2017-03-23 . . .

Une Nuit Sans Sommeil

Lionel Estève, Jean-Michel Distexhe & Zoë-Louise Estève

Empty Gallery is pleased to present Une Nuit Sans Sommeil, a sound and light performance by Lionel Estève in collaboration with master puppeteer Jean-Michel Distexhe and composer/performer Zoë-Louise Estève. Une Nuit Sans Sommeil occupies a territory at once both modern and ancient, resonating with an array of practices from pre-modern magic lantern shows and early cinema through to 60s innovations in “psychedelic” concert visuals. Manipulating an array of filters, lenses, and various glass objects placed on top of vintage overhead projectors, Esteve and Distexhe manage to coax a genuine sense of wonder from the simplest of materials. Engaging in a kind of abstract puppetry with their materials, the two create a series of drifting, somnambulant forms – punctuated by brief lapses into figuration and intermittent splashes of color – which have the uncanny ability to suggest processes as disparate in scale as cellular division and meteorological phenomena. These reduced visuals are animated by Zoe Esteve’s affecting score which recalls the impressionistic piano music of Debussy and Satie. Une Nuits Sans Sommeil represents a breath of fresh air, a performance which might be called “reduced cinema” rather than expanded cinema; the poignancy of cinematic affect conjured with the barest of means.

“Some of my sculptures are moved by engines. It brought to me the idea that i could create movement by myself. Very quickly, my experiments started to look like puppets to me. This is why I have chosen to collaborate with Jean-Michel Distexhe, a puppet-master. From time to time, we worked in my studio. Starting from nothing, without any storyline or pressure, nor technique or time… As the project started to take shape, and we had a better sense of our aim, it seemed necessary for music to accompany it. I have hence commissioned my daughter, Zoe-Louise, to compose a 20 minute piece for solo piano. I relayed to her the atmosphere of drowsiness and hypnosis, as-well as the proto-cinematic effects that called for a modernist music, inspired by the works of Satie or Debussy. Thereafter we started to synchronize the movements with the musical piece, as a choreography. This performance is hence played by three people. One can interpret it as a somnolence, a stroll from thought to thought, that come and go, both contemplation and wandering.” – Lionel Esteve


Lionel Esteve (Born 1967 in Lyon, France) is French contemporary artist currently living and working in Brussels, Belgium. Although perhaps best-known for his floating kinetic sculptures, Esteve works in an array of diverse media which spans performance to spatial installation. Defining himself as a sculptor in the broadest sense, Esteve conceptualizes his practice as a kind of “spatial drawing” in which subtle aesthetic interventions modify the perceptual and atmospheric properties of the exhibition space – a stance not unlike that of the California-based Light and Space artists. His practice is further defined by its unusual usage of fragile, everyday materials such as fishing line, punched paper, plants, stones, and plastic twine as foundational elements, bestowing a rare clarity and lightness of touch upon his pieces.

His works have been included in shows such as: Vivre En Pensée, Les Eglises, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Chelles (FR), Dead Can Smile, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art (GR), A Chaos, DCOTA, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, (US), Teenagers Are Always Right, Domaine du Château de Vert-Mont, Rueil-Malmaison, (FR), I Can Talk To My Cat, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels (BE), De Vereniging DD, Museum Dhont-Dhanens, Deurle (BE), and Migrateur organized by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris,Paris (FR)