Take those tech things, those objects you are all very familiar with. The screens, the keyboardsw, the smartphones - but also all the things within those things - the codes, the chats, the emails, the files.The stories.
How much of you is in there?
The body of work that Damien Petitot created over the past 20 years explores with impressive consistency a number of media, topics, habits and thoughts that are woven together in a coherent weft that at times lets some threads emerge, at times others, in a seamlessness that simply makes sense.
With a genuine curiosity for the processes of utilisation and a distinct sensibility, Damien turns aways from the orthodoxy of orderly steps only to favour a self-learner approach, a detour in the purpose of how-things-should-be-done.
Whether dealing with very personal material (Ton point vert clignotait, 2014; Un an, 2016), with strangers’ data (Sign up, 2015; Trails, 2016), or with big data (Panóptēs, 2021 - 2022), in Damien’s work the tool is part of the idea itself, creating a process by stratification, in which levels of meaning are built upon each other and yet are so meaningfully intertwined that it becomes almost impossible to distinguish where the tool/process ends and the content begins.
In The face you have today won’t belong to you (c4mboys) (2018) and Offscreen (2021), a series of intricate drawings - the earliest technique Damien explored in his career - are born on the surfaces of screens of laptops and smartphones that he tore wide open, disassembled and repurposed. The fleeting images of camboys, accessible only through screens, are captured in drawings and returned to the screens as still, sometimes indecipherable images.
Behind this process, a sort of voyeurism finds its way up to the surface. If computers cameras metamorphose into omnipotent eyes turned on the self (Tu^^, 2013), the computer screens become windows wide open on the other, the other’s side, the other’s bedroom, the other’s intimacy that is - in an almost circular movement - stored in the hardwares we consume at an impressive rate.
The data, the stories, the conversations, the photos, the virtual versions of us that are stored in the circuits of the physical devices constantly growing obsolete are recurring material of investigation in Damien’s work. No stranger from this line of exploration, which is carried on with playfulness (and some level of ingenuity, of freshness), is the idea of the glitch as a creative and revealing phenomenon that lets the system appear. The glitch opens a breach on what’s behind, working to make things work.
In Signal (2018), the glitch is the dominating element of a 30 minutes long live audiovisual show mixing cameras, monitors, mixers and feedback processes, corrupted devices in a feedback loop where inputs and outputs are feeding each other, generating new visual and sonoric experiences at each iteration.
Often working with moving images, Damien creates videos that have an almost sculptural quality, a texture, a rawness that are particularly distinctive of his production. Unpolished, at times rough, his works reveal the real-life origin of their prime material. The obsolescence of the medium is constantly taken into account, if not closely scrutinised, and appropriated, as if to imply, in acceptance, that decadence and impersistence are intrinsic to it.
An evolving consistency of aesthetics make Damien’s work immediately recognizable, revealing the intelligent balance pulled as a string that connects research and practice, object and subject, intention and randomness, revealing the inquisitive nature of his practice.
“Comment je peux faire pour faire comment il faut pas faire ?"
Camilla Colombo - Curator and Artistic Director - Ohme