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Benoît Barbagli’s studio is vast. Ocean, river and mountain are his performative spaces. Art arises there, a vital emergence within the collective. His plural and multi-medium proposals hatch in itinerant gestures. Art moves in nature.

In his peripatetic devices, the path makes sense, the nudity is candid, and the work manifests itself in upsurges. The configurations are multiple, the rituals varied and, often, the expedition that leads to the artistic experience is done with visual artists. His camera is described as “flying”. It passes from hand to hand and the signature is frequently shared or collective.

Benoît Barbagli explores borders. He draws from the substrate of creation in search of its germinations from shared nourishment. The Mountain creates as much as the sea, as the artist friend, by his presence, by his movement, by the principle of life, essentially random, which moves him. Art captures moments of the Living which always manifests itself where we least expect it, in unheard-of sequences that we sometimes struggle to capture in their deployments. With humor, lightness, strength and delicacy, Barbagli invites us to capture the moments and encourages us to consider them in their ephemeral beauty. An ode to Vitality.

The four elements are recurring. They animate and structure the artist’s series in Heraclitean bursts. Fire, water, air, earth. Benoît Barbagli’s universe is poetic, polysemous, modest, funny. He likes to “hijack the references of culture to return them to nature. What makes work? The project ? Its manifestations? He orchestrates meetings, a community is created around the project and the creative space then becomes a joyful pretext for life.

To pay homage to the living, to restore its place to it, the artist fades away, he stages, stages and yet fades with great elegance, the ego dissolves in the interconnected, I is another. Benoît Barbagli is reverse romanticism. His return to nature takes place in a peaceful setting where egotism is annihilated, where praise is stripped of pomp, where art emerges in its simplest expression.

In the Mediterranean Sea in winter, a hand holds out a bouquet in the icy water, the fertile sea is also deadly lately. Eros and Thanatos come together, amorous ardor and mortuary homage are two sides of the same mirror. In an attempt at love by torchlight, a naked body throws itself off a cliff, tomb of the diver or inextinguishable passion? The moment is in suspense, an unresolved space subject to the projections of the viewer. Grace, fall and rebound – or not, are part of the whole thing. Bodies carry a stone under the troubled surface of a lake, the emergence of a new Atlantis or the Sisyphean perspective of an inevitable landslide after yet another attempt? The artist and his acolytes bring their stone to the visual edifice.

Benoît Barbagli is the sherpa of the mountain, he transports his paintings there so that the latter can create. He removes the museumification of the woman’s body by returning it to the earth. He picks up the spark igniting the beam. He walks on the Anthropocene by questioning the stars, born of chaos.

Text written by Pulchérie Gadmer on the occasion of the exhibition Sous le chaos, la vie

storm and momentum

 

 

Benoît ‘s experiments hybridize with stealth. They involve different mediums (painting, sculpture, photography, video, sound, publishing) in the performative field. Plural, they take their sources without being affiliated with them in the interventionist or appropriationist approaches of the second half of the XX th century before escaping towards the off-screen, tracing an undetectable dynamic, only in appearance.

Declaring art as a pretext for life, “fantasizing the ultimate piece as a simple breath: a breath”, Benoît is part of a Fluxus heritage where life is no longer theatricalized. Here, the poetry of the ordinary is grafted onto a hymn to nature rid of any bucolic vision. However, Benoît does not intervene in the natural environment like Land Art artists, he does not modify the landscape, nor does he preserve or heal ecosystems.

Benoît’s casual attitude to art history can be unsettling. Far from being a driving force for creation, the artistic quotations that sometimes surface are apprehended in an uninhibited way, in the mode of copyleft , as a free development or diversion. A thousand miles from the postmodern artist multiplying the references, Benoît turns his gestures into poetic images relieved of any historical anchoring; a position-reaction to a contemporary art scene for the benefit of the here and now. “Inconsistency is not insignificance” said Marcel Duchamp.

On the mountain range of Annapurna, on the Massif du Mercantour or on the shores of the Mediterranean, Benoît walks, bivouacs, climbs, swims, snorkels to create gestures that look like conquest but remain futile and ephemeral. He rubs shoulders with and woos nature, throws himself into the void or into the depths of the abyss to offer, for a moment, a bouquet of flowers to the Earth [ Les Tentatives , 2014].

