Flight Logbook

Conceived as a logbook of the participatory artwork, on every day of shooting the Flight Logbook will share a key moment of that day. Combining photographs taken on the spot and short paragraphs, it will give voice to the various people involved in the Dreams Have a Language project: Sylvie Blocher, Donato Rotunno, members of the film crew, the flying machine crew and the museum team, participants and visitors. Over time, it will thus provide a transversal view of the life of the participatory artwork and the project in progress. The contents of the Flight logbook will be accessible on this page and relayed via social networks.

Texts and images: Vincent Crapon

#22

Mudam Luxembourg, Park Dräi Eechelen, Thursday 19 March 2015

One of the outstanding features of the film Dreams Have a Language is the importance given to aerial shots carried out around Mudam Luxembourg. Using two drones, Sylvie Blocher and Donato Rotunno can obtain unusual views and perspectives. By multiplying the processes and image capture devices, the directing duo lend their project an experimental dimension, while apprehending these new technological tools with a rigour and poetry of their own.

Inside the museum, one of the actresses waits to join the team on the outside which is preparing to shoot (also via drones) a primordial scene from the film: a breakaway.

#21

Mudam Luxembourg, Park Dräi Eechelen, Wednesday 18 March 2015

The third day of shooting begins outside in the Dräi Eechelen Park surrounding Mudam Luxembourg. On the other side of the ruins and the banks of Clausen, the roofs of the upper town stand out against a blue sky, providing the team with the opportunity to work in optimal conditions. Shooting outdoors is very important for Sylvie Blocher and Donato Rotunno. Indeed, the contrast between the scenes shot inside and those filmed outside will be all the more powerful.

Mudam Luxembourg, with its unique architecture of glass and golden stone and the ruins of the fortress on which Mudam is built, with their maze of angles and corners, are also a source of inspiration for the two directors.

#20

Mudam Luxembourg, Jardin des sculptures, Tuesday 18 March 2015

After months of silence, the Flight Log takes us back to the filming of Dreams Have a Language, a film project inspired by the eponymous participatory artwork that took place in the Grand Hall in November. For the second day of filming, Sylvie Blocher and Donato Rotunno occupied the area around the artwork Many Spoken Words, a black ink fountain by Luxembourg artist Su-Mei Tse, which is permanently installed in the museum’s Jardin des sculptures.

An actress and a former participant, lips sporting blue makeup, prepare for the shoot while at the top of the spiral stairs the two directors and the director of photography, Felix Sorger, are busy adjusting the shooting angle with regard to the fountain below.

Once more transformed into a film set, the museum is undergoing a use of its exhibition spaces that is still rather alien to it. The film is inspired by the testimonies provided by the participants of the artwork in the Grand Hall and addresses, with a singular poetic stance, the diverse visions of the modern world presented by different individuals, including issues related to identity, politics and the reinvention of self.

#19

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Monday 1st December 2014 

This first day of December marks the end of the participatory artwork in Mudam’s Grand Hall. Participants and visitors can now see the images of nearly 100 flights which will be projected in a loop on 4 large screens located in the Foyer until 25 May, 2015.

Early in the morning, Jean-Luc Ciber, Riccardo Besantini, Olivier Koos and Dominik Dusek (Chromatik) dismantled the entire video control unit and shooting equipment in order to leave the space and time needed by Yves Barta, Alexis Barta, Aurélien Atanazio and Max Gozy (Spooky) for dismounting both engines of the flight machinery and the aluminum structure on which they were set.

All that remains now is the decor of fabric stretched over 12 meters high, in front of which were situated all the elements of this ephemeral film studio. Under the large atrium, its expanse and its pattern (borrowed from the place where it takes place) almost seem to emphasize the solemn architecture of the place as much as undermine it. It is in front of this very image, a mise en abîme of the unique architecture of the museum that the artist seems to have reversed, that all those individuals who "made" the artwork took off from the ground within the almost overwhelming vastness of a place which, in some cases, they had never previously had occasion to enter.

Sylvie Blocher in front of the set of Dreams Have a Language / Filming in Progress, 2014

#18

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Friday 28 November 2014

Two days before the removal of the flight machine, participants continue to arrive. I had the opportunity to speak to one of them, a journalist for a major French radio station. Just in from Paris, she had the urge to fly in the vastness of the Grand Hall, which is often seen as confusing and cold. In the museum café we discuss her flight, a few dozen metres from the machine where another person is already taking off.

"Exceptional" is the first adjective that she uses to express her feelings when 12 metres up in the air, in a silence she found too deep or too solemn even. Indeed, the various team members and the artist communicate through earpieces and thus speak softly. Similarly, visitors whisper so as not to disturb the calm on set. She then states, while stretching her arms above the void, that she would like to "turn up the music," the silence of the Grand Hall, "fill it with sound", just as "the vaults of cathedrals and basilicas" might be filled.

