Je viens de te voir en rêve
Take a few minutes, lie down, close your eyes. Breathe deeply, relax your muscles, and let yourself merge with the mattress… The sounds around you fade away, and images appear under your eyelids. You feel yourself being gently carried away to another reality as you fall asleep; a journey begins.
It is no secret that dreams, in all their aspects, have always been a mystery. Neuroscientists are still learning about it, while philosophers are questioning the boundaries of reality. On a personal level, they can even influence our decisions. The dream is the most intimate thing we have and yet it is so limited in terms of knowledge; Marion Roche is fascinated by this paradox. She sees the opportunity here to take an artistic approach and establish a dialogue between art and science; her project “Je viens de te voir en rêve” (I just saw you in dream) is a sculptural experiment with a touch of 4D technology.
Artist, researcher and philosopher, Marion is interested in the notion of process. Sculpture is her predominant practice, but she finds it increasingly difficult to focus on fixed forms. She has been working on the idea of “becoming” for some time now, but it is the new formula of the MAIF prize for sculpture that catches her attention; Since 2020, candidates are asked to take on a new technology that they have not mastered. She takes up the challenge; her sculpture will not only be in motion, but also in the process of becoming.
Things get tricky when she has to find a technique that meets her criteria. Then she remembers an anecdote about glass: To the touch, it feels solid, but on a microscopic scale, the atoms are not fixed, just like in a liquid state. Inspired by this astonishing fact, she starts looking for the existence of similar materials and ends up discovering an experimental process that is similar to this phenomenon: 4D printing.
We already know how 3D printing works: it consists of stacking layers of material successively until a volume is created. 4D adds a temporal dimension to the 3D printed object. An object can then react over time according to external factors, such as humidity or temperature, and will therefore be mobile.
And it is precisely in Lyon, Marion’s home city, that one of the few research centres for 4D in the world is located; the 3d.FAB. They specialise in medical research, for example by creating autonomous heart valves that react to heat.
Marion is very pleased with this technique, as it fits perfectly with her philosophy and subject. She presents her idea to one of the scientists of the Neuroscience Research Centre of Lyon, and starts her journey to the realm of dreams. They are produced by a ballet of neuronal connections, which puts our brain in a state of ebullition; our body remains inactive, hence the notion of “REM sleep” (Rapid Eye Movement). And it is by looking at the intensity of the electrical activity of our brain that scientists can determine when we are dreaming.
Together, they established a protocol: Marion would sleep for a given time, her dream would be transcribed into an electroencephalogram (or EEG) and described immediately upon waking, to produce a 2D vision of it. She will take five naps in total.
Once these elements are in hand, Marion works with Benjamin Petit at the LTBL studio (of which she is herself the artistic director) on the design of the 3D object, whose form corresponds to the activity of the dream, stratified in time.
The creation then goes through the 3d.FAB, where Marion collaborates with a post-doctoral researcher to find the ideal combination of materials; she imposes aesthetic choices such as transparency or rigidity for example.
And this is what we should see when the project comes to an end: a visualisation of the artist’s dreams. The forged aluminium base takes the form of a tree trunk, but in fact represents a neuron, which supports five structures, the five dreams. Each one has an inscription that evokes the dream at its origin. They open and close according to one factor: hydration.
We can say that Marion succeeds in the challenge she has set herself. As an artist, she nourishes scientific research on several levels and manages to establish a clear dialogue between the disciplines. The artistic constraints have allowed the researchers to vary the experiments on 4D, and to publish their results. As far as neuroscience is concerned, we must accept that the brain is not yet ready to reveal all its mechanisms. Which is not a problem from a philosophical point of view.
As a guinea pig for her own project, Marion gets into the habit of writing down her dreams and remembers them better and better… She often thinks about them, like a film that has marked her. We experience this every day: we dream about what is worrying us, or what has affected us. This new reality is grafted onto her daily routine, and although sometimes disturbing, Marion is amused by the place it occupies as the experience unfolds.