Tentative amoureuse, 2014

Love attempt, 2014

 

 

The ascent, the dizziness, the attraction of the void, the intoxication of the depths give embraces a sexual drive. The primordial energies – water, fire, air, earth -, the elementary qualities – the hot, the cold, the dry, the humid – are summoned and with them, different nocturnal or diurnal landscapes – the mountain and the sea, the sheer peaks of the cliffs and the gentleness of the lakes, the warmth of the sun and the icy whiteness of snow.

T he question of the nude in the landscape appears as a necessary countershot to the Anthropocene era. It no longer displays the central and narcissistic place of the human or the “I”, it calls for a horizontal and peaceful relationship with the world. It is built on a desire for action, reaction, taking charge.

The erotic offerings experiment with the meshes that connect humans to nature. A plea for ecosophy, a call to feel the vital impulses unfold there. Meditation establishes itself as a form of peace[2016] . Visits _[2014] exult the pleasure of connection and interaction. Nature is no longer an idealized place of retreat, it is a privileged and intimate partner. She is where the wind blows.

Benoît promotes moments of artistic synergy through eco-solidarity actions. Thus, he initiates collective creation sessions in a joyful and festive atmosphere where the figure of the author and of the authority is questioned. Together, they drop to the bottom of the water as if in a deep sleep [We tried to fall asleep underwater , 2018], play the trumpet in the open sea [ There is a connection between music, water and life , 2019], run naked in the snow [ Sunburn , 2019].

There is a connection between music, water and life, 2019

 

Some expeditions assert themselves, in a permanent, ephemeral or nomadic way, in the landscape, seeking the help of companions with specific know-how and qualities. With a naval architect[Marc Risé] , musicians and amateur freedivers, he immerses, for the time of a session, a piano “infusing a musical wave in the depths of the sea” [ La tide de la trépidation , 2015].

Tide of Trepidation, 2015

Accompanied by climbers [Félix Bourgeau, Audrie Galzi, Tom Barbagli], he fixed a bronze cast (weighing around 20 kg) of his arm holding a real bouquet of flowers, doomed to disappear if he is not replaced [ Here the earth , 2014]. With a cameraman friend, he makes a stele of burnt wood travel in the middle of nature like an open interstitial door on the other side of the mirror [ Monoxyle , 2019].

Nature is also a privileged partner. In Athens, with the artist Eri Dimitriadi, he tries to capture the shape of water on earth or under the sea [ Ocean memoria , 2017- ]. Alone, he launches into the landscape natural ink made on site so that it smudges a canvas deposited below in a form of cosmological co-creation [ Ecotopia , 2016-2020].

This propensity to work in collaboration crystallizes in the birth in 2018 of a collective with variable geometry (Tom Barbagli, Evan Bourgeau, Camille Franch-Guerra, Omar Rodriguez Sanmartin, Anne-Laure Wuillai) and with a fluctuating name ( Azimuth, Palam ) magnetizing common eco-solidarity desires and ideals. The collective and walking in the mountains becomes a work process, a way of inhabiting the land [ Azimuth , 2018; Beneath the Ice, Water , 2019].

 

 

Benoît is one of these nomadic spirits, which tries to open an exploratory field where energies circulate freely until making inextricable the links which connect experience, pleasure and creation. This is evidenced by his manifesto or epic texts as well as his editions [ Ici la terre , 2015]. The expeditions unashamedly take on a lyrical flight. This reminiscence of Romanticism, far from being naive, seems to evoke what this past can say in the present so that humans are no longer facing nature, but with it.

In this sensual activism, the enjoyment of freedom continues to exult again and again until it creates a momentum of political and societal life. Collective commitment – and not community – becomes procession.

 

 

Révolution Naturelle, 2020

Natural Revolution, 2020

 

 

Thus, they raise the point armed with a bouquet [ Natural Revolution , 2019-2020], love each other together, at night, in the streets of the Exarchia district – a place of self-management and citizen initiative in Athens [ ACAB , 2017]. With the artist Aimée Fleury, they feed and cultivate the fire of freedom [Liberation, 2020] in a kind of processual and shamanic ritual which is reminiscent of his plastic research on telepathy, synesthesia, trance [À corps , 2013] or his compositions under LSD [Water Deployment , 2011].

