Post-industrial atmosphere. You pass a large gray door and cross a screened corridor. At the end, a metal staircase. You take it, and
as you climb the steps surrounded by tarpaulin, you feel the soul of Amanda Ripley, wandering in the Sébastopol station in search of
a black box1. A little worried, you watch what you assist at the top of these steps, and as you go up, you see a massive shape, gray and
red, towering above you. You enter “Prospective Paresseuse”, exhibition by Cédric Esturillo at Ateliers Vortex.
You look around, looking for clues. Te era of the objects around you is mysterious, the atmosphere is heavy. It’s red and gray,
the light is covered. Both mineral and organic forms emerge from the earth. You always do facing the sculpture that welcomed
you, Tombeau , a sort of altar-counter-freplace seemingly made of stone, adorned with a bas-relief made of severed hands, freshly
bleeding. Tortured fngers and ridges emerge squarely from the counter, growing beneath its surface - is it her unfortunate fate that
erected this monument, or a keep ? - Peaks overhang you, circling the chimney of this strange monument. You approach anyway,
discover that the stone is nothing other than painted wood and a strange ceramic placed on the counter .... proofs as much that
troubles for the temporal quest that you lead here. Are you facing the remains of a lost civilization? Nothing is no less certain.
As you browse the exhibition, you will realize that Tombeau set the tone. Te surrounding space seems organize with a common
motive. Forms and objects respond to each other, their provenance and their dating are ambiguous. Exits from the earth or from
elsewhere with their soil, Cédric Esturillo’s sculptures mix and quote aesthetics distinctly recognizable - Gallo-Roman furniture,
industrial architecture, medieval fantasy or dark science fction - to nevertheless confuse our minds. What, when, are these sculptures
Everything seems almost in ruins, frozen in the stiﬀness of the MDF and the layer of stone-eﬀect paint. Except that it seems move,
that the red ﬂesh of the stained wood begins to emerge from its petrifcation, like the interlacing of Oﬀrande’s hands. Under the
stone, an almost Cronenbergian raw ﬂesh, mutates the rubble. Tat said, this same hand, barely out, fnds receptacle of chains and
agglomerates of shells. Te transition then seems permanent, stone becoming ﬂesh becoming reliquary. By dint of confusion, we
understand that in «Prospective Paresseuse», time is well a central datum, as much as that of fiction.
The question of when is then coupled with a quest for the secrets contained in the objects. Disseminated in the exhibition, themselves
placed on other works, ceramics resembling gothic alien parasites contain vials of physiological serum, which has become a precious
liquid encapsulated in its case. A liquid that can be easily purchased today then becomes a magic vial. So when did it become such a
rare commodity that it is priceless relic? Ten emerges the scenario of a post-apocalyptic future, where water, even salted, can only
be found in vials, where pollution, smoke and why not stellar storms leave our eyes no respite.
Something has happened that looks more like wear and tear than an explosion. Evidenced by the shreds of tarpaulin hanging from
the deformed bars of grids that we believe we have already seen at the entrance to the site. In this future, more or less close but
defnitely retro, nineties inexpensive jewelry takes on spirituality. We throw a coin in the Billie’s receptacle - ceramic font that looks
like an aquatic deity - and we sincerely hope that the future will not be not too dark, the environment too hostile to life. Traces of it
remain, housing is possible. There is still someone in the ship: a table awaits us.
The bloody table is not very reassuring, however, under its appearance of mutant furniture. Its coral base and its placenta-plateau
give the impression that it is ready to swallow whatever is there. Above, an ashtray and glasses in metal however let us think that one
could settle there, or that someone has just lef the place. With a rudimentary design, seeming to have been made in car parts, these
everyday objects suggest a future more patchwork than high-tech and ﬂashy. Could it be that the glasses contain «Spice», a substance as rare as precious from Arrakis?
