Road sign in galvanized steel, retroreflective vinyl surface, adhesive letters
45 cm in diametre
The life of Truman Burbank, main character of Peter Weir’s film The Truman Show (1998), is an elaborate reality television show. But like a man from Plato’s cave, he is the only one to be totally unaware of its true nature. Yet a badge worn by one of the actresses of the show, Lauren, hints at the deception. Pascal Bircher focuses on the small accessory and turns it into a road sign.
BUT YOU GET UP AGAIN
Silicone, other materials
Life-size arm and head of the artist, made in a special effects studio. The title is a slight change in a phrase taken from the refrain of a 90’s British pop song by Chumbawamba: I get knocked down - But I get up again - You’re never going to keep me down.
This self-portrait was the first piece the artist sold, at the FIAC Art Fair in Paris.
MY CONFESSION TO YOU
Breathing through a partition, white tube, empty room and invitation cards
The invitation card reveals nothing of the nature of the performance. When the viewers enter the white room, all they can see is a tube protruding from a wall. On the other side, the artist breaths.
TABLE FOR FATHER AND SON
Plinth, white tablecloth, plates, audio cassette
80 x 120 x 80 cm
In 1975, Thomas Bircher is reported missing. To his wife and 4 year old child he leaves an audio cassette. His strange testament and his advice for future life will reach his son only 26 years later. Table for Father and Son unwinds the ersatz of the original tape.
THEY CREEP THROUGH MY FINGERS TO THE DEEP
Mixed media; in collaboration with Jacques-Alexandre Gillois
Some of the walls of the labyrinth pivot, giving access to new spaces while closing off others. When one walks through the maze - seemingly under construction - the visitor creates his own topography, structures his own experience. But when new visitors arrive, the route is no longer his own. Blurring all bearings, the new configurations can turn into a trap.
Living on the first floor, the gallery owner had to go through the maze on the ground floor each time he came in or went out of his apartment.
The title is taken from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem A Dream Within a Dream.
In a building that is about to get renovated, Pascal Bircher maps one of the rooms. Before collecting them, he records the position of every forgotten object. He also samples the colour of the decrepit walls. Once the room is fully renovated, the artist returns to the space and reproduces it exactly as it was.
Night installation in an abandoned house comprised of an outgrowth of black gaffer tape and a TV set which emits, in a loop, all the chromatic reflections from Tobe Hooper’s movie Poltergeist (1982). The reflections are also visible from the street outside.
Print on white sleeveless T-shirt and poster
76 x 122 cm
A procrastinator is someone who has a strong tendency to delay or postpone action. One of his tutors at Central Saint Martins often accused Pascal Bircher of indulging in such behaviour. A few years later, he received this poster from his former student. It is now on a wall of his living room.
Postcard with handwriting
10.5 x 15 cm
Stainless steel, castors, black leather belts
SETH BRUNDLE’S DECLARATION
Glass, plywood, braille
3 x 24 x 10 cm
I’m working on something that’ll change the world and human life as we know it. The phrase pronounced by the main character Seth Brundle at the beginning of David Cronenberg’s film The Fly (1986) is crucial. Pascal Bircher transcribes it in braille and encases it in a box behind a sheet of glass. The film is about the slow mutation of a scientist who’s DNA is accidentally merged with that of a fly’s during a teleportation test.
Glass, MDF, A0 photocopy
9 x 131 x 84.1 cm
Metamorphosis 2 metamorphoses Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Each page of the paperback edition was photocopied and then assembled on a A0 sheet of paper. This was then reduced to the maximum through successive stages, then enlarged back to its original size.
DON’T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME
10 pieces of tape measure of different lengths
In ten different places, Pascal Bircher chooses a particular moment. He then measures precisely the distance between himself and the other. The longest measure is 142 cm, the shortest 2 cm.
21 x 390 x 9 cm
Unfolding of the computer data used for simulating in 3D graphics a speculative astrophysical phenomena: the merger of two black holes.
Video projection; 2 seconds in a loop
Like the event horizon, the wormhole belongs to the astrophysicist’s lingo. It is a purely hypothetical topological feature of space-time that is essentially a short cut through space and time. Wormhole superimposes the first and last shot of Don Coscarelli’s 1979 film Phantasm.
