SOCIAL CODE by Heiko Hansen for Cluster issue No.01, Turin Italy 2003

Paris Performance Art On the roofs of the Goute d'Or, in the north of Paris, clouds pass by in forward motion and in the distance we see the Sacre Coeur. This is a new video work of Cecile Babiole, shot from her apartment. When I met her there, she was just playing with a set of ultrasonic sensors for her next performance, in which she is going to "play images" together with Atau Tanaka, musician and researcher at Sony’s Paris research lab. Babiole's work is funny and inventive at the same time, "an ironical glance into technology". Preferably, she is performing in public, such as in her most ambitious work ‘Reality Dub’, in which she transforms a public bus into a moving performance space, or as she calls it a modern "mobile version of Plato’s cave". The bus is equipped with four cameras and six microphones on the front, back, in the engine and on each side. Inside the bus, the passenger space functions as usual except that the windows are completely blacked out and replaced by four monitors, on which Cecile is mixing and manipulating the live audio and visuals. It struck me, that the body and its relation to the public and the public space in which performance happens, is a core concern. The body and its real-time relation to the sensory environment, changes the environment, but also in effect the feedback alters the motion of the body - so everything is in flux. The work is an experiment in which "everything is happening now" and which is "process rather than result". When ‘Reality Dub’ was shown at FCMM media festival in Montreal, at some point the bus driver started to do his own scratching by driving around in circles. In placing things in the public, the unexpected happens. In a sense this genre of performance art seems to recall artists like Gillian Wearing and her work ‘Dancing in Peckham’, a video of herself dancing in the middle of an ordinary shopping centre in Peckham, South London. In parallel with other Paris based performance artists such as Antoine Schmitt and Wolf Ka, Babiole uses a collage of audience intervention, public space, computer programming and performance in order to "modify social behavior" as Babiole puts it. “Social code” seems to me, a wonderful description of something much richer than many of the other technical terms we hear so often these days, something beyond code, which is, after all, just code?


This article has been written after interviewing Cecile Babiole, Antoine Schmitt and Wolf Ka.