Portrait by Ingrid Luquet-Gad
HORS-CADRE | 2018
Just as a biologist in his lab, Mathieu Merlet Briand collects his raw material on the internet before he starts cultivating it. Rather than just being put back into circulation, the pictures, words and sounds of the digital ecosystem undergo a truly transforming operation. After the protocols and algorithms invented by Mathieu Merlet Briand sifted through the indistinct swarming of these raw data, something resembling a new perceptual texture arises. Indeed the approach he has retained from his studies at the Arts Décoratifs is more of a reflexion on matter than on image. Born in 1990, he de facto belongs to the generation of digital natives for whom the digital environment never meant a network of cables or screen-interfaces. In the absence of visible hardware that is exactly what the digital world is: an immersion in an ecosystem which surrounds us and conditions us but that we do not notice, just as the air we breathe. But this detail regarding generations also reveals a threshold issue. If he takes after his predecessors from the postinternet and the postdigital movements, it is also safe to say that Mathieu Merlet Briand comes after them, not by much indeed, thus proving that time really is accelerating. Rather than frantically celebrating brighter horizons (with WiFi) or than expressing a Luddite criticism of technology, the artist takes a realistic stance. Exhibits such as #iceberg (2017) or Environnement (2017) derive from this attachment to reality. In modelizing the outcome of the data cultivation in the form of sculptures, these installations make us physically close to the deterioration of the planet due to the impact of supposedly dematerialized technologies. For some years now, the artist has been focusing exactly on showing how the idea of the Cloud and its representation as a gaseous nebula is a matter of belief. At the center of one of the artist’s most recent works, #Red-Screen Temple, are these remnants of archaic systems which are now relying on technologies and the fact that they are back in modern rationality when they were supposed to have been overcome by it. In 1952, Jacques Ellul was already saying in The Technological Society that in each period of history, the media created their own specters and myths. We can almost hear him or a distant ghost that came back to haunt the work of Mathieu Merlet Briand declaiming: “In the world in which we live, technique has become the essential mystery […]. They can have faith in it because its miracles are visible and progressive”.