In ancient Greek, the word hylé refers to the matter a thing is made. A matter formed by a moving assemblage of elements a priori heterogeneous, not an unchanging matter which remains the same. Cécile Beau offers us this experience of reality as a continuum where vegetal, mineral and animal are no longer autonomous kingdoms, separated from each other, but are on the contrary intertwined in meshes of interconnections and reciprocal influences. We thus enter the 22.48 m2 gallery as in a vegetable cave, invited to move between stalactites made of beech and acacia trunks, at the bottom of which is a pile of humus formed by the decomposition of the wood under the action of air, bacteria and fungi. This is a process of humification, by which the plant mixes with micro-organisms to return to the earth where it was born, as transfigured into the process of mineralization in the photos presented on the walls. Showing close-up shots of a stringy cavity at the root of a purple beech, these photos are printed on aluminum plates which give the plant, with their silvery reflections, the appearance of minerals. Playing on different scales, these metallic surfaces give us the impression of facing a rocky cave, as if the tree in question had turned into stones. A hybridization effect that can be found in the bark fixed to the walls, such as animal molts evoking the texture of tanned leathers. Everything happens as if we are entering a chimerical world, however very real. And for good reason, as recalled by the fact that DNA is subject to symbiosis and parasitism, so much so that it is impossible to distinguish “which sequence is” pure “and which sequence is a viral insertion”, the entities living and non-living, organic and inorganic communicate and coevolve with one another: they “are chimeras, made up of fragments of other creatures”1, each of which is always already incorporated in other elements. Also, Cécile Beau makes visible a “metaphysics of the mixture”2, which joins a form of heterochrony, made up of multiple temporalities, with rhythms and variable speeds, radically non-human. Here, time is no longer linear and progressive, as an anthropocentric vision would like, but on the contrary cyclical and spiral: past, present and future coexist in a vision of History that advances while returning to itself. Or the possibility of imagining other stories and counter-stories, not indexed on Man, but on the cohabitation of kingdoms and species.
1. Timothy Morton, La Pensée écologique, Éditions Zulma, Paris, 2019
2. Expression borrowed from Emanuele Coccia’s book La Vie des plantes. Une métaphysique du mélange, Éditions Payot & Rivages, Paris, 2016