DEMO43 Guillaume Pascale & Caroline Bernard – Spatiavalesque

March 2024

This DEMO looks back on a five-day workshop entitled Spatiavalesque, proposed by Guillaume Pascale [student member, UQAM] and Caroline Bernard [collaborator member] in March 2023 at the École Nationale Supérieure de Photographie d’Arles (ENSP). They teamed up to invest the spatial imaginary deployed by Guillaume in his research. In a nod to Mars exploration programs, participants were invited to invest and reconsider the problematic habitability of one of the ENSP buildings. Get ready for a “voyage aboard the social ship between Mars and Earth”.

A Story of Architecture Lifts Off

When the Viking 1 probe transmitted its first images of the surface of Mars in the mid-1970s, it revealed a desolate and inhospitable landscape, far removed from the idea of a planet suitable for hosting an advanced civilization, as envisioned by the European scientific community as early as the 19th century. Yet this has done little to curb the Martian ambitions of private companies. Some, such as Elon Musk’s Space X, are seriously considering settling on the Red Planet in the near future, as the sixth mass extinction due to the above-ground lifestyle of a portion of humanity gets underway.

Figure 1. First photography of the Mars terrain by the Vicking 1 probe, 1976.

It therefore seems relevant to explore the imaginary proposed by these space programs, when the arid cold and mineral actuality of the planet Mars seems to coincide with the conditions of future habitability on Earth, and when some of the terrestrial buildings seem to be the result of minds that are detached from the environmental and social situation of the sites they occupy. The new building of the École Nationale Supérieure de Photographie d’Arles, inaugurated in 2019, seems to belong symbolically to this category. Rumor has it that the concrete and glass monolith designed by architect Marc Barani was conceived to resemble a camera from an aerial vantage point; to the detriment of the uses of those who occupy it.

Figure 2. Videogram extracted from de movie Gagarine.

The sense of lift-off suggested by such architectural projects is far from anecdotal. Recently, the film Gagarin (Liatard and Trouilh, 2020) drew such an analogy, recounting the last days of a low-income housing estate slated for demolition, which the protagonist, Youri, inhabits as if it were a spaceship. Some even suggest that we belong to a “groundless” civilization in an environment today without “stable foundations for our social life and philosophical aspirations” (Steyerl, 2010). Others speak of a “groundless civilization” in the context of post-industrial “flow” societies (Pierron, 2003). Wasn’t “the great confinement” (Gopinath, 2020) the symptom of a great lift-off: a techno-scientific civilizational aspiration to a hermetic and detached lifestyle?

A Programmed Astronautic Drift

In this context, and in response to the grievances of the school’s students, Guillaume Pascale and Caroline Bernard proposed a five-day workshop entitled Spatiavalesque in March 2023. It aimed to invest the spatial imaginary deployed by Guillaume in his research in order to rethink the habitability of a visibly rigid building for the versatile character of the living. Conducted aboard a social spaceship, the workshop becomes an opportunity to explore a situationist alternative to the solutionist proposal offered a few weeks earlier by the Mars Society to a cohort of students from the SUPAERO engineering school in Toulouse (France), invited to a simulation of life on Mars in the Utah desert in the USA.  

To develop the project, the collective adopted an approach similar to the one Guillaume uses to program the electronic devices he designs. Called Programmed Drift, it consists of creating programs with an uncertain outcome, whose unfolding depends on a series of contingent conditions. On the scale of a school, and no longer of just a few microcontrollers, the collective’s task is to devise a program in the form of a series of events that, over the course of an entire night, redefine and destabilize the function of the spaces in which they take place, as well as the behavior of those who occupy them. 

A Program, a Drift, a Journey…

Part of the school was then invested and prepared to host this program dedicated to a journey aboard the social spaceship between Mars and Earth. On the school’s floor plan (Figure 3), Guillaume schematically transposes the psychogeographic space he envisions between the two planets (Figure 4). The result is an occupation of three concomitant zones of the school, symbolically identified as Earth, Space and Mars (Figures 5 and 6). Each zone is assigned a color and lighting ambience: blue, violet and red.

Figure 3. Floor plan of the École Nationale de Photographie d’Arles. 
Figure 4. Psychogeographic space between Mars and Earth. 
Figure 5. Focus on the school zone occupied during Spatiavalesque.
Figure 6. Global project’s floor plan.

