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The wide-ranging practice of Maxime Rossi (*1980, Paris, where he lives and works) is chameleonic at its core and subversive in its playful manifestations. He creates unexpected multi-sensorial encounters between the viewer’s intimate and collective prior experiences. These encounters often draw on structural elements from the performing arts such as a music score or a script, in order to expand the potentials of the viewers’ engagement, and to influence his/her personal experience. Examples range from Sister Ship (2019), an opera inspired by the figure of the artist Sister Corita Kent, to Père Lachaise (2010-19), in which the artist tied colored-ink pens to the tree branches above Frédéric Chopin’s tomb at the Parisian cemetery Père Lachaise, to produce “wind drawings” atop of Chopin’s musical scores.

In “Orchidaceous Extras,” Rossi’s new exhibition at CCA Tel Aviv-Yafo, he transforms the Center into a participatory squash club in which attendees are offered a tailored introspective experience through virtual reality. The “perpetual play” that Rossi creates takes as its point of departure Vladimir Nabokov’s “imaginary orchid,” which the author had intended for a book cover but was only ever able to sketch. From this starting point, the kaleidoscopic narrative, viewable in 360 degrees, is constructed as an animated cut-up exploring the metamorphosis of the orchid from a physical manifestation to a digital one. Rossi takes us on a journey throughout which we follow scientists in an orchid greenhouse, we observe particles through an atomic microscope and we join a nighttime procession in a rainforest. A personal database of images newly captured by the artist and his friends, excerpts from online archives, and animated segments, are all sequenced and endlessly remixed in real time, corresponding to the viewer’s movement. Originated from the life cycle of the “imaginary orchid,” the storytelling interlaces botanical exploration and impromptu associations, inviting the viewer to an intimate meditation on the sense of interconnectedness that can be found in the field of nature.

As one travels across the virtual space in search of the strange pale flower, and through the physical environment which collapses into optical obscurity through its ultra-violet tonality, a generative sound-work initiates an open score. Installed on the balcony connecting the Center’s two galleries, the score merges the sounds of the bouncing squash balls and squeaky shoes – in motion in the squash court on the ground floor directly below – with the silent movements of those experiencing the VR on the first floor. Simultaneously physical and imaginary, experiential and participatory, the project situates the viewer in different scenarios. The first one in which the experience of the film via VR headset brings intimacy and isolation; the second, in which the action of the participants playing squash with one another, generates a system of unavoidable interactions. When none of these positions are taken, a third scenario emerges: a detached stroll through the space, steered by light and sound, unveiling the unattainableness of the full experience. Such path, orchestrated by the artist, purposely entices the viewer into possible new meanings that are generated by coincidences and seemingly random connections.

“Maxime Rossi: Orchidaceous Extras” is guest-curated by Marie Gautier.

Maxime Rossi

Grand Collage, Sketches for Orchidaceous Extras, 2022

Digital image, variable dimensions
Courtesy of the artist

Maxime Rossi: Orchidaceous Extras

June 17, 2023

April 20, 2023

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