The first tuesday of a month: About unruly artists or the cross-disciplinary work by Dominique Leroy

Summer’s gone, holiday memories are fading in the colder autumn days. Any warmer day brings hope for a babí léto/indian summer, or is it really a sign of the climate that we are destroying? Earlier this month UN adviser Jeffrey Sachs on the alarming climate change said: « .. governments do not take care of the future, they are short term, they are short sighted, they have not done their homework ». But can artists do better?

One of the more uncompromising artists today who does take care might be Dominique Leroy. Over Summer we were meeting him in Saint-Nazaire for a workshop, in Vysocina for a sound installation, and last month in Brussels, for a follow up on all this.

Knowing him for more than a decade now, at first he was living in Nantes in an appartment in the infamous ‘La Maison Radieuse de Rezé’, one of Le Corbusier’s first experiments to construct a vertical village in the aftermath of the 2nd world war. There Dominique first organized some DIY summercamps, where media artists would come and make things together, very open but very stimulating and creative, powered by solarpanels and batteries. Then he continued to work with the local community organizing the inhabitants of the quartier around ecological and community gardening. With his organization ECOS, he proceeded to design and build public gardens along the riverbanks of the river the Loire. Now he is residing and working in Saint-Nazaire, which was completely destroyed at the beginning of the end of WW2, but rebuilt by the ’50ies. And then there is also the beach where Jacques Tati filmed ‘Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot’, or in the harbour the remnants of the nazi u-boot factory.

These days Dominique Leroy works in his ‘caravan-lab’ – an old caravan temporarily standing in the garden of a former social office, now a small residency place for contemporary artists, called Pôle de Création Partagée (PCP). His work is a subtle interplay between sound and vibrations of natural phenomena (weather data, natural cycles, bioacoustics …), DIY open source digital electronics (sensors and mini-computers, puredata patches, small speakers), recycled architecture and designs that stimulate communities to work together (often with openstructures principles), within the location of either a city natural spot, the seaside, or a forlorn place in the countryside. From a disciplinary view, his work is hard to classify somewhere, but provides a relief within a larger scope of creativity and experiment, blurring all boundaries to make sense of a radical ecological purpose. Influenced by Arne Naess and Deep Ecology, his works are integrative and avoid dominance in their environment, despite their high technological background.

Lately we saw 2 different works which captured our attention in Dom’s special hybrid but efficient bricolage style. Both reformulate the human contract with nature, and are using sound as an ultimate communication vehicle.

1. Entomosolar: For a recent open air show in Vysočina about the theme of hunting, Dom built out a watch tower for hunters (posed) much in the way it is integrated in the landscape. The little wooden tower is provided with small microphones that « listen » to insects and birds around. But these noises are not sampled, they are analysed and used for generating a new electronic soundscape. The ‘posed’ functions in nature, between immersion, field observation and research with strange experimental devices.

2. BBB42: Taken to an instrumental level, and together with Jef Rolez, they built a little bowl as an integrated small speaker and amplifier, audio-card, a small computer (cubieboard) with a scaled down linux distribution. The ball is interacting with the environment and living creatures respectively with proximity and touch sensors. It is generating its own sound pieces, with structures derivative of the environment and its manipulation. Currently Dominique is asking other artists to contribute and write synthesis patches for the instrument in PureData, sharing the instrument and environment in a collective way. Interested? write

Both works show the non-conformistic style in which ecology and multimedia are re-inscribing themselves in the arts. The forms, content, and times have changed, and certainly the places of interest of new artists. New music is moving, but in the case of Dominique Leroy, it is moving out of the known studios and performance places. Maybe pointing to a ‘difference without a difference’ in Kierkegaard’s infamous words: a difference which we are unable to recognise because it is not related to any pre-given structure or code. So let’s investigate some more sound as interactions with natural phenomena?

Guy Van Belle