The three zones are then stripped of their furniture and colored gelatin is applied to the existing lights. The spaces are amplified so that the acoustic environment of each space can be heard in each of the other zones. The “Mars” zone houses the spaceship’s command post. There’s a mixing console to balance the soundscape in each zone. There’s also a DJ booth and a device designed by Guillaume Pascale to create a generative sound environment throughout the night based on real-time astronomical data. To punctuate the night, a chronometer was designed to de-measure the event’s time. Displaying both terrestrial and Martian seconds (2.749% longer), this dichronic chronometer (Figure 7) symbolizes the increasing degree of uncertainty between the two planets. In the course of this temporal splitting and the various interventions, it is planned to reprogram the spaces in each zone with floor markings (Figures 8, 9). These markings will in turn form tables, a stage area, a dance floor, or even an open mic area.  

Figure 7. The dichronic chronometer shows the gap between Mars and Earth time.
Figure 8. The architape team.
Figure 9 . The architape team installs a table.

Finally, on Thursday March 16 at 8 p.m., Spatiavalesque begins, closing the workshop. To board, an airlock opens at the entrance of the spaceship. There, we hear the flight instructions: cell phones must be left at the reception desk, to get the most out of the experience. It is impossible to leave the vessel during the trip. Those who embark must live through the entire experience until they return to Earth in the early hours of the morning. A collective dormitory has even been set up in the school’s exhibition hall. In this context, events follow on from one another, juxtaposing and responding to one another throughout the night. A vegan dinner was served on “Earth”, while music generated from Mars by the movements of the Voyager probes could be heard (Figure 10). 

Figure 10. Voyager data sonification system.
Figure 11. Dinner time.

Psychiatry students from the University of Aix-Marseille take the stage to tell stories of abductions confided to them by patients. Outside, in “Space”, a non-oriented environment par excellence, the Tétine show begins (fig. 11 & 12). An analogy is drawn between the alien figure and the trans-identity. Then a dance floor appears on “Mars”. In “Space”, a series of science fiction films are shown.

Figure 12 et 13 : The « Aliens » from the Tétine show.
Figure 14 : Barbarella in “Space”.
Figure 14 : View of “Mars” from “Eart

Between Méliès’ Le voyage dans la Lune and Vadim’s Barbarella (Figure 14), a spaceship on wheels travels through the school corridors. Space stories are told on board. At dawn, the space travelers meet the facility’s maintenance crews. Breakfast is served, and everyone pitches in to clean up the school. These two communities have never met before, except that night in “Space”. Perhaps the update to the building’s operating system was successful, at least for one night. 

*All quotes are freely translated.

Gopinath, G. (2020). Le « Grand confinement » : pire récession économique depuis la Grande dépression. IMF.

Liatard, F. et Trouilh, J. (2020). Gagarine. Haut et Court.

Pierron, J.-P. (2003). Sols et civilisations. Une approche poétique du territoire. Études, 398 (3), 333‑345.

Steyerl, H. (2010). In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective – Journal #24 April 2011 – e-flux.

Guillaume Pascale [student member] is an artist-researcher haunted by an unstable imagination that navigates between physical and informational environments. His works are programmed drifts composed of an arrangement of sounds, images and data collected in real time. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in art studies and practice at UQAM under the supervision of Jean Dubois, whose subject is a reconsideration of the contemporary spatial imaginary through the prism of the notion of planetarity. Since January 2023, he has also been a visiting researcher at the ENSP in Arles, France, within the Prospective de l’Image laboratory. His works and performances were recently presented at Ars Electronica in Linz (Austria) and Octobre Numérique in Arles (France).

Caroline Bernard [collaborator member] is an artist-researcher working on hybrid forms between live art, cinema and radio. She and Damien Guichard have formed the Lili range le chat collective for over twenty years. Their works are often the result of travel or exploration of the territory, either on site or at a distance. She collaborates with Swiss and international institutions such as HEAD, RTS, the Saint-Gervais and Am Stram Gram theaters in Geneva, as well as UQAM. With a doctorate in aesthetics, arts science and technology, she teaches and directs the Prospectives de l’image laboratory at the École Nationale Supérieure de Photographie in Arles, France.


Pedagogic Team
Franck Hirsch

Kaelis Robert
Yann Leandri
Caroline Bernard
Guillaume Pascale

With the intergalactical participation of
Frédérique Laliberté (DéPA, UQAM)
Fanny Aboulker (DéPA, UQAM)

Featured Artists
Manon Audiffren
Jean Imrane De Ricaud
Jonas Forchini
Ambre Husson
Alionor La Besse Kottoff
Iris Millot
Théo Maxime Petit
Clarisse Piot
Thomas Pouly
Kaelis Robert
Christiane Rodrigues Esteves
Gabriel Seidenbinder
Eliot Stein