« My work is embedded in an equivocal relationship with nature, » says the transdisciplinary Swiss artist Michel Huelin. In his 1990s landscapes he was already applying techniques as disparate as video and skiing ! His more recent work is digital, with the use of videos, lightjet and inkjet prints. The viewer plunges into a virtual world of hybrid objects, a sort of vegetation that the artist himself calls « phenotypes ». In biological terms, a phenotype is an individual’s set of observable anatomical, morphological and physiological characteristics. The process developed by Huelin generates phenotypic variations that produce the illusion of the fundamental evolutionary principle. He thus obtains images of new species whose fictional character is not of itself enough to allay the uneasy feeling that creeps over the viewer as a result of the realization that this artificial environment is in fact exceedingly « natural ». And the unease is aggravated by the fact that the natural equivalents of the artist’s « invasive species »1 have properties that are very similar to those he produces in a virtual manner. With their capacity for rapid, asexual reproduction and high degree of adaptability, they soon become uncontrollable. Huelin’s images are compatible with the possibilities opened up by a genetically modified eco-system of the future, and any perception of them is likely to be dominated by the fascination exerted by the coexistence of apparently natural elements – flowers, stems, etc. – with abstract elements : images of traces of paint whose « realistic » perception breaks through, by contrast, in an unexpected way. The arrangement of the leaves follows the alternating pattern of phyllotaxis2 while other forms derived from random mutations proliferate in an unregulated way. These non-organic, computer-generated forms do in fact give an impression of reality, though as Michel Huelin says : « The proliferation is quantifiable. The chaos and disorder are fictive, and are not trying to pretend any different. » Bernard Zürcher
1 See his catalogue, Invasive Species, Paris and Geneva, 2004.
2 See Roger V. Jean, Phyllotaxis : A Systemic Study in Plant Morphogenesis, Cambridge, January 1994.