Yoff, Lébous village in Dakar, Nouadhibou, Ceuta, Lampedusa, Chennai (Madras), Sangatte, Gibraltar. In Benoît Laffiché's view these are all places associated with work, dwelling, migrations, and the globalized economy. They are these things in concrete, symbolic and political ways. Points of departure, passage, and arrival (impact). With subtlety and lucidity, Benoît Laffiché observes gestures, actions, beings and their bodies, caught in a slow tempo, and gestures which are ancient or, on the contrary, confronted by a forced brutality and mobility, or immobility. His video installations, projections and publications are all so many sensitive, poetic but politically radical ways of looking at the world.
In an historic moment when every form of life is in the grip of the process of economic globalization, what is involved for the artist, more than ever, is working in situ and in vivo. In situ: in a precise spot on the planet, a place endowed with specific geographical, economic, cultural and human coordinates, be it in terms of discovery or understanding. In vivo: at the heart of what is living, in dialogue with the Multitudes.
The video installation Vasanthi & Vani Theaters by Benoît Laffiché is the deconstructed representation of a process of destruction. Through observation of the slow and patient demolition of a cinema in India is declared a specific moment in the life of a family and a business. The artist becomes a member of the team, working from the inside of the building on the recording of its gradual disappearance. The challenge of his documentary approach is the representation of work gestures. He shows how Indian workers are at once attentive and detached, in a proper attitude, in an intelligent relation with the time allotted them to get rid of a construction by retrieving and sorting each one of its component parts, and then recycling them. The three images are diffracted in the exhibition space, as if deposited and framed on diagonal rails, large monolithic screens leaning on the room's pillars and walls. Nothing is imposed on the onlookers, who are invited to make their own links between the images and sounds, in the time-frame of their gaze. What is involved for the artist is making an interstice, within which it will be possible to construct an interpretation of reality. During the editing, images appear, coming from reels of films from Tamil Nadu1, found in the rubble. It's a film about dowries, with the story echoing the situation recorded here: the owner of the land where the cinema stands has sold it because his daughters must get married. From these fictional images with their encompassing documentary eye, the situation described by the artist is declared: 'I was trying to film the relation to work of one of the major players in the globalization scenario: India, somewhere between Blade Runner and Karnatic music. Everything is more physical in India, everything is visible there, it's possibly more real. Every day, Indians use an inventive capacity for adaptation. This is where I see the logic of survival, the attention to forms within the economic necessity, gestures of resistance. And if my work did not mean very much to the Vasanthi people, my presence never surprised them. I knew that in India, in this type of condition, we could meet each other2.'
Since the avant-gardes of the first three decades of the 20th century, the artist's self-appointed role, or work, has been to explain the culture of his Time, acting in such a way that the forms he comes up with are vehicles explaining a culture shared with his contemporaries. Nurtured by his quest for an experience of what is living, which underpins the movement and production rhythm of his work, Benoît Laffiché invents systems and arrangements which are vehicles of an artistic line of thought. His images are perceptible and sensitive, in so much as the work of art, for him, is the outcome of a close understanding of the conditions of existence. Perceptible, because they are a combination of theoretical intuition and poetic intent. Sensitive, because artistic activity is a criticism of everyday life. And sensitive and perceptible because his art conceives of the world as a soothing approach, with a keen eye on details, lesser things, and bridging tactics—attentive to life.
With Benoît Laffiché, and informed by the thinking of Edouard Glissant—a line of thinking about tremors, which does not attempt to formulate definitive ideas—we can understand artistic activity as a way of hanging out in the world. A duplicated way, which sidesteps genres and produces poetic documents. With him, and still listening to Edouard Glissant, we can understand that Beauty is the secret receptacle of all manner of differences.
Pascal Beausse, 2008
Published in catalog Valeurs croisées, Les ateliers de Rennes, Biennale d'art contemporain, 2009
1 Tamil Nadu is one of the two centres of Indian cinema, rivaling Bollywood.
2 Benoît Laffiché, interviewed by Yvette Le Gall, in Triangle, La Lettre, no 10,
Rennes, 2008, p.5.