Black adhesive letters on white wall
47 x 250 cm
Like many grandfathers, John Whiting used to read stories to his grandson. But rather than choosing children’s books, he preferred James Joyce’s Ulysses, particularly parts from what is known as Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy, the last chapter of the novel. Consequently and many years later, Pascal Bircher reads Ulysses. Followed by a comma, Stately is the first word of the book. Yes is the last one before the final full stop.
Black adhesive letters on white wall
70 x 3 cm
These words consist of the exposition and dénouement from Samuel Beckett’s play En attendant Godot (Waiting for Godot), here united in one sentence.
In English, the sentence is: A country road. A tree. They do not move.
A copy of Samuel Beckett’s novel L’innommable (The Unnamable) reduced to a pulp, bound with starch and thrown onto the floor from a scaffolding. Once dry, presented on a wall.
Frac des Pays de la Loire production
Adhesive letters on floor; 500 cm in outside diametre
Looped extract from The nature of language in Martin Heidegger’s On the Way to Language: The word for the word can never be found in that place where...
MY SPECTRE AROUND ME NIGHT AND DAY
1633 letters in opaque black PMMA XT thickness 3 mm
45 x 110 x 110 cm
All the letters of William Blake’s eponymous poem, assembled following the text.
Oil on canvas
46 x 55 cm
On Google, another Pascal Bircher is a professional badminton player. From an online photograph, Pascal Bircher commissioned a painter to do his homonym’s portrait. In 2015, the homonym contacts Bircher, interested in acquiring the painting.
TÊTE DE MORT
Dry pastel on paper
50 x 32 cm
Pascal Bircher asked a street artist in Paris on Montmartre’s Place du Tertre to do this portrait of a human skull.
Series of commissioned drawings
2010 - ongoing
Pascal Bircher asks children (with parental permission) to reproduce drawings made by fictional child characters of their same age from screen captures of movies.
3, presented here, with character name and movie title:
Regan MacNeil, The Exorcist (1973)
Carol Anne Freeling, Poltergeist 2 (1986)
Mary, The Prophecy (1995)
Installation in 3 stages
First stage dimensions 15 x 252 x 172 cm
Stage 1: Wooden platform with the sound of someone walking on it playing underneath. Stage 2: Sound gone, platform sawed in half, slightly parted, with sawdust. Stage 3: two parts of platform propped vertically against pillar with structure apparent and trace of platform on the floor (the whole floor room had been painted accept for the space where the platform was), sawdust gone.
Polystyrene, fibreglass and polyester resin, fake wood painting
14.4 x 120 x 100 cm
Frac des Pays de la Loire production
MDF, skull, green screen and Smiley yellow acrylic
32 x 120 x 80 cm
Symbolic exchange is no longer an organizing principle; it no longer functions at the level of modern social institutions. Of course, the symbolic still haunts them as the prospect of their own demise. But this is only an obsessive memory, a demand ceaselessly repressed by the [commodity] law of value.
Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death, 1976
Polystyrene, fibreglass and polyester resin
160 x 240 x 150 cm
This is not any kind of grotto. It is a Playmobil accessory enlarged to human scale. Once inflated with its supernaturally coloured vegetation, this toy stands for a sustained contact with childhood through the synthetic representation of nature. The species are hard to identify, they are a mix of archetypes in an undifferentiated approach to flora. This simple change of scale pushes the object to become monstrously artificial, a kind of derisory arborescent isle that could be understood as a warning. A cheap ornamental element from an abandoned zoo, the ambiguous residue from a staging of nature, Grotto could stem from a missing link in evolution, a transgenic species boosted on fertilizers. A race for gigantism which strangely reminds us of today's race for efficiency and productivity, the doping for a super-species and super-performances. Finally, this grotto and its plants are not that cute.
Translation of a text by Bénédicte Ramade in Acclimatation: Green Pandemonium, 2009.
Frac des Pays de la Loire production
Acrylic and silkscreen on stratified plywood
175 x 65 x 65 cm
The original Larmes artificielles is an eyewash (literally artificial tears) one can buy in pharmacies. The package Larme artificielle (in the singular here), reproduced using the same technique as Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, is the size of Pascal Bircher: 175 cm.
In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, Alice starts crying when Tweedledee and Tweedledum tell her that she is not real, just a sort of thing in the King’s dream, and that if he was to wake up, she would disappear. You won’t make yourself a bit realler by crying, remarks Tweedledee. If I wasn’t real, (...) I shouldn’t be able to cry, says Alice. And Tweedledum replies: I hope you don’t suppose those are real tears? In chapter 9 of Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Mock Turtle is also crying. He tells Alice his story: Once, said the Mock Turtle (...), I was a real Turtle.
