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Sylvain Couzinet-Jacques

Artist and researcher

  • Visual Arts
  • Atlanta

“Questions of utopia and collective action will be core to this work, as will the influence of virtuality on individual and collective identities.”

The overarching issues of intangible data circulation, private ownership, and collective appropriation inform various visual and sculptural experiments in my work.

Through long-term projects based on specific regions, I explore processes employed by communities or groups of people to reenchant realities. I purchased a house in Eden, North Carolina, for $1,000, establishing it as the epicenter of an artistic practice by immersing myself among residents and creating a bond with them. From this, it became evident that the artistic act should be conceived of as an integral part of a collective reality. For the past decade, questions of esthetics have been enmeshed in the sociopolitical dimension of the regions that inspire my work. By experimenting with digital imaging and networking technology, I seek out narratives that underpin the utopian communities and imaginaries bordering the collective mechanisms of the modern world.

Sylvain Couzinet-Jacques is an artist and researcher currently completing a PhD at the Arles National School of Photography (ENSPA) and the University of Aix-Marseille. Working on the concept of retcon and the history of Black Mountain College, his core thesis investigates whether this unique institution can be revived in the current context of the United States.


His work has been exhibited internationally and received prestigious prizes, which have in turn led to several solo exhibitions, including at BAL (Standards & Poors, 2013), C/O Berlin (Sub Rosa, 2019), and Aperture Foundation in New-York (Eden, 2016), among others. He is the first winner of the Hermès Corporate Foundation Immersion Prize, for his project Eden (2015), which he has continued to pursue North Carolina, in keeping with the spirit of Black Mountain College. Sylvain’s works are included in a large number of public and private collections, including those of the International Center for Photography in New York, JP Morgan, the French Foundation for Contemporary Art (FNAC), Neuflize OBC, the Deutsche Börse Foundation, the Hermès Foundation, and the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg.

Retcon Black Mountain will be an audiovisual work that revisits the photographic and textual records of the renowned Black Mountain College. It will be based on previously unreleased documents such as board reports, photographs, and memoirs and narratives from those who studied there. Using AI, these documents will be analyzed and reinterpreted in order to produce related fictions. This archive research will lead to the creation of contemporary simulations, which will serve as a matrix for documentary work with communities from towns near the campuses of Black Mountain College.

Questions of utopia and collective action will be core to this work, as will the influence of virtuality on individual and collective identities. How can digital technology for prediction and analytics tie into the construction of complex narrative arcs that revisit history classes and, by extension, our current reality? What forms emerge from this when records are updated, modified, and placed into the complex global issues of the 21st century? How can deep learning technology be used to reconstruct and carry on the projects of collective utopias from the distant past? What are the communities, utopias, and identities of the present day?

Retcon Black Mountain is a speculative fiction project that revisits the existence of the famed Black Mountain College (1933–57) by combining a documentary approach with thorough archive research using the principles of reenactment. Working with Black Mountain College records with the support of the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina, and the Western Regional Archives (State Archives of North Carolina), I will take my research to the West Coast (Stanford University, Silicon Valley) and the East Coast (New York, Bethany, Buffalo), and consult the material which will be reinterpreted. The photographs and documents will serve as a matrix for research using the tools of deep learning, CGI, hybrid images, and performances. By delving into the archives, Retcon Black Mountain argues that all archives are performative.

In partnership with

Centre national des arts plastiques (Cnap)

Le Cnap est l’un des principaux opérateurs du ministère de la Culture dans le domaine des arts visuels. Il gère plus de 105 000 œuvres du Fonds national d’art contemporain, et soutient les artistes et les professionnels de l’art en contribuant à la création et à la valorisation de leurs projets.


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