The permanent friends
At the start of this project, there was the necessity to find a point of contact in France for the summer of 2013 and the memory of student holidays in Ushant in 1979, after a radio show heard in the safelight obscurity of a photo lab in the basement of a family house about the cromlech of Pen-ar-Lan and hypothetical and mysterious remains of megalithic alignments on the island.
Working all year in Shanghai, we often visit the classical gardens of Suzhou. Our interest in the ornamental rocks and rock labyrinths of these gardens, as well as in the “gongshi”, these strange stones mounted on sculpted bases that the scholars placed on their study cabinet, led us to look at the rocks in Ushant differently, during a short trip in 2007; particularly those far from the coast, which seem to be laid on the grass. Very quickly, the perspective of a residency at the Ushant semaphore imposed the idea of a spatio-temporal shortcut between the extravagant rockery of the lions’ forest in Suzhou and the extraordinary rocks of the tip of Créac’h.
In a exhibition at the Guimet Museum in 2012, “Scholar rocks – itinerary of art in China”, there was a beautiful painting on paper by Lan Ying (1585-1664) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, titled “The red friend”. This two-meter long roll solely represents a stone from the Taihu lake in Suzhou. It is only the “portrait” of a rock.
Having been giving the opportunity to reside at the semaphore in July 2013, our intention was simply to find the rocks of the tips of Créac’h, Porz Men and Pern again, like old friends, immobile and silent, and to take the time to stay next to them to draw their portrait. We didn’t know exactly how to proceed yet. Our first idea was to observe them at different times of day and night and to photograph them in large format. By maybe it would be – drawings or paintings, or even 3D modeling, or maybe only texts. In any case, it meant a certain proximity and time.
We probably should have stuck to this beautiful neighborhood, and just give names to the most remarkable of these quiet friends, according to the tradition of stone lovers, in the footsteps of the poet Tao Yuanming (365-427), but it has become difficult today in Shanghai to see without recording and immediately sharing on social media, and we couldn’t help ourselves and took a few short videos.
DeYi Studio, Shanghai, January 2018