Large Hall atrium. Foreground: Olivier Koos (Chromatik) on the boom. In the background: the participant.

#17

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Thursday 27 November 2014 

While participants are being equipped with vests and harnesses by Yves and Alexis Barta (Spooky), the film crew (Chromatik) is setting up. The light is constantly changing under the atrium of the Grand Hall, despite the many artificial lights directed at the backdrop of stretched fabric, so it is necessary to regularly adjust the shooting equipment settings. These include exposure and colorimetry, which must be as consistent as possible or else the shots that are added each day on the screens in the Foyer on the garden level will no longer correspond to the coherent whole already created. Weather variability is therefore data that directly affects filming by cameramen and video control. This (essential) data is one technical adjustment among others that reminds us that the Dreams Have a Language project involves the means of both contemporary art and cinema.

Dominik Dusek (Chromatik) in the background during colorimetry and exposure.

#16

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Wednesday 26 November 2014.

Today marked the start of the last week of filming for the Dreams Have a Language project. By 3pm, 62 participants had already taken the opportunity to leave the ground beneath the Large Hall’s glass dome. 62 people who came to the museum with an idea for changing the world. 62 unique stories that have been confided to the artist and her camera in the glass house at the foot of the flight machine.

62 individuals and ideas and hundreds of minutes spent in the air along with the rattling of snap hooks, tensioned steel cables that wind and unwind, feet gently sliding along the ground before lifting off, slow motion descents and graceful take-offs with eyes turned toward the nearing sky and then toward the ground slowly edging further away.

Sitting in the greenhouse this evening, Sylvie Blocher summed everything up. 62 people who came to Mudam bringing with them a single object: their imagination. An object of thought, the raw materials for an artwork which, by Sunday, will have continued to reinvent itself every day.

Sylvie Blocher inside the glass house (furniture: BuzziSpace).

#15

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Friday 21 November 2014. 

Right from the first phone call to confirm their appointments at Mudam, participants are in contact with Élisa Baiocchi. "Her role is of fundamental importance: she has to be jovial and attentive, because she’s the first individual attached to the project the participant will encounter. She’s their reference point before they arrive with me at the feet of the flight machine", Sylvie Blocher told us during project preparation meetings at Mudam.

Since the first flight, her main role has involved being attentive to each participant. Whether they are anxious about testing the machine or simply curious to know more about the project in which they are both the raw materials and the first viewers, she has to be there to answer questions and make them feel comfortable.

Élisa Baiocchi (right) accompanying a participant in the Large Hall

#14

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Thursday 20 November 2014.

Sylvie Blocher met Yves Barta more than a year ago, when the project was still in its infancy. She explained what she wanted to achieve in Mudam’s Grand Hall. The idea was of great interest to Yves. He is self-taught and has developed his flight machines alone, first for his own shows before expanding his activities into film and television. Today, at Mudam, they are part of a completely new project for him too. Aided by his son and his collaborators, he has set up two aluminium towers on which are fixed the two flight machine engines that are connected to a control area facing the whole system and where the controls of the machine are located. Many combinations of movements, in the winding and the unwinding speed of the cables are possible. All are directly related to the body and the possible apprehension of the person who is about to take off from the ground – two fundamental aspects that Yves and Alexis must identify quickly when choosing the vest or harness that will determine the attachment method and therefore the “type” of flight.

Alexis and Yves Barta (Fantasmagorie) at the controls of the flight machine

#13

Luxembourg, Park Dräi Eechelen, Wednesday 19 November 2014.

Sylvie Blocher and Donato Rotunno meet up in front of Mudam before start of the day’s filming, accompanied by members of Tarantula and Chromatik. The topic of this outdoor meeting is the coming production of aerial shots of the museum and the fortress using a drone. Indeed, Sylvie Blocher and Donato Rotunno want to integrate exterior shots into the film Dreams Have a Language that would work in tandem with the sequences shot in the Grand Hall involving the flight machine and participants and footage to be subsequently shot with actors.

Ideas come together despite significant technological and meteorological constraints. But for Sylvie Blocher and Donato Rotunno it is a question of adapting without compromising in order to ultimately remain dynamic as well as open to the unknown and the controlled improvisation that typify this project.

From left to right: Jean-Luc Ciber (Chromatik), Elise André (Tarantula), Felix Sorger, Donato Rotunno, Sylvie Blocher, Olivier Koos (Chromatik)

#12

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Saturday 15 November 2014.

