Ludovic Bernhardt

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A sign! A glimmer of hope?

Stanley Kubrick used the first minutes of his movie 2001: A Space Odyssey to reveal a scene of rare tension and denseness. In it, a group of australopithecines in contact with the famous monolith discovers the use of a large bone as a weapon. Some time later, the use of this new prosthesis enables them to reconquer the waterhole they had to give up to a rival tribe, by putting its chief to death.

With as much simplicity of means and relevance in language, Ludovic Bernhardt takes us on another odyssey, that of his “Dormant Colony”. There is no question of primates or monoliths there, only of signs. Signs that sometimes take an archetypal, almost familiar appearance, and sometimes may transform into a chilling, outlandish halo. Yet, despite their meticulous shaping or crafting, Bernhardt’s current works of art take us back to our animal nature while awakening questions in us about the colonisation of our brain.

Once the human species achieved mastery over fire (about 1.8 million years ago), over weapons, over an increasing control of its environment it progressively reached deep sleep stages. Such nocturnally active periods are opportune to reorganising day-ingested data and thus pivotal in our cognitive development. The extension of our hold over our space and over our spirit defines our mental states.

ion of our hold over our space and over our spirit defines our mental states. Mental states that could be “compared to a system based on an internal combination of signs and symbols, such as, for instance, mathematical formalizations or natural language utterances. Components that would determine a language of the mind thus defining both the extent and the limit of what the human brain can grasp… That is, all of our knowledge and the logical connections woven by and within it.” (ⁱ)

“The Dormant Colony” is an invitation to awakening… or to drowsing; visitors will choose. Bernhardt’s works of art are not totalitarian – despite the fact that criticism of totalitarianism often appears to be at the root of the installation of the devices the artist has designed. In this work, the body is positioned as the master of all choices and responsibilities; with regard to oneself, with regard to the others.

Ludovic Bernhardt places us face to face with our Anthropocene Age, namely that which stratigraphy specialists wish to record as a new geological age, succeeding the Holocene. An age when human intervention has the capacity to modify the lithosphere, marking earth with unprecedented traces and signs from our species. The latter seemingly endures within an approving drowsiness, entrusting politicians, arms manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies with the task of taking the future of the planet in hand.

In the end, such belief and devotion in technology makes us connected australopithecines with artificial limbs, always ready to fight for a life spent in metrosexed juvenility.

Nevertheless, Bernhardt has set in space signs that, through their meditative force, give us clues: traces of possible outlands, signs of hope.

(Sinan Logie, 2016)

(ⁱ) Jacques Mehler et Emmanuel Dupoux, «De la psychologie à la science cognitive», Le débat, novembre-décembre 1987, n°47, (p67)