“Ici, ailleurs, là-bas, moi, toi…” are words in French, Alsatian and Turkish that swirl on the floor, float, come together and disintegrate, like sensory flows, to compose the poem Ici, an interactive video that plays with the viewer.
Created following an invitation from the Khatt Foundation in December 2016, as part of a reflection on typography and language, Ici examines the relationship to a double culture, the idea of being a stranger in one’s own country and questions of identity.
Whilst studying at the HEAR school of decorative arts in 1997, Laurent Mareschal travelled to Jerusalem for a short university exchange and ended up staying in the region for 3 years. This experience would shape some of the issues he examines in his art, as territory and identity are recurring notions in his work. Examples include his video La Ligne Verte (The Green Line) (2005-2008), an allegory of the wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories, or the spice installation Tapis, which reproduces traditional Palestinian embroidery. Here, the artist invites the viewer to taste turmeric, ginger, zaatar and white pepper, whilst seated around a multi-coloured carpet. As in Backgammon (2003), in which visitors play with ice counters that melt under their fingers, the viewer’s
intervention is important in Laurent Mareschal’s art, leading to works that are simultaneously ephemeral and alive. The same process can be found in Ici, because without people walking on or interacting with the projected poem, the work cannot fully exist. Whether he uses digital technology, foods or other
items, Laurent Mareschal speaks about fragility. With Ici, text also lay at the heart of the process of conceiving and creating the work: literature and issues of translation and language are major sources of inspiration for the artist. This poem in motion can also evoke the notion of escape. Beyond its formal, aestheticizing aspect, it also reveals a subtle political engagement, like much of Laurent Mareschal’s work, which is tinged with a gentle sadness. Ici can be understood as a synthesis of several years of reflexion, exploring both physical and psychological territories.