Terrain d'Envol

18 September - 19 October 2013
Terrain d'Envol

Fold, Walk, Fly. An exhibition by Etienne Cliquet

Since the beginning of time, humanity has dreamed of being able to fly. We’ve come a long way since the myth of Icarus, from lighter than air aerostats, to heavier aircrafts; from dream machines to war machines; from fearless pilots to anonymous drones full of electronics and computers. These aircrafts devoid of human beings curiously crystallise the paradoxes of our super-technological world: both scary and heartening, both surgical killing machines and dream machines for a whole new generation of hackers, who share the know-how and techniques of quadcopters and other artificial buzzing insects.

Étienne is an aerial character and his work - all in folds and unfolds, in gentle lifts in the subtle whirlwinds and in delicate shaping of the matter - even with the most advanced machinery - is far from those super-technological machines. He inspires us to practice the exercise of flying in all its poetry; his air gliders, weightless as butterflies, move only thanks to our energy... you just have to walk and.. the aeroplane flies!

This exhibition is the result of Étienne's artist residency, this summer, at iMAL and FabLab.iMAL. The micro-gliders, partly built with the help of digital fabrication machines, are assembled by the visitors and tested in iMAL exhibition space. The documentation, like plans and research made during the residency, is also be presented.

Micro-forces and materials

Terrain d'Envol presents a set of micro-gliders prototypes that can float in the air thanks to very light air movements produced by a placard that visitors hold in front of them as they walk.

This practice, known as “walkalong gliders” is based on the aerodynamics phenomenon of “slope soaring”, and gathers a small worldwide community of amateurs. Étienne's project fully takes part in this community and bring its contribution to it.

Unlike sculpture, Étienne’s origami volumes rely more on faint, small scale micro-forces than on gravity, and this is particularly the case with this project at iMAL. In 2011, he shot Flotille, a video of origamis opening