But whatever, let’s make ourselves comfortable.
in a post-apocalyptic eighties future. Te circle would come full circle, we would retrace our steps in the Sébastopol base, with its
smart cards and corded telephones. Te prospecting will have been short, since it will have taken us back in time. However, it seems
somewhat risky to revel in the hindsight - the creature still roams the hallways.
At the heart of this dark retrofuturist atmosphere, Cédric Esturillo gives us precisely to reﬂect on the idea that we make ourselves of
the future and on the representations of which this projection is molded. Its ruins and relics are themselves representations, as dark
as pop, and hybridize visual codes spanning several centuries. More than the future, we we fnd in the scenery that science fction and
fantasy imagined for it decades ago. It’s dystopian, but nothing is collapsing, except perhaps our hold on reality and the present time.
So here we are stuck in a reconstruction of futures that have not happened, a pop cemetery. Tis is where prospecting would arise
from a certain laziness, that the elusive and oxymoronic title takes on its full meaning. Te propensity to imagine the future is found,
like this ﬂesh imbricated in stone, confned to recycling the past as a style that would evoke, in fact, retrofuturism. Are we witnessing
the “slow cancellation of the future” formulated by the philosopher Mark Fisher?3 Haunted by the past, soaked in “formal nostalgia” 4,
the future would come full circle, losing its substance with each revolution. Indolently, we would then agree to let ourselves sink into
the recognizable, even if it were dark and inhospitable.
Between various and distant dark ages5, and the dragon star pendant of the nineties, one could almost believe it. Except that something
is stuck, there is a grain of sand in these nostalgic cogs. We prick ourselves on a dry thistle and we wake up. We said it, we are in
a setting, a fction, which fully assumes its facticity like painting pierre asserts his trompe-l’oeil. But far from oﬀering us a purely
dystopian fction or even an observation of a world adrif, Cédric Esturillo opens a breach for us, so as not to sink into a torpor that is
certainly reassuring, but deadly. In the future of «Prospective Paresseuse», things are still moving. Te body is neither augmented by
technology, or by an extraterrestrial substance, but it keeps things together. Better, he comes out, alive and swarming of life. Here
we fnd a form of spirituality, a link between living and inert matter, which reliquary ceramics do not will not contradict. And if
the sculptures may seem like tombs, they have already become the base of other stories, welcoming other sculptures or becoming
In the exhibition, forms, objects and materials are more than changing, in transition. Te snake that gave up its moult in Shai-Hulud
can then be read as a sign, that of a perpetual transformation. Te magic we were summoned to to seek in the introduction may not
reside in an artefact, and its quest may be in vain. Nevertheless, the possibilities remain open to get out of our torpor, and it is perhaps
this idea of movement, of reversal of things we need to keep looking for.
- Carin Klonowski, september 2021
1 Amanda Ripley is the heroine of the survival horror video game Alien Isolation, released in 2014 as a follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1979 flm Alien.
Amanda searches for traces of his mother on a damaged orbital station whose communications have been cut, while being hunted by the mythical
2 The ashtray is now an anachronism in a public place.
2 «The Spice» is a mysterious substance that increases the capacities of body and mind, coming from the planet Arrakis, or Dune,
in the novel eponymous science fction flm by Franck Herbert. Te frst novel in this cycle was published in 1965, and a new flm
adaptation is coming out this month in theaters.
3 Fisher speaks of «slow cancellation of the future» about audiovisual productions that he defnes as «hantological», that is to say
contemporary but employing elements and / or techniques of the past for a stylistic purpose. Tese forms, according to him, would
only promise reiteration and repermutation (see Mark Fisher, Ghosts of my life, Writings on depression, hauntology and lost futures,
Zero Books, 2014).
4 A term borrowed from Fredric Jameson, «formal nostalgia» is not a nostalgia aimed at a bygone era. Without historical meaning,
it would rather attach itself to aesthetic formulas of the past, not be creative.
5 Te term «dark ages», or «dark ages», to designate a fatal period in the history of a people or a country. It has ofen been employed
to mention the Middle Ages, a vision that is nevertheless increasingly questioned by historians.