 

 

 

Liberation – #2 – 2019
in collaboration with Aimée Fleury and the participation of Norra

 

 

These works, moments of life engaged in a better tomorrow, do not always participate in an eco-responsible reflection that would be more in tune with practice. However , their nature is elsewhere, immaterial, elusive. They crystallize in the emotion they provide, in the call for freedom, the storm and the momentum they instill.

Text by Rebecca Francois

Rebecca Francois, curator at MAMAC (Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain), a museum dedicated to modern art and contemporary art, poses for the photographer on the museum's roof terrace, Nice, France, 6 November 2015

Auto-Bio (2015):

 

Benoit Barbagli lives and works between Paris and Nice

Conceptual technology engineer, designing a network for transmitting thoughts remotely without an intermediary interface. A technology that acts as a lubricant on words and things, between gestures and emotions, to soften them and connect them. To achieve this, he uses love and life. A technology that is sometimes verbal, sometimes plastic, which never ceases to build bridges between many forms of knowledge which are revealed through encounters and the collective. Each project generates the emulsion of different trades: mountaineers, engineers, architects, sailors…

An extravagant engineering assumed out of phase with any technological progress, a sensitivity to the ecological cause, a praise of the simplicity of the gesture, gives it a certain militant reading.

The gaze on the gestures oscillates between a satire of instituting cultural forms, an unreasoning poetic act and a vigorous erotic expression crossed by a questioning of gender.

He vacillates between holding a rigorous, structured logician’s discourse, and an intellectual imposture of which we can never really say at what moment it would have started. Dressed in complex devices and sometimes tenuous references, the meaning of the gesture is expressed in a simple, popular language, always sincere.

Bucolic, in love, loving life, and giving thanks to it, plunging frankly into it, decreeing art as a pretext for life.

And believe it or not, in this bubbling activity, the praise is given to slowness, stammering decay as the only possible environmental window. This slowed down activity increasingly turns towards meditation, as a mode of access to oneself, as a mode of societal claim, by fantasizing the ultimate piece as a simple breath: a breath.

 

 

Michel Remy, Professor of Art History

Benoît Barbagli, or diving in the heights.

It is between the middle and the end of the 18th century that has been confirmed the philosophical and moral doubt as to the power of man over nature, which classicism proclaimed loud and clear. At that time, nature gradually imposed itself against the alleged domination that man thought he was exercising over it. Birth of the English garden, fascination with ruins, discovery gothic entrails of this same nature, apotheosis of the romanticism of Bernardin de Saint Pierre, Byron, Lamartine, Hölderlin, Shelley, Hugo and so on…

With them, a sensibility takes shape in search of itself, a “thought prey to the excess that engenders it” “under the rubble of our abolished certainties” according to the beautiful phrases of Annie Le Brun. The mountains, like the underground passages of castles, then become the places where the soul of the world, the spirit which wells up both from the geological strata and from the vertiginous reliefs, where this soul and this spirit amazes us and invites us to dialogue with them with regard to infinity. The famous experience of William Wordsworth as a child, seized with terror in the shadow of the rocks on which the night was settling, Shelley in terrified admiration in front of Mont Blanc, Lamartine and its lake, Musset and the howls of wolves, all signed this endless dialogue…
Without in the least indulging in ridiculously disproportionate comparisons, we believe that Benoît Barbagli is one of those who, heirs to this “diving into the heights” – if I may this oxymoron – succeed in suspending rational thought, to “stripping off these bonds of mortality” and to transcending oneself, but remaining solidly here. Benoît Barbagli’s work is a performative work, that is to say a staging of both himself and sea and mountain landscapes. We are tempted to see, albeit hastily, an affiliation with the Land Art of the seventies, but we must quickly say that it is a Land Art which would go beyond too dry an objectivity and which would be inseparable from a deep spirituality, without this term having anything religious about it. It is also not without importance that he decided, in order to facilitate this escape from self, to seek this soul of the world in India and in Nepal, cradles of a religiosity without religion, where spirituality is the banal daily life of men, where one can only be seized with vertigo – and isn’t vertigo the forgetting, dreaded or hoped for, of gravity? ? Exoticism is elsewhere. It is to come out of oneself.