The children’s inauguration (organised by the Mudam public relations department) is an opportunity for Sylvie Blocher and the Dreams Have a Language team to work in a new way. The children registered for this event are aged 8 and 12 and exceptionally have the opportunity to fly under the dome for an afternoon. For the film crew it is also an opportunity to control the shooting of movements and interactions between participants that they had not considered up until now. Between brother and sister, mother or father accompanying their child, hands are outstretched and looks are exchanged that lie somewhere between comfort and excitement.

Return to the ground of a mother and son

#11

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Friday, 14 November, 2014.

Behind the 4 screens of the video console, Jean-Luc Ciber and Dominik Dusek (Chromatik) manage both the stream of images captured by the two cameras and the taking and printing of photographs to be presented to participants. For them (and Sylvie Blocher) each new flight is an opportunity to consider new shots, new camera movements and new effects during the editing process. Like all members of the crew they are equipped with earpieces and therefore remain in constant contact. Hence any actions, postures, gestures, movements and expressions - however brief and fleeting they might be - can be spotted quickly and caught by one of the two cameramen.

This improvisation-based method of working enables the constant renewal that characterizes this work in progress while retaining full control of the technological tools being employed.

Foreground: video direction. Background: Sylvie Blocher with a participant.

#10

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Thursday 14 November 2014.

Body fragments float in space. This is what Sylvie Blocher imagined a few months ago during the preparation of the garden-level video installation which shows images shot by the two cameramen Besantini Ricardo and Olivier Koos. A week after filming the first tests and some long briefings, certain reflexes have been acquired. These particularly include assuring the quality of the shots to be projected the next day as soon as they are taken. For the cameramen this involves following the ascent of the bodies and then “dropping” them in order to “catch” them. To capture the arms, legs, hands, back and hair that hang down and slowly “let go” under their own weight. To closely follow the facial expressions that are both surprised and rapturous.

Finally, the work of the cameramen – like that of the artist – is to take account of moments when the bodies are talking.

Riccardo Besantini (DP)

#9

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Wednesday, 12 November, 2014.

The first participant of the day tells us she’s a big fan of Sylvie Blocher’s work and has been for many years. She asks if it’s possible to fly with ballet shoes in hand. The artist agrees. A few minutes later, she rises up by progressively spinning the shoes she holds in each hand, like two pendulums swinging in opposite directions. Below, Donato Rotunno and Felix Sorger capture this sequence in which the blur of the whirling shoes combines with the mechanical consistency of the cables that support the woman and raise her higher and higher. Higher up, her head shifts and she releases the shoes.

Felix Sorger and Donato Rotunno in the background

#8

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Sunday, 9 November 2014.

During the day, Sylvie Blocher suggests that a woman should be blindfolded. This is carried out while we finish tightening the straps of her vest. The rattle of snap links indicates she is ready to go up in the air. The artist whispers a few words to her while placing her hands on her temples before pulling away: the flight is ready to begin. Her feet leave the ground, her body falters, seeking a new equilibrium. A few minutes later, about ten meters up in the air, the woman slowly unravels the bandage which she then holds by her fingertips, she releases it. It unfurls as it falls.

In the evening, at the foot of the flight machine, the artist bends down to pick up flower petals. A little earlier on, a participant wanted to hold a bouquet while flying and voluntarily let it drop to the floor.

Tomorrow, on the screens, the images will also be beautiful.

#7 – In the glass house

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Saturday, 7 November 2014.

Following the opening for the new exhibitions and the Dreams Have a Language project, successive participants follow one another along with ideas for changing the world. In the shelter of the small glass house located on the right, at the foot of the decor and the flight machine, Sylvie Blocher questions participants about the idea she asked them to bring along to the museum. It is by fixing the camera, addressing a lens behind which there is nobody – whom could be addressed – that the idea is stated. Sitting on the side, the artist listens and reacts. This tête à tête – a sort of triangular face to face meeting between two individuals and a camera – will determine the following minutes: those of leaving the ground, always apprehended and lived otherwise.

Sylvie Blocher in discussion with a participant

#6 A few hours before the opening

Mudam Luxembourg, Foyer, Friday 7 November 2014.

Final preparations are underway. The night was short for some members of the team and for the artist. When I enter the Foyer, I see on the screens the results of the process of choice and overnight editing carried out by Sylvie Blocher and Jean-Luc (Chromatik) during the evening. "So what do you think?" asks the artist. The words that come to me spontaneously are "It's beautiful ... They’re all beautiful!"

I hurry to get out my camera in order to capture the image projected onto the nearest screen which itself accounts for a few moments of reality imprisoned and now slowed down. Between these images – which follow one another, alternate and repeat – time seems to stretch, but without losing its consistency despite the shadows of the team members who cross the space, reminding us that in a few hours the space will be open to the public.

