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Diane Cescutti

Visual artist
April-May 2023

Plantation - Ayomide Tejuoso

Diane Cescutti

  • Visual Arts
  • Houston

“My story follows two protagonists who travel to this peculiar space and pass over to the other side. Their journey begins in Marfa, then slowly slips out of material reality and into the virtual world on a quest of transubstantiation.”

My artistic practice is based on the premise that computer technology owes its origins to the loom. When tracing the history of coding, I find myself entangled in the history of weaving. Similarly, when I follow the criss-crossing fibers of the loom, I eventually reach its ethereal form, the algorithm. Taking a speculative, narrative approach, I explore the shared genealogies of these two technologies to envision how their potential can be augmented.

By pulling threads from the weft of my computer screen and over to my loom, I seek the source code; the re-source. In my production, I tie together weaving, sculpture, installations, video and 3D imaging to question our relationships with technology, textiles and computers. My art is rooted in the tradition of situated knowledge, examining particularly how objects function as tools to transfer information, store data and convey spirituality. Ever since discovering vernacular algorithms and fractals—a branch of research popularized by American ethnomathematician Ron Eglash—I have been fascinated with the technical and mathematical information embedded in objects, especially on the African continent. Most recently, I traveled to Dakar, Senegal, where I worked alongside weavers from Guinea-Bissau, spinning the knowledge encoded in woven Manjak pagnes into my own reflections on digital devices. In Houston, I will explore how textile and weaving knowledge has contributed to our conquest of space.

Born in Chenôve in 1998, Diane Cescutti is a French transmedia artist. 

She is a 2021 graduate of the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Nantes. During her studies, she spent time in Japan within the Tokyo University of the Arts (GEIDAI) Textile Arts program, and in the US within the University of Houston Art Department “Interdisciplinary Practice and Emerging Forms” program. A member of the CIRCA x Dazed Class of 2021, Cescutti is currently completing a post-graduate art course at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Lyon. Her work will be exhibited in 2022 at Résonance, a side event of the Lyon Biennale. 

The Worlding Marfa project began with my discovery of Active Worlds—one of oldest online metaverses in existence—and gradually took form during a research trip spent between Houston and Marfa just before the first lockdown.

Active Worlds: a virtual desert, the ruins of a singular esthetics.

Marfa: a small city in the Texan desert, a hub of contemporary art.

I want to interweave these two locations through fiction. In my vision, there is a place near Marfa where a part of the Chihuahuan Desert spills over into the virtual desert of Active Worlds. Meanwhile, in this same space, the virtual becomes materialized in the realm of the tangible. My story follows two protagonists who travel to this peculiar space and pass over to the other side. Their journey begins in Marfa, then slowly slips out of material reality and into the virtual world on a quest of transubstantiation.

This project explores the questions of navigating and journeying between materiality and virtuality. It looks at how our memories are recorded digitally, and how the texture of virtual spaces relates to our real, touchable bodies.

The textile element comes into the project through weaving. In this fictional world, we can navigate through weaving between the virtual and the material, due to the dual nature of the spaces. The material side is made from dense, thick fibers and threads, whereas the virtual side is made from algorithmic digits and data.

The film’s esthetics will follow this duality in a blend of 3D media, featuring both real-life footage and images from Active Worlds.

This project will be located in three spaces: Houston, Marfa and Active Worlds.

My residency will be spent researching the different layers of this project, including shooting in Marfa, scripting, textile development and so forth.

In Houston, I will explore the bonds between textiles and technology. The city is tied to a remarkable history that hides a textile aspect. Not everyone knows that when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out onto the Moon in July 1969, they were wearing A7L spacesuits made from twenty-one layers of complex fabrics. This suit reflects the triumph of soft craft expertise over hard engineering. I will investigate this story of aerospace textiles to enrich my film and create a number of woven fabric samples.

The film’s script and overall feel will also be infused with the diverse character of Houston city, from cowboy culture to the practice of quilting.

Not far from Marfa occurs a strange desert phenomenon known as the Marfa lights. In my fictional universe, these lights represent the gap between the virtual and material realms. I will attempt to observe them during my trip.

Marfa is where I will meet with local residents to trace out my story, as well as explore the desert as a space for cinematic experimentation.

Launched in 1995, Active Worlds is one of the earliest online metaverses still active today.

Its abandoned landscapes, initially designed to accommodate hundreds of players, are now the architecture of virtual ruins and ghost towns. The only survivors are a small group of hardcore players (mostly based in the US) who have never left the premises.

They are the elder guardians of these domains who keep them from being wiped out completely.

I will explore in the scriptwriting the similarities between Marfa and Active Worlds.

In partnership with

Espace multimédia Gantner

Created in 1998 and based in Bourogne, the Espace multimédia Gantner is a place for discovery, experimentation and research for digital art, be it historical or new. The place is articulated around several activities for everyone. The exhibitions at the Espace multimédia Gantner interrogate and disturb our relationship to technologies. The mission of the Espace multimédia Gantner, rooted in historical influences, is to shed light not only on emerging and disrupting artist but also on pioneers. The Espace multimédia Gantner is a service of the Département du territoire de Belfort, supported by the Ministère de la Culture, the DRAC Franche-Comté, the Franche-Comté Region and the city of Bourogne.


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École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Lyon – Post-diplôme Art

One of the support programs for artists run by the Ensba Lyon for many years now, the Post-graduate Art program consists of a year of high-level education and training for five artists, from different nationalities, with singular careers in the domain of the visual arts. Since its creation in 1999, the Post-graduate Art program of the Ensba Lyon has been supporting artists in the professional field of contemporary art. Initially piloted by Jean-Pierre Rehm (general delegate of the FID Marseille) and Marie José Burki (artist) and then by François Piron (exhibition curator at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, art critic and publisher), Estelle Pagès, Director of the Ensba Lyon, has entrusted the direction to Oulimata Gueye, exhibition curator and art critic.


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