June Balthazard and Pierre Pauze are contemporary French filmmakers based in Paris.Read More
For Taipei Biennial 2020, June Balthazard and Pierre Pauze presented Mass (2020), which focuses on the notion of emptiness, matter, and what allows the world to 'hold' itself together. With a video installation that oscillates between a lunar landscape and a film studio, the work straddles documentary and fiction.
Mass could be assumed as semi-documentary because the protagonists are based on real people—Michel Mayor (2019 Nobel Prize in Physics) and Chiara Mariotti (Director of Research at CERN). The subjects they discuss are also based on solid scientific theories. For the astrophysicist, the void is empty, whereas for the particle physicist, the void is filled by a vibratory field, which is called the Higgs field. Here then is exposed one of the great debates of current physics, where two theoretical models of physics, that of the infinitely large (guided by Einstein's relativity) and that of the infinitely small (quantum physics), are for the moment irreconcilable. Each works on its own scale, but these two realities do not seem to be part of the same world.
The scientists' discussion then takes on a metaphysical dimension about void and matter. And this is where the fictitious aspect of the work comes into play. The two researchers are filmed as if it were a fable: the first researcher is shown in a cave into which he has withdrawn to meditate, which is an unconventional place for a Nobel Prize winner to give an interview. The other scientist, meanwhile, is filmed in the world's largest research laboratory (CERN), a section of which was plunged into darkness during the filming.
The film presented on the other screen shows a small piece of a planet, surreal and volcanic, in an attempt at materialising the invisible matter that is the subject of the scientists' discussion. Thus, vibratory mechanisms animate water, creating waves. No image is made in 3D; all special effects are created mechanically, and the sets are painted by hand. The resemblance to theatre decors, according to June Balthazard, prompts viewers, 'to detach themselves from a form of realism.'
Courtesy Taipei Biennial 2020