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Marie Sester, 47 Ann Street, 3F, New
York, NY 10038, U.S.A. E-mail:
Received 22 February 2001. Solicited by
Roger F. Malina.
Beware of democracy.
My work calls into question the ideological perspective of the West and the
concept of democracy and its consequences. It employs architectural mapping as its working method.
I was trained as an architect, then
chose the visual and multimedia elds
to examine the way that a civilization
originates and creates its forms. These
forms are both tangible (signals, buildings, cities) and intangible (values, laws
and culture).
The city is a fundamental expression
of complexity and the exclusive creation of humanity. It embodies together
arti ce and sensation, the expressions
of the human mind.
Transparency, as a democratic belief
and value, is a new representation of
visibility. Transparency has become a
central reference point in political,
economic and media discourses. Included in its values are those of information and communication, control
and surveillance.
One of the constitutive elements for
the landmarks and referents of the
contemporary city is the concept of
access (and its other half, exclusion):

access to (or exclusion from) information, services, activities, sites or objects.

Access takes the form of real or gurative security gates: smart cards, wireless
data, passwords, etc. We carry with us,
both physically and mentally, the constitutive elements of our perceptual reference points.
X-ray technology is emblematic of
surveillance devices, not only those that
detect organs or infected cells in the
human body, or hidden commodities in
transport containers, but also those
that detect encoded information. X-ray
technology exempli es the values at
stake in ideological transparency.
Transparency is the name given to
the control of visibility.
LArchitecture du Paradis [1] is an
immersive installation involving a series
of ve video sequences projected onto
four wide walls, periodically interrupted by sound and light effects. The
sequences refer to ve ideal cities:
Babylon, Jerusalem, Atlantis, New York
and Paradise.
Three main problematics are involved:
1. The major archetypes that historically and mentally permeate the Western world, as successive counterpoints
to dreams of happiness: the lost paradise (the tomb, the temple, the Garden
of Earthly Delights) or the promised
land (the Celestial City, the egalitarian
society, the great march of progress, the
global village, etc.);
2. The notions of political transparency and access (or exclusion);

3. The status of the invisible.

The sound and light effects intermittently distract the spectator from her
main focus of attentionthe moving
imagesbringing her back to the very
place in which she is standing. In other
words, they bring the viewer back from
the narrative images to the location/situation in which they occur.
During the projections, the viewer is
a spectator. During the interruptions,
the spectator becomes a target.
Each video sequence is made from a
series of images from historic, archeological and art documents; X-rayed
luggage and vehicles (see Fig. 1); vehicle plans; city maps and aerial views;
and architectural ground plans, elevations and sections.
The sound composition is quadraphonic and uses human voices (an alto
and a soprano). The text is excerpted
from Platos Timaeus and recited in
American English.
I am interested in inspiring a re ection on what we are engaged in and
what our commitment can be to carving out space for autonomy.

1. LArchitecture du Paradis was exhibited at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) in 2000.
The work was commissioned by PICA; the French
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (AFAA); Fonds tant Donns, the French-American Fund for Contemporary
Art, New York; and French Cultural Services, New
York. Credits: Marie Sester, concept and direction;
Thierry Fournier, music composition and conduction; Heimann Systems, imaging device; DownStream, digital post-production.

Fig. 1. Marie Sester,

LArchit ecture du
Paradis, digital
animation component from the
installation, 2000).
( Marie Sester.
Scan courtesy of
Heimann Systems.)
Side view of an Xrayed truck smuggling 106 kg of
heroin hidden in
rolls of papers in
the middle of the

2003 ISAST

LEONARDO, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 3334, 2003