Françoise Parfait, 2012
Translated by Simon Pleasance, 2015
Samuel Rousseau's works combine a discreet but very effective use of digital technologies, at the service of a project to re-enchant the world, which is neither inane nor paved with good intentions, but which, through a poetics of forms which is peculiar to it, asserts man's lack of adaptation to the laws of format standardization which contemporary existence forces upon him. In manipulating major changes of scale—from the miniature object to monumental architecture—the artist, as a sculptor, retrieves, hijacks and invents systems in which the animated images of looped micro-movements appear first of all in an enigmatic form, and then little by little release “impressive” imaginary worlds. In the grid of the video image, and in the cracks in objects and textures of the real world, are mingled unexpected motifs which disturb perception and bother common sense. A poetics not without humour emanates from “rectified” objects drawing with it the pleasure of sensation and suspension of judgment.
Exhibition catalogue, Museu d'Art de Sabadell, Spain, 2003
Projected in shadow, on the bottom step of a staircase, Samuel Rousseau's video work entitled P'tit bonhomme never fails to hold the gleeful attention of the viewer. It shows in effect a man, Lilliputian style, who is ceaselessly jumping up in the air in the hope of clinging on to the edge of the step above him, yet all his efforts are in vain. Every time he tries, he lands flat on his arse, gets up again, plucks up courage and strength, channels his energy and hurls himself back into the assault on the insurmountable wall : no go, back to the start again - and the tape rolls in a loop as though to penalise better the impossible challenge. From laughter, the viewer steadily passes to a sort of compassionate reserve which speaks volumes about the entirely dramatic dimension of the situation.
In his work devoted to laughter, philosopher Henri Bergson has analysed magnificently the mechanisms which put our zygomatic nerves to the test The chapter subtitled "De la mécanique plaquée sur du vivant" the contemplation under the dual angle of comedy and tragedy, underlining how one leads to the other after the fashion of the basis of the work of Buster Keaton. In other times, Albert Camus, another philosopher, as far as what we can make out of him from Mythe de Sisyphe, inscribing the non-sense of people and the obligation for the human condition to find happiness at the very heart of the absurd.
Placing the art of Samuel Rousseau at the judgement of this dual and prestigious tutelage may seem excessive Perhaps. Little else is left than, on the one hand, the procedures used in his work calling on a mechanism which plays with both programming and the random and with the expected and the unforeseeable, and, on the other, Sam - as he calls himself - has no equal for charging the combined dimensions of the absurd and the non-sense of a rare poetic dose. Because the poem - taken in the epic sense of the word - to this quality of being all at once clashes with the joy and drama of existence, it is the dynamic vector which motivates the artist in their work. Touch-all full of invention, using the most sophisticated technical resources - development software, sound and image editing software, etc. - and the most rudimentary materials - plastic bottles, a garden shovel, washing machines, and so on - Samuel Rousseau is an unclassifiable artist. He defies the laws of all genres by an irrepressible taste for experimentation and by a permanent questioning of our perceptive habits. Nothing excites his imagination more than taking tired old cliches and tilting them over the edge of the incongruous, as he transforms for example old framed canvases, as kitsch as you like, into astonishing animated images. Another way of playing on the two tableaux of the entertaining and the derisive, just like the collusion of the vulgar and the artistic.
It's the same with his video paintings which stem from the projection on the wall of motifs in movement disengaged at will and whose immateriality he disputes with the heavy contingence of the technical media used in the work Although rendered in an exclusively formal state, the iconographic repertoire that Samuel Rousseau has invented in this domain is not without returning to the basis of his art. He uses all sorts of kitchen utensils, of vegetables or flowers to compose genuinely ornate tapestries, both of simple geometric figures which are derived from a computer programme in java language where the subject is a succession of numbers and words and which "decides" itself from among the millions of options of colour, of form and of frequency of the motifs projected.
Amid the little world of the everyday, to see the insignificant and the ignoble - understood in the sense of "not noble" - and the universe created to the excess of new technologies, Samuel Rousseau's art plays on apparent contradictions. On what distinguishes them while making them accomplices. He cultivates them to lead us better to the discovery of an unknown where he is the only one able to open the doors for us. At the same time handyman, wise man and magician, Sam belongs to that rare family of artists who play with the senses to return them to the benefit of the unheard of, the impertinent and, all in all, the fabulous. Because the fable offers itself as the perfect place for a story based on imagination, a fiction in other words, and at the same time an escape and, beyond the perils of existence, a possible exit.