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Cécile Colle}{Ralf Nuhn, 2009

This ongoing research project explores the potential of using the behaviour and strategies of parasites as a model for sculptural propositions in built environments and, specifically, to investigate how these interventions might resonate with concerns in architecture and its history, urbanism and socio-cultural politics?

The project has been sparked-off by a preliminary artistic exploration of the Fondation Avicenne building in Paris - designed by architect Claude Parent - where Cécile Colle}{Ralf Nuhn were invited by the artist-led organisation Glassbox in 2009. During a guided tour, the artists learned about a striking architectural particularity of the edifice: Its body was constructed from top to bottom, suspended within an impressive exterior skeleton of six iron pillars. This particularity retained their attention. Confronted with the impressive “dead” mass of the building, they thought about the behaviour of parasites which, most naturally, infest and profit from a vulnerable body. They devised little electronic “parasites” attaching themselves magnetically to the iron skeleton. With their electromechanical “proboscis” the parasites prodded their “host”, making the monumental architecture resonate in a subdued manner. The impacts also caused brief detachments of the parasites from the surface allowing them to slowly jitter downward along the pillars. The parasites followed the same top-to-bottom trajectory which had been conceived by the architect for the suspension of the building’s body and, in this way, reunited the conceptual strength and the structural decay of the edifice in a descending movement.

This, originally, rather intuitive and (site-)specific project has given rise to numerous questions and new interests in the artists' research. Importantly, they treat the term parasitism both literally and metaphorically, and are particularly inspired by Michel Serres’ philosophical writing The Parasite. Considering its different significations in French language (1. biological, 2. social, 3. static/noise), Serres uses the parasite to extrapolate ideas about human relations, society, history and communication while emphasising on its (positively) destabilising and transformative powers. With this in mind, Cécile Colle}{Ralf Nuhn are keen to explore how the polysemic notion of the parasite might be used as an integrated conceptual framework and methodological tool to feed new sculptural interventions in the built environment, and how these interventions might generate novel perspectives on multiple issues concerning our relationship with the built environment  (sonic, visual, structural, historical, symbolic…) as well as giving new insights into the nexus of artist, artwork, art organisations and institutions, and the diffusion of art in (public) spaces.

Further reading:

ParaSites: Initial Report and Research Context

ParaSites: New Propositions