Plaster on wire netting structure
59 x 59 x 190 cm
Digitization and reproduction at a scale of 56.0 of a chewing-gum masticated by Jean-Pierre Luminet, research director for the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). This French astrophysicist, specialized in black holes and cosmology, works at the Paris Observatory where he is a member of the Universe and Theories Laboratory. Here the author of The Wraparound Universe provided a random shape, unique and intimate, usually destined to only exist for one short moment. The actual sculpture's height is the same as Luminet's: 180 cm.
Royal blue workwear overalls, blue balloons
30 x 180 x 150 cm
Digital film; 20 seconds in a loop
In 1951, The Thing From Another World directed by Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby is inspired by a short story by John W. Campbell, Who Goes There? (1934). Some 30 years later, John Carpenter directs its remake. The Thing (1982) confronts a group of scientists based in Antarctica where an alien creature that has the ability to replicate any organic life-form that it physically encounters. The Thing is the exact computer-generated reproduction of the appearance of Carpenter’s opening title, itself a reproduction of the original film’s title. In 2011 an eponymous prequel of Carpenter’s movie came out.
LOST IN DARKNESS AND DISTANCE, I AM FORCED INTO SPEECH
Irmaveplab (06) and Villa Arson (08) co-production
Cristal, cobalt blue, MDF, neon lighting, square steel tubes
65 x 150 x 100 cm
2006 - 2008
Lake Vostok is one of the largest subglacial lakes of Antarctica, buried under 4000 metres of ice. When scientists are able to probe its waters for signs of life without contaminating it, they hope to find a unique habitat for ancient bacteria. Having seen a documentary on TV, Pascal Bircher has an idea: to probe himself for primeval information. In order to avoid undergoing classic long term therapy, he decides to consult successive therapists and have an initial free session with each. A single one will suffice, in which the analyst concludes with these words: Sometimes, everything is on the surface. Bircher takes these words literally. With the help of scientists, Lost... is the scaled reproduction of the lake turned upside down. The ice that covers the water becomes the plinth. The basins rise above the white surface. Light from the outside is projected from the inside.
Lost in darkness and distance are the last words of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, the chapter set in the North Pole. I am forced into speech are the first words of H. P. Lovecraft’s short story In the Mountains of Madness, which is entirely set in the South Pole, in Antarctica.
BLUE LAKE, ROOM 12
125 x 163 cm
Some time after having made Lost in Darkness and Distance, I am Forced into Speech, while going through some old paperwork, Pascal Bircher finds out the name of the place where his father was last seen alive. In 1975, Thomas Bircher stayed for a few days in room 12 of the Lac Bleu Inn (literarily Blue Lake), somewhere in the Swiss Alps, in the canton of Valais. Struck by the coincidence, Pascal Bircher decides to pose in the room wearing a bluescreen suit, a colour used in special video effects that disappears on-screen so as to reveal other images. At last he finds a pertinent use for a suit made for him some years ago.
Centre d’art contemporain la Synagogue de Delme production
MDF, primer, blue screen acrylic
1.6 x 120 x 117 cm
During a residency in a regional natural park in north-eastern France, Pascal Bircher focuses mainly on the complex outline of the artificial lake of Lindre, emptied of its water for several months. Coincidentally, that shape is superimposed with another, that of an expanding puddle in his studio from a leak in the roof. If the lake outside seems desperately empty, inside the water is seeping in, as if a strange game of communicating vessels was occurring.
Centre d’art contemporain la Synagogue de Delme production
Square solid iron bars
The contour of the 2 shapes mentioned above in iron, interlaced and suspended from a ceiling.
Diptych: Transparencies in lightboxes
14 x 120 x 160 cm (each)
The hospital where Pascal Bircher was born does not exist anymore. A housing estate has replaced it. After having met council employees, delved into archives, consulted blueprints, he found the location of the room where he was born. It is now someone’s front garden. On the date and hour of his birthday, the 22nd of May at 7.40 pm, two photographs were taken simultaneously. The first one is a high angle shot of the garden, lit by a director of photography and taken by the artist. The second one reveals the technical apparatus.
Projection of a high definition scan, memory card, Eyezup, PVC board
119 x 111 cm
Projection of the final full stop of Samuel Beckett’s manuscript of The Unnamable, which can be found in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The Unnamable consists entirely of a disjointed monologue of an unnamed and immobile protagonist. There is no concrete plot or setting. The novel closes with the phrase you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.
