Several attempts to approach the immeasurable.
We know that light runs very quickly : but what exactly is its speed ? We rarely come to think about it ; the scientific answer would be about 300 000 km per second.
After having treated this question in a symbolic way through slideshows and shadows, I decided to treat it in a physical way. To follow light and to make it appear, that was my project. How to translate physically and in time the unrepresentable, the hardly conceivable.
- The first attempt consisted in winding up 300 000 km of nylon thread. The result was impossible to obtain : no thread of such length exist, and no reel capable to resist the tension and weight of such a quantity. By reducing the thread’s lenght to 1/10 000, that is 30 km, it took me about twelve hours to wind up the reel, little by little, meter by meter, with an old machine on a magnesium reel of 15 cm height (magnesium is a vital substance to all lining organisms, and it has the particular quality to burn with a white flame). The result is a “hot and luminous container”. In the end, the transparent thread encloses this metal heart and makes it opaque.
- The second attempt consisted in photographing this object and in printing it in offset 10 000 times, printed on both sides of 5000 paper sheets. The result is a 1 m high paper pile containing the representation of the desired 300 000 km line. For economic reasons, the pages have never been bound as a book, and every time the work has been shown (3 times up to now), visitors of the exhibition helped themselves, as they are used to do with Felix Gonzales Torres’ posters.
- The third attempt is more direct : it consisted in materialising the line of light without the mediation of a machine. To draw. Three times I have gone through this 3 km path of light, a tangible, comprehensible distance, with a crayon in my hand. The first time, drawing directly on the gallery wall with a black crayon, it took me 21 hours for this 3 km long line. The second time, on a blackboard with white chalk, it took me 39 hours, and the third time, with chalk again, this time on black paper, it took about 18 hours. Today, though I know but too well how much slower than light I am, I still don’t care much about the exact scientific answer. The irregularly drawn line reflects my own changing physical and mental condition. The line tells about fatigue and exaltation, it becomes a personal writing, a palpitating wave, becomes sedimentation, strata, both a fragile and monumental signal.
- The fourth attempt was performed by a professional long distance runner whom I asked to run the 3 km distance with a video camera in his hand, on a small countryside road. The resulting 9 minutes film is litterally head-turning. I gave it the title ”3km / 625 days”, which is the time this luminous marathon man would need to cover the distance light crosses in one second. And as to me, mere mortal, 250 years of 24h/24 would probably not be enough to draw 30 000 km ...