by Hanna Alkema
61st Salon de Montrouge
Virgile Fraisse constructs films and installations which, nurtured by international geopolitics and cultural studies, probe the power of images produced by culture industries and the forces at work in their circulation. During an exchange in Los Angeles, the preliminary point of his line of thinking had to do with his encounter with California’s institutional critique and the closeness of the Hollywood studios. In the film Situations suivantes (2014), he presents a pool of screenwriters busily writing a South African series. In the exchange between the protagonists appears their conscious intention to exercise, by means of narrative, a form of soft power, by broaching certain sensitive social subjects. Fraisse has subsequently focused on the thoroughly material issue of the conveyance of images. The project under way, SEA-ME-WE, devised in the form of a trilogy, thus focuses on the eponymous network of undersea fibre optic cables, which carry the bulk of the world’s telecommunications. The first film in this cycle, Scribbles and Broken Line (2015) is shown in a white metal structure, tautologically inspired by a landing stage, housing two screens alternately broadcasting the scenes shot in the ports of Marseille and Palermo, two cities on the route of the cables. In Marseille, the actors indulge in a sort of role-playing combined with Greek tragedy, sketching out the diplomatic stakes underlying this worldwide network. In Palermo, in the tone of Commedia dell’Arte, the players evoke the environmental complications associated with the laying of cables on the ocean bed. This way of articulating a demanding and readily critical way of thinking about the impact of the narratives, and endlessly duplicating it, by dealing with it in a theatrical form, calls to mind the words of Jacques Rancière in Le Partage du sensible, esthétique et politique (2000): «Reality must be fictionalized to be thought about».