[ISEA2011] Paper: Cyril Thomas – Nanotechnology: Towards New Modes of Display?


This research project seeks to approach nanotechnology from a new angle and to distance itself from standard treatments of the subject in various forms of discourse such as theory and fiction, where it is more and more commonly broached. Usually, the controversy surrounding nanotechnology is formulated in simple binary terms: either nanotechnology and nanoscience are perceived as capable of speeding up progress, or they are seen as catastrophes waiting to happen. Even though artists such as Albertine Meunier, Victoria Vesna, FElab and Greg Lynn have participated in this debate, its terms are unsatisfactory as each artwork raises specific issues and sheds a unique light on particular aspects of the problem. The point of this project is to look at precise examples in order to examine the strategies and theoretical/methodological tools best suited to an exploration of such works uninfluenced by preconceived ideas and pre-existing discourses. Particular attention will be paid to the exhibition shown in Reims in 2009 as part of the nuit numérique (a night-long event focusing on digital culture and art) at the Centre Saint-Exupéry. This exhibition aimed at making complex installations and artworks more accessible while bearing in mind the audience’s unusal expectations in a venue which is neither a science nor an art museum. The project touches on various issues such as the art/science debate and the relationship between artworks and scientific documents; as a result, it raises questions such as :

  1. What new modes of cultural mediation are called for in this context?
  2. How should such works be displayed?
  3. What critical approaches do they encourage, and what methodological/theoretical innovations are required?
  4. How can these works be understood from the point of view of art history? What place do they occupy in the development of contemporary art?
  • Cyril Thomas belongs to various research groups, including the Centre de Recherches en Art (CRA, Amiens), the CoDesign Lab (Paris Tech) and the NUNC collective. He has curated several exhibitions, focusing on new approaches to curating, mediation and publishing. He is a frequent contributor to several print and online periodicals, including Ciel VariableScènesPoptronics.fr and Patch. For a while, Cyril Thomas edited Transdigital, a trilingual journal dedicated to new technologies and the performing arts. He has contributed a chapter to L’Imprimerie du regard. Chris Marker et la technique, a volume of essays edited by Viva Paci and André Habib (Montreal). As part of a collaboration with La Mire, an art gallery located in Orléans (France), he has edited the catalogue of an exhibition entitled Les Théophanies de Paul Armand Gette. In 2007, Cyril Thomas contributed to the catalogue of the Annette Messager retrospective at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which was awarded the Artcurial prize later the same year. Other essays of his have appeared in Photographie moderne et contemporaine (pubished in 2007 by Flammarion) and in Art Contemporain. La Collection du centre Pompidou, edited by Sophie Duplaix. Recently, Cyril Thomas contributed to a special issue of the bilingual journal MCD devoted to the Internet of Things. In 2010, Cyril Thomas was chosen to participate in Writers on the Move, a European research programme focusing on new developments in art criticism. He has published numerous articles on new forms of art and architecture and has interviewed many internationally renowned artists. Along with Philippe Baudelot, Cécile Denis and Emmanuelle Raynaut, Cyril Thomas has launched a cycle of seminars on emergent approaches to digital art, net art and new media, held at the Centquatre contemporary art center in Paris ; some twenty artists have participated in this programme entitled El mundo Pasta UnicaAs part of the Open Festival held at the Théâtre Paris‑Villette in June 2011, Cyril Thomas has been collaborating with the performance artist Lucille Calmel on a reworking of her textual archives and of her online visual creations based on Identifiant : Lucille Calmel, a cycle of performances. His interests include theoretical and philosophical approaches to new media, haptic modes of artistic creation, artistic explorations of Second Life, as well as Bio Art and NanoArt. poptronics.fr