About 30 years ago NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. These two spacecrafts were conceived to explore Jupiter, Saturn and their respective moons. Among other things, NASA included an ambitious message aboard Voyager 1 and 2 : a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate the story of our world to extraterrestrials. The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record, a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk, and contains sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. On the record there are, among other things, a series of rumbling sounds of volcanoes, earthquakes and thunders, a barking dog, the voice of a chimpanzee, etc. Also included on the record are greetings to the universe in 55 languages and music such as percussion from Senegal, J.S. Bach played by Glenn Gould, a song from New Guinea, a blues performed by Louis Armstrong, a Mozart aria sung by Edda Moser, a rock-and-roll song performed by Chuck Berry....
In coming years, the spacecrafts will leave our solar system and will find themselves in empty space. Forty thousand years will pass before they come close to any other planetary system. As Carl Sagan, head of the committee that selected the material for the record, has noted, "the spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet."
I have often thought about the kind of messages that Voyager 1 and 2 are carrying out into space. As far as I know, there are no images or sounds of other achievements that civilization on Earth has been producing, let's say, in the last one hundred years, such as the atomic bomb mushroom cloud, images of horror of wars, of the exploitation and destruction of our planet, of ingenious and advanced weaponry, of racial harassment, of certain effects of religious convictions...
Some works in this exhibition are directly or indirectly inspired by such thoughts of "universal" and "durable" human achievements which form the baggage of the two spacecrafts. The works that bear the common title "Une certaine idée de..." are imbued with a general feeling of fatalism. It is a kind of fragility that is related to the belief in our best intentions: what we are, what we can be, what we are forced to be, what we never wanted to become. These works are produced with a consciousness of how instable and shifting the meaning of values is or can be. In our popular culture we like to venerate some artistic achievements with warm emphasis. We know that every so-called achievement is probably a product of a need that was permitted to develop at a certain time.
But what if we were to accept the vulnerability of these achievements as an area from which to start thinking about how the invisible man, the person we see on the street leaves his or her trace. I like to think that viewers of these works are invited to reflect upon this fragility. This could lead to thinking about our place in this society, our real and our abstract relationships to others.
We ask each other what we like, what we believe, and we ask each other what we know. Do I know you? I think I know you, I think I do. But the opposite could be also true.
Paris, September 2006