I’LL GO ON I WILL YES
Irish Museum of Modern Art and Alliance Française co-production
MDF, 2 pack primer and acrylic, wheels
The title bears the fusion of the last words from Beckett’s The Unnamable and Joyce’s Ulysses, respectively I’ll go on and I will Yes. Both The Unnamable and the final chapter of Ulysses are monologues. The two mobile, reflective black shapes on the floor are based on macro photographs of the final full stops from the manuscripts of both these literary works. Beckett once said that his own language appeared to him like a veil that must be torn apart in order to get at the nothingness behind it. Here the veil is the lustre where the viewer can see his own reflection. This surface is the event horizon, the boundary of a black hole. Hidden at the core of a black hole is a singularity, a point of infinite density where space and time cease to exist as we know them, where all the rules of physics, language and representation break down.
This piece was originally presented with a recording of a joint talk organized by Pascal Bircher and given at IMMA by Timothy O’Neill, calligrapher and historian, and Luke Drury, professor and director of the School of Cosmic Physics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. They respectively talked about the origins of writing and black holes.
104 MDF sheets
144 x 144 x 108 cm
The title refers to a type of particle accelerator. Colliders are used as a research tool in particle physics by accelerating particles to very high kinetic energy and letting them impact other particles. Analysis of the byproducts of these collisions gives scientists good evidence of the structure of the subatomic world and the laws of nature governing it. The shape cut in each of the sheets is based on the macro photograph of the endpoint from the manuscript of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, who was also a mathematician.
UNDER THE MAGIC LEMON TREE
120 x 160 cm
Inspired by the bucolic surroundings of the Black Forest, the MAGIC TREE® air freshener brand has been the No.1 choice for consumers across the world for over 50 years. The distinctive Tree, a wide range of authentic, lasting fragrances to suit every occasion and consistent new product development ensure that MAGIC TREE® air fresheners maintain their leadership position. Their quality and easy use contribute to the well-being of the consumer.
100 x 147 cm
62 x 80 cm
With Homer, Penelope waits patiently for the return of Ulysses. After ten years of solitude married to Leopold Bloom, Molly, on the other hand, yields to her suitors. James Joyce offers her the last pages of his novel. Her voice resonates in this final unpunctuated chapter in a long stream of consciousness known as Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy.
90 x 120 cm
109 x 160 cm
Standard museum crate for a painting without frame of 46,3 x 2 x 55,4 cm
60 x 15 x 71 cm
This crate is customized for a particular painting. It is L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World), an oil-on-canvas by Gustave Courbet. It was painted in 1866 but was introduced to the public for the first time in 1988. The commission for L’Origine du monde is believed to have come from a Turkish diplomat for his personal collection of erotic pictures. Then it was acquired by an antique dealer and sold to a Hungarian collector who took it with him to Budapest. The last owner was the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. A double bottom frame was built and another picture was painted thereon. In 1995 it entered the collection of the Musée d’Orsay.
Plinth with lighting through the top, 4 silicone molds, 2 polyester castings
60 x 50 x 120 cm
Little boy, Pascal Bircher was hiking in the mountains. He picked up a characterless stone and threw it on a rock. The stone broke in two and revealed the fossil of a seashell and its imprint. What is presented here is the cast of the fossil and its molds. There are several forms of mise en abyme at play here. But what will always remain a mystery is what was in this shell.
SOMETIMES, EVERYTHING IS ON THE SURFACE
Bucket excavator, water
110 x 90 x 80 cm
The title refers to a phrase said by a psychoanalyst to the artist (see Lost in Darkness and distance, I Am Forced into Speech).
UNTITLED (MY LITTLE DOOR TO HELL)
HD video 00:11:33 looped
Still shot: In a field, in the middle of the night, a car’s headlights switch on and a man gets out and digs a hole. He then sets fire to it with petrol and a match. He leans against the car and watches the fire burn out, goes back into the car and switches the headlights off.
HD video, 00:46:00 and photograph
100 x 150 cm
Still shot of an inversed dawn in a field wherein lie the invisible and subterranean remains of a Gallo-Roman theatre, in Tarquimpol, in the French region of Lorraine. In relation to the archaeological blueprints, the camera is situated on the front stage, facing the hemicycle, in other words the viewers.