The new aesthetics will be the ethics: interview with Marc Mercier, Instants Vidéo


To bring video art in countries of revolutions, absolve it of the self-referential system of contemporary art. We met Marc Mercier, artistic director of Instants Vidéo, who starting with Marseille has created a veritable constellation of satellites-festival in the world dedicated to video art and electronic poetry,  arrived today to the Palestine.
The Instants Vidéo festival reached its 28th edition. Can you tell us how it has been established and its evolution over the years?
Instants Vidéo was born in 1988 in Manosque, a small town in the Alpes de Haute Provence, then moved to Marseille in 2004. From the beginning we have three major concerns: support an experimental and poetic video creation, and a criticism to the dominant social order; create the favorable conditions to access the works from the point of view of a common public, inexperienced of contemporary art; engage in international cooperation activities. Michel Coste, one of the pioneers of video art in France, part of the program this year with the installation «A l’ombredes jeunes guerres en fleurs» said: “It is the most sensitive and poetic festival that I know (and I know enough …). I believe that in fact, Instants Vidéo was able to let out the video art from the ghetto of contemporary consumerist art society, cold, elitist, without operate any type of artistic compromise.” And this is why we claim no political support, but poetical. The real challenge is the revolution of the languages ​​that we consider as the inevitable condition for the emergence of new thoughts, new utopias, new social and political projects. This position explains why the most recent creation of the new festival of video art took place in countries where people carry revolutions or anti-colonial resistance struggles, I think to the Egypt, Syria, Palestine. Istants Vidéo has an increasingly international vocation. We need to promote the free movement of bodies and desires.

What kind of selection has been made for this year’s festival?
As artistic director I do care not to reduce the artistic proposals to a variation on a theme. And even if our current concerns are issues of migration, violence (physical and moral) against women, I always want to let myself be surprised by the works we receive, without any preconceptions. It is always interesting to discover how today’s artists transform anger into an art work, a song, a poem. Looking at the choices we have made this year it seems to me that the common question is that of “representation”. We live, in all the world, a crisis of representation. This year our visitors will discover about 25 installations, from different countries, reversing the crisis of representation, representing the crisis. Then, a series of works (not video) were made by patients of the psychiatric hospital Montfavet where was “imprisoned” even the artist Camille Claudel for 35 years. The look of the “crazy” can, I am convinced, sharpen our gaze on the contemporary human condition.

Irreconciliables, II

 Lura y Sira Cabrera, Irreconciliables, II

How to Identify a Witch

Nicole Rayburn, How to Identify a Witch

Cartes et territoires

Chantal duPont, Cartes et territoires


In your opinion, what is the current state of video art?
Video art is an hybrid art, and since the beginning has always used new technologies for poetic, aesthetic and political purposes. Today it does with digital. However we do sell many of the “digital” works as artistic innovations, while they are often the product of a “makeover” of creations already made with more traditional methods (perhaps) from video artists like Korean Nam June Paik or Italian Michele Sambin. I think the most important thing to note is the massive influx of non-Western artists, bearers of other cultural and aesthetic references. Artists for whom art meets other emergencies, ethical and political. I see this as a foreshadowing of what will be tomorrow’s world, a world of mixed race, cosmopolitan … Artists should not have illusions on the technological potential of the future, because they are also holders of a story linked to the aesthetics of the past. A creative act combines the past and the utopia of the future. This is what I learned from the great Italian poet Gianni Toti. All his works combine the contemporary technological, poetic, with powerful political vanguards of the 20th century. For me he is the greatest artist of the century. Instants Video owes him everything!

The image chosen for the 28th edition – the statue of the Virgin Mary with the words TU ME VOULAIS VIERGE, JE TE VOULAIS MOINS CON (YOU WANTED ME A VIRGIN, I WANTED YOU LESS ASSHOLE) – is emblematic of the political vocation of the festival, almost an attempt in raising consciousness …
It is a phrase that we found one day on a wall in Marseille. We quickly realized that this “cry” of the heart and body was not only universal, but also trans-historical (the problem is not new, unfortunately). Men ask women what they do not want for themselves. When I found the statues of the Virgin stabbed in the Sardinian churches, these representations of women who accepted to suffer for the sins of all women, I immediately thought that it was necessary to associate the Virgin to this sentence. There are too many women who accept a state of submission. It is a schoking image that lead to discussion and debates.

As always, the festival also presents a number of parallel events. What about this issue?
This year, in addition to the artistic proposals that are offered in November in Marseille (Friche Belle de Mai), Instants Vidéo has presented his work in Palestine, Sardinia, Mons-en-Barœul, Milan at the gallery .BOX and on the digital channel Visual Container TV (from November 6 to December 6, 24h / 24h). We are very keen to this radiation that makes Instants Vidéo a constellation.

What kind of reception did you have receive, what was the response from the public and what the difficulties in areas such as Palestine?
Every time we organized the establishing of a new festival (Buenos Aires, Alexandria, Ramallah, Casablanca, Damascus, Kyrgyzstan), has always been at the request of our foreign partners. We are at their service, of their cultural objectives, without abandoning our aesthetic proposals and policies. The reception from the public in these countries has been extraordinary. Thanks to these experiences we have had the courage to carry on the adventure of Instants Vidéo in Marseille. When in Palestine you discover what women and men risk, crossing (sometimes illegal) checkpoints just to participate in a program of video art, this gives meaning to our activities of “smugglers” of works. Obviously the construction of a festival in regions following changes, politically and militarily, is never easy. But the struggle of these people for their emancipation makes them beautiful! Since then we have another approach to beauty. This is a recurring theme in the art, is not it? So I’m not off topic when I say this. The new aesthetics will be ethics! Let me conclude with a quote from a great Italian poet, a phrase that I would like to hear from the public to pronounce Instants Vidéo after each program: “I see little, of course, but that little I see it well! ” Joyce Lussier (Mon futur vivant)

28es INSTANTS VIDEO – 6- 29 November 2015
Marseille (Friche de la Belle de Mai)

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