Un texte de Frank Popper sur Stéphan Barron et son Technoromantisme. Pour le livre Contemporary artists. 5eme édition.

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Stéphan Barron : an artistic techno-romantic itinerary

Stéphan Barron studied engineering before becoming a communications and new media artist. In the early 1980s he realized a number of performances utilizing transatlantic communication facilities such as telefax and radio before making use of advanced technologies such as the computer and the Internet in an attempt to provoke planetary consciousness and an ecological sensibility in his audience, an undertaking that could be described as artistic techno-ecology or technoromanticism.

Among Barron's early projects, Orient-Express (1987) , a reflexion on space and on how to travel now perceived in an era of instantaneous communication, was followed by Traits (1989), a straight line drawn by Stéphan Barron and his partner Sylvia Hausmann which pursued the Greenwich Meridian.The purpose was to establish a new representation of line, one of the first symbols of humanity, a mental representation that integrated space, time and the human imagination.

In 1994, Stéphan Barron, created Le Bleu du Ciel, where two computers, one located in Tourcoing, in the North of France, the other in Toulon, on the Mediterranean sea, were connected by telephone. They calculated, in real time, the average of the colours in the northern and southern skies. A similar planetary interactive installation was shown in 1995 as operating between Paris and Munich and this device now forms part of a project in which two monochromes calculated in real time by two computers, one in France and the other in Japan, are to be made visible by a videoprojector.

In Ozone (1996), measurements taken of ozone produced by motor car pollution in the city of Lille,in Northern France, and measurements taken of ultraviolet radiation coming through the ozone layer were transformed by Barron into sounds via the Internet and were projected into the streets of nearby Roubaix and also into the garden of the Old Treasury Building in Adelaide, Australia.

This installation was conceived as a metaphor for an "ozone pump" between the ozone produced by motor car pollution in the city of Lille and the naturally produced ozone, between Europe and Australia, between man and nature. In a poetic way, Ozone illustrates what is considered as a major ecological problem for Australians, i.e. the hole in the ozone layer. A paradox is apparent in the dissemination of ozone: it is produced in too large quantities by cars in the city, but is now depleted in the stratosphere. The hole in the ozone layer has caused an alarming increase of skin cancer cases in far-off Australia. The ozone project expresses a mixture of unease and astonishment in the face of terrestrial phenomena. It expresses also the immateriality and complexity of phenomena that contemporary man must face.

An entirely interactive online artwork was launched by Stéphan Barron under the name Com_post in December 2000, in which web surfers are invited to send in their texts by e-mail. All forms of writing - poetry, texts expressing love and hate or utopian views - are accepted in this project and all are then composted. Composting on the Internet is a celebration of slowness during a time of instantaneousness, a jubilant look at the microcosmic and microscopic in an interrelated and interdependent world. It praises everyday individual gestures related to a collective whole.

Another project, Contact (2001), is a planetary installation that consists only of two copper plates, placed in two different countries, which relay their temperatures by telephone and so make one feel the temperature variation between two distant locations.

These very varied multisensorial, multioriented and multipurpose projects and realisations by Stéphan Barron form a whole through the theoretical positioning of the artist as a technoromanticist. In his opinion, technological progress must be accompagnied by a parallel development of the human spirit. This new anthropological stage consists in man’s adaptation to his new power over nature and over other persons. This increase in the powers of technology should be accompagnied by an increase in the powers of consciousness. This new phase in human consciousness and activity is theorized and formulated by an ecological option taking different spiritual, corporeal, economic and social forms.Ecology being taken as the study of the interactions between different living beings and their environment any attempt to desequilibrate the biosphere should be interpreted as a menace to mankind.

Techno-ecological romanticism is therefore a wide concept which encompasses art but also other transformations in human activities. Technological art must be based on ethical principles in order to give it a meaning and a soul. For Stéphan Barron, Technoromanticism is a spiritual quest in the area of technological art.

Frank Popper