The confrontation with space, through its lyricism and its exaltation of the deep self, expresses in Barbagli the need to find the measure of man outside of all visual and moral conditioning. As if, by plunging into a mountain precipice, we discovered what is at the bottom: our body undressed in its civilized tinsel. This is where the nudity of certain bodies takes on meaning from Barbagli. Doesn’t nudity represent separation, abandonment of the world of false appearances, a kind of self-reappropriation, in order to reach the shores of a truth that has eluded us and enter into an intimate relationship with the otherness? This relationship then leads to an interpenetration of man and the cosmos, of the self and the big other, in which the two terms of the relationship find themselves in the same state of original purity – an attempt by the self to meet the Other at the same level and to abolish what risks differentiating them. Let’s look at some photos: whether the body adopts the fetal or curled up position, whether it plunges into the ocean of time in an offering of itself, in an ithyphallic self-forgetfulness or whether it defies gravity and “enters into lightness” ( as they say to enter into religion!) by keeping their city costumes on the prow of a rock, the spectator finds himself precipitated into another dimension of vision, a wild vision.

Paradoxically, what secretes this savagery of vision is the staging, the pose, the perfectly thought-out composition which ensures that the bodies are in no way irruptive or disruptive but are on the verge of melting… This is where photography comes from to the rescue of a work that should disappear, because this work, wild, can only be ephemeral… This is where the concern for poetic composition changes the nature of photography which, instead of being comfortably and banally documentary , reveals an immense imaginative potential. Breton said that “the eye exists in the wild state”. But that eye who is well that of Magritte, of Miro, of Masson or of Ernst when they are painting and blending into “the hidden territories of the unconscious”, is not that eye also what becomes of the viewer’s eye the very moment it discovers what they have painted? Isn’t the “savagery” of this vision communicated from one to the other? The same joins the other, the physical the metaphysical, the ephemeral the eternal, we are in full immanence…

Here the earth…yes, but also, here the spirit. – and the imagination!

There are places where the spirit blows, and Benoît Barbagli shows them to us…

Michael Remy

University of Nice

Camille Frasca, Curator at the Picasso Museum

Benoît Barbagli is what one might call a supra-conceptual artist. Born in 1988 in Nice, he took classes at the Villa Arson from 2010, where he learned each year to question himself. He is advised to always look for a beyond, to push further, to constantly question. This turn of mind then fuels his artistic research. It multiplies and diversifies practices, creating bridges. Works by gestures,

teeming with ideas, boiling.

The text is the binder to understand the works. And allows him to satisfy his insatiable desire to always go further. Because Benoît likes to find things that are infinite, unfinished, “without edges” as he says. […] We would like to classify it in a post Land art movement, because what often comes back is the flight from the gallery, to run in the public space. But that would imprison it in a field of references which it does not necessarily claim. Benoît constructs his own story: the other crucial aspect in his work is the narration. Language is for him an almost plastic material, each project containing a narrative germ that is formed and becomes more complex as ideas are born, live and die in Benoît’s head.

Thomas Golsen, Professor of Art History at the University of Lille

Benoit Barbagli revealed to me the existence of the Schumann-Network, This mesh of telluric waves which would also act on the mineral relief as on the living organisms: he taught me how to communicate by telepathy and read the invisible words written between the lines; he showed me that you could play the piano at the bottom of the sea.

Benjamin Laugier, Curator at the New National Museum of Monaco

Benoit Barbagli undertakes performative work that combines engineering and poetry.

Tied with a strong relationship to nature and science, his performances can thus be orchestrated by complex devices or require only the simplest device.

His Visits can sometimes recall the postures of Philippe Ramette when he himself invokes The Traveler Contemplating a Sea of Clouds by Caspar David Friedrich.

For Tide of Trepidation , he hitches a piano to a pyramidal raft. Connected to a winch, the piano is immersed to be played in apnea. This tribute to the Swedish pianist Esbjorn Svensson, victim of a diving accident, draws on Barbagli’s many sources of inspiration. Music therefore plays a central role even when it is not being played. The background of certain actions, it is often induced like a tune that one hums after a fortuitous synaptic connection.

Here the clay is a simple and romantic gesture that in reality requires a certain dexterity. Clinging to the side of the cliff, a bronze arm holds a bouquet of flowers. Vertigo of the love of emptiness.

Conversely, Tentacle 115.5° is a latex prosthetic tentacle made up of 128 magnets arranged in the suction cups according to the Fibonacci sequence, i.e. 2 exponent 7. New ascent project, this one hypothetically consists of climbing Bernar Venet’s sculpture entitled 115.5° , installed in the Albert I garden in Nice.

 

Benjamin Laugier

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