is exciting. It offers a space of possibilities. I lean on real space, be it an open space, a room in a museum or a stage, to anchor my body, my feet, my weight on the floor. The public also leads me during my ambulation to enter gradually in the virtual space. Then the two spaces merge.
When I perform a virtual creation, since I do not see where I am physically, I must remain very present in reality, listening to the reactions, the sounds, what is happening around me in order to orient myself. My senses are totally absorbed in what I see in the helmet and guide me to advance. The challenge is to surrender to be natural and, at the same time, to master the technological device for live drawing.”
-Your work crosses borders and crosses limits: the space / time of virtual reality, perception, the relationship with nature, abstraction and light. Do you think your work is ungraspable?
“It’s elusive, I hope so. All the works that I admire also have this mysterious or enigmatic aspect. Whether in literature, in cinema, in the history of art; or in nature itself, which is a great source of inspiration for me. During a performance, I try to get closer to the viewer or the visitor. It is a very physical act and the visitor is usually close to me. Leaving him a part of the work to immerse himself, feel or understand if he needs it is also good. I think I address important topics for everyone: our relationship with nature, life, the landscape, the intimate, the unknown. I prefer to evoke that to describe, that the image is a mental construction and that the spectator can make his own interpretation or narrate his story.”
-Do you think that your work could provide clues to traverse more poetically these days of confinement in which our reality has become a virtuality without space and time?
“From the beginning of the quarantine, I started an ink graphic job. In a small notebook I capture a journey every day, a look at this time of confinement through drawing. I need to hold on to the reality of my drawing. I will see if, later, it becomes a virtual work. It is a work that allows me to keep a record of this moment that is very real but, at the same time, could be a completely fictitious or virtual setting.”