So the artist is already imagining a sequel to the project: a virtual reality tour between different layers of dreams and reality. This choice is not insignificant; for her, the problematics that are raised for the dream are the same as for the digital sphere.
Due to our need to remain rational, we have learned to compartmentalise and detach ourselves from the different realities we experience. Yet dreams are real. They belong to us as much as they slip away, and that is what makes them so wonderful. They have a concrete impact on our lives in the same way that cyberspace can have a concrete impact on the planet.
Marion Roche wanted to explore dreams as a vast untouched land and to study its boundaries. But through her work and her experiences, she takes us much further; she invites us to break down the barriers between dream and reality, and to accept ourselves as beings in continuous becoming.
“I am a turtle: when I go to a place, I create things”. At first glance, it’s hard to compare someone like Marion Roche to a turtle… or perhaps to the idea we have of a turtle. She seems rather dynamic, even hyperactive, eager to make her mark, and constantly on the move.
Between Lyon and Berlin, via Tuscany, Marion settles down, participates in local life, creates communities, builds studios, founds organisations, without forgetting to practise her art, and to always look for ways to renew herself.
As a child, she is absorbed in DIY activities at home and develops a passion for assembling spare parts. So much, that she can’t wait for the washing machine to break down so she can finally take it apart and understand how it works. Sometimes she even dismantles perfectly functional objects! The memories of this convivial period are strong, and will deeply mark her practice.
Marion is 15 years old; fascinated by photography, she discovers a specialised shop in Vieux Lyon owned by a certain Mr Berthet. He is an active antique dealer and collects all kinds of photographic works, but stereoscopy is the medium that attracts Marion’s attention. Based on the model of our vision, this process superimposes two images of the same subject, that are taken according to the distance between our eyes. They are then placed in a viewer. Our brain puts these images together to form a single image, and our eyes will perceive this single image in relief.
As you may have guessed, stereoscopy is a synonym for the acronym “3D”.
The aspiring artist befriends the antique dealer; she spends her free time at the gallery and collects her first works. At the same time, Marion experiments with industrial music and film; she has a black and white super 8 camera with which she films herself and her friends. They go to construction sites and bang on metal objects they find while shouting. She falls in love with metal for its sound. But what encourages Marion to create forms is the discovery of monumental metal sculptures during a trip to Berlin. At 17, she knows exactly what she wants to do. She starts training on the welding machines she finds in her parents’ garage.
photo credit : Carlo Bonazza
She begins to study philosophy in Lyon, and seizes the opportunity to go to Berlin for a first year of Erasmus for a master’s degree. Her stay lasts five years.
There, she works at the Tacheles, legendary artists’ squat in the heart of the Mitte district, where she trains herself in metal sculpture. When she stumbles on a creation, she sees the solution in a dream: she visualises the pieces in 3D, assembles them, and then gives herself the next steps to follow. Always passionate about sound, she creates metal musical instruments that she tests with her band, and does sound for films.
But Marion’s career takes a political turn with the threats hanging over the residents’ heads; she becomes the president of the association ArtProTacheles, and advocates for setting up art production and distribution spaces, made by artists and for artists. She participates in the development of partnerships between these gallery workshops and hostels or hotels in several European cities.
Life in squats is not easy, and the Tacheles officially ended in July 2013, a series of painful events, the violence of which shocked Berliners. The site, now vacant, is becoming a symbol of the fight against gentrification in Europe.
Together with a group of former residents, she moves to Marzahn, in the eastern suburbs of Berlin. The former GDR district, popular and isolated, is known for the influx of Syrian migrants after the 2013 crisis. This is an opportunity for the artists, who rush to build new places, starting from scratch. Marion works with local youth, refugees, and architecture students on various socio-cultural projects: they aim to breathe new life into the neighbourhood, and integrate immigrants into it. This phase of her life is happy, but she gets tired of creating workshops that will eventually become ephemeral..
