Entrenched in the invisible correlations between mythology and science, French artist Laurent Grasso has lately been attempting to visualise the sacred.
OttO, Grasso's solo exhibition at Galerie Perrotin in Paris (6 September–6 October 2018), is centred around his 26-minute film by the same name. The film was commissioned in 2017 by curator Mami Kataoka for SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium & Engagement, the 21st Biennale of Sydney and was exhibited at Carriageworks (16 March–11 June 2018); its screening at Galerie Perrotin will be the film's first in France. In partnership with Galerie Perrotin, Ocula presents a special excerpt of the film OttO.
OttO was shot in four desert sites in Australia's Northern Territories which have been inhabited by indigenous people for millennia and thus charged with history, mythology and sacred meaning. In keeping with Grasso's artistic interest in invisible phenomena such as vibrations and spiritual activity, and hoping to illustrate these unseen energies, the artist used high-tech video equipment such as drones and thermic and hyper-spectral cameras to visualise the electromagnetic radiation of the Aboriginal grounds.
The resulting looped footage consists of slow, mesmerising and colourful shots of the landscape, focusing on 'hot-spots' rendered in vivid candy-colours such as magenta, neon purple and tangerine. These digitised shots, standing in for the 'acting presences' of those who live in them, are interspersed with eerie imagery of floating spheres. (Spheres are a motif common to many of Grasso's works, including his paintings and 2014 film Soleil Double, which was similarly imbued with an otherworldly tension.) The spheres hover over the desert's distinctive jagged expanses, salt pans and red-dirt landscapes; seemingly weightless, they rotate over the landscape, apparently mimicking the intangible. Oscillating between myth, fiction and reality, OttO's imagery appears at once alien and ancient.
The title of the film and exhibition is twofold: it comes partially from Otto Jungarrayi Sims: chairman of the Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation, a member of the Yuendumu Aboriginal community and the 'traditional owner' who granted Grasso admittance to the four normally inaccessible sites which appear in the film. Indeed, Grasso acted in close collaboration with the inhabitants of the land while working on the project. Otto is also the middle name of German physicist Winfried Otto Schumann (1888–1974), who shared with Grasso a preoccupation with electromagnetic fields and resonance frequencies. Schumann predicted the existence of low frequency electromagnetic waves in 1952—a phenomenon now known as Schumann resonances, and which prefigured the video equipment that Grasso used to make his film.
OttO is set to a minimalist, ominous soundtrack composed by Grégoire Auger which vibrates through the gallery. In addition to the film, spiral sculptures emitting electromagnetic frequencies and glass spheres with conductive paintings are presented in the exhibition space, underscoring the video's themes and Grasso's longstanding interest in scientific phenomena, paranormal activity and spirituality—and the tangible effects those forces can have on viewers.