Martin Le Chevallier

Martin Le Chevallier’s Safe Society is an ironic trailer for a future world where all society’s ailments as well as collective anxieties are overcome: illness can be cured, crime and pollution are abolished and work is dis-alienated. Even whiskey is alcohol-free, and all that remains of the old horrors can be redeemed appropriately and with full satisfaction; catastrophes are insured, terrorists can finally be terrorised and even guilt-free exploitation is possible. What starts off as a computer-animated view of a pacified world degenerates during its two minute duration into a dystopian panorama, its promises of happiness kept together only by the sonorous quality of the voiceover. Soon after the sublime bird’s eye view of the initial sequences, pictoral material compiled from the brutal scenarios of video war games comes into view. This brave new world is seamless only insofar as it still manages effortlessly to drown out its own extreme cracks and ruptures.

The infantile naivety of the promises referenced operates mainly by linking the entire video back to the impassivity of videogames, from which the work draws its visual material. The passive reception of given picture sequences becomes a specific form of lethargic indifference unifying everything into inefficiency. In the same way in which video games solicit responses only to incorporate them, all reaction remains bound up in the medium of the game and its prescribed patterns of reaction. At the same time though, the horrors are in the game, and there alone, so that they too can be addressed and seemingly tamed. Interactivity is a fundamental mode of gaming also insofar as it constantly frustrates any perspective of change.

Yet Le Chevallier’s Safe Society provides more than simply a cynical commentary on computer-generated and industry-led phenomena of alienation. The work also develops a series of anchoring points where simulation reaches for the empirical, and not the other way round. Safe sex is illustrated with scenes from Sim City, a computer animated virtual city, and the description of surgically precise warfare is illustrated with images that could be taken straight from the Gulf War. What is menacing about the video is not simply the cynical promise to uncouple risk from danger and develop bomb-proof bins. Le Chevallier’s anti-utopia is disconcerting also because of the extent to which these visions and their reality fragments can be re-inscribed so seamlessly into the popular imaginary they were originally taken from.

By Edgar Schmitz


"Safe Society" (2003) (video colour and sound, DVD - 1'50'' ed. 10) Courtesy Galerie Maisonneuve, Paris.