Cumulating moments of suspension; making a framework that from now on will grow, evolve, become more complex ... etc. Ignoring gravity through the camera movement that appears to raise the bodies as if detaching them.

#5

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Thursday, 5 November, 2014.

At 1.20pm the first participant of the day is equipped and stands between the two towers of the flight machine. The 4 cables that hold her can be controlled individually or else in pairs, which enables – depending on how they are attached to the vest – the shifting of the body forwards or backwards. She chooses to leave the ground slowly, face and gaze turned to the top of the dome. Once the ascent is complete, the two wires that hold her bust slowly begin to move downwards, thereby making her shift. Her hair now hangs in the void and covers her face. Her eyes must seek new bearings unless she closes them. The two cables holding her hips operate faster, the others then accelerate to reach the same speed. They operate in unison. Her body picks up speed while approaching the ground.

On the screen, her hands graze the paving stones.

Photo: Yves and Alexis Barta in the background

#4

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Wednesday, 5 November, 2014.

Dress rehearsal before the opening of the Grand Hall to the first people registered. For one hour, I slip into the skin of one of them, one of these strangers who will be the medium but also the raw material of this artwork and who ultimately enable it to exist. After a few minutes spent with Élisa, who is in charge of reception, I finally enter the Grand Hall with its monumental arch springing from the stones and culminating between glass and steel at almost 30 metres. Sylvie Blocher stands in the middle of the hall, in front of the decor which is in keeping with the excessive scale of the space as much as it opposes it. With all the cameras, team members, lights and scenery, I feel part of a whole ... Somewhere between calm and internalized tension. A discussion follows in the shelter of a small glass house. A discussion of which the sole starting point is the idea that the artist asks everyone, each time, to reinvent the dialogue she creates.

I’m harnessed, the tips of my feet slip for a moment before losing contact. The climb is slow and silent. I don’t know where to look. In the perspective created by the arrangement of glass, stones, cables, fabric and steel, the aluminium towers of the machine appear to draw closer. I feel the void deepen at my back. I feel light, while being fully aware of my weight on the steel cables which flex in the same way as when they are initially activated to slowly lift my feet off the ground and make me experience a newly reinvented gravity.

#3

Mudam Luxembourg, Grand Hall, Friday, October 31, 2014.

The last day of the week sees the setting up of the first part of the participatory installation. Two technicians harnessed to a 12-metre-high boom slowly unroll the mineral-motif decorations inspired by the limestone blocks (Golden Magny) that cover every wall of the museum, onto which the artist has superimposed shadows borrowed from the site. These lines cross the space of the rectilinear-structured decor, dynamising the arrangement and enabling the decor to be connected to the site, creating formal dialogue between two structures and materials: one light, flexible and ephemeral; the other massive, significant and perpetual. Deploying space as a medium.

Enrico Lunghi, Sylvie Blocher and Christophe Gallois during the installation of the décor

# 2 Start of the installation assembly at Mudam

Mudam Luxembourg, Garden-level Foyer, Monday, 27 October, 2014

Now that the garden-level rooms and the Grand Hall of the museum are empty, assembly of the installation Dreams Have a Language can begin. The Foyer at the bottom of the stairs issuing from the Grand Hall is almost unrecognizable. Now a dim light pierces it from a door cut out of the timber of the many signs that currently enclose and structure the space with a fake irregularity and randomness. Within the four metres separating the flagstone floor from the concrete ceiling and over a length of twenty-five metres, this material of almost dermal texture and colour is laid out with fragmentary inconsistencies in order to modify the horizontal as well as vertical topography of this vast space and ultimately render it more appropriate for video projection. “This is about shifting architecture”, confides the artist between the light rays of the video projectors. 

Sylvie Blocher surrounded by members of the Mudam technical team

#1 First test flights

Paris, Tuesday, 2 September, 2014

Under the roof of a hangar at the bottom of an internal courtyard in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, on the premises of Fantasmagorie, the first tests with the machinery for the flights that will take place in the Grand Hall at Mudam in November are under way. One after the other, following some discussion with Yves Barta about the technical aspects of the machine, Sylvie Blocher and Donato Rotunno “leave the ground” in a slow and gradual ascent to reach a height of 6 metres before just as slowly descending to the ground and regaining their normal sense of balance. Both of them talk about this new experience as a loss of visual and physical references. The discovery of an unknown point of gravity of a body that one usually knows so well ultimately provides access to a paradoxical state between introspection and contemplation, a new presence of the body in space.

Yves Barta and Sylvie Blocher on the premises of Fantasmagorie © Photo: Vincent Crapon