Out of a desire for stability, and to get back to philosophy, Marion returns to Lyon to take up again her master’s degree that she had not finished in Germany, and takes advantage of the situation to reopen a workshop in Saint-Just. Then she starts writing her thesis on the theme of “process”, or the idea of being “in the making”.
She spends time in Italy during an artistic residency, where she curates a sculpture park at AMACA, and co-founds the FakeComa studio, for which she is responsible for digital art exhibitions.
But it is not until two years later, on her second return to France, that something clicks: she can no longer bear the idea of bringing new fixed forms into the world, nor of depending on workshops, the logistics of which are exhausting. With her growing interest in new technologies, she takes up a master’s degree in “digital arts director” in Saint Etienne, France, where she discovers the wonderful world of computer programming.
It’s love at first sight with virtual reality; for Marion, it’s both a multitude of new possible developments for her projects, but also a process that fits with her way of seeing the world. All the artistic forms she has experimented with before, make sense: stereoscopy, music, video, sculpture… put them together as if they were individual pieces and you might just build a virtual reality masterpiece.
Today Marion is pursuing her PhD in philosophy, teaching at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Lyon, and collaborating with the LTBL studio; between the famous Fête des Lumières, and the MAIF prize for sculpture, the fields of experimentation have evolved since the construction sites and the family garage… Her work will have left an indelible mark in time, and on the people who have crossed her path.
So yes, the turtle could well be Marion Roche’s totem animal, symbol of the quest for unexplored solutions and harmony with its environment.
Recently, fires have become more and more frequent in the news, and although they are often caused by humans, they are made worse by global warming. In March 2021, the OVH data center in Strasbourg caught fire; these huge warehouses host computers and servers, whose function is to store information useful to companies or individuals (websites, clouds, etc.). Despite the questions that revolve around the origins of this particular incident, it is not without reminding that the risks linked to the overconsumption of energy are very real. After all, it is only flammable materials in plastic boxes that overheat, and can ravage entire buildings.
Behind our screens, the digital world seems harmless, yet the consequences of our actions are real for our planet. We wrongly separate them for the sake of personal comfort. Fortunately, art is a great way to put these issues into perspective; take virtual reality, it’s a space created in the digital world in which we are totally immersed thanks to a headset. We enter an image and explore it, but the sensations and emotions are authentic. Marion Roche is passionate about this technology, which not only reconnects with stereoscopy, her first artistic love, but is also destined to illustrate in part the topic of her project “Je viens de te voir en rêve”.
The sensation we feel during the virtual reality experience can be likened to dreaming, even lucid dreaming. We would be able to consciously direct our dreams, it seems, with a little willpower and training. All we have to do is get used to writing them down as soon as we wake up, which is the method Marion uses before her visits to the Neuroscience Research Centre in Lyon. It enables her to improve her ability to remember them and to become aware of the effect of the events she experiences during the day. Here again, the experiment sheds light on the influence and impact of one world on another.
photo credit : Tadzio, Courtesy de l’artiste et des Tanneries – CAC, Amilly
We are talking about a largely unexplored field, without scientific dogma and open to all sorts of interpretations. Philosophy, a chameleon-like discipline, deals with all subjects, but combined with art, Marion can establish a dialogue between all these fields. And depending on the project, it can be diverse; today it involves neuroscience, but in six months it will be biochemistry or archaeology.
The art science segment offers the possibility of touching other worlds, of learning about a field, admittedly in a superficial way, but of being in a constant position of discovery.
It’s a new vision of exploring science through art, and the possibilities are endless. However, Marion has a much more down-to-earth dream than we imagine: to build an open and autonomous house. It could be a residence, a gallery, a workshop, a multidisciplinary place for artistic production and dissemination, or all of these things at once.
We may have the impression that her journey is not going in the direction of the final destination. But for Marion Roche, this place is simply the result of a combination of the manual work that has motivated her since childhood, the values and convictions that drive her, and her desire for stability.
Somehow, she encourages us all to build and accept ourselves, to dare to explore our unconscious in order to act consciously, with the aim of transforming, little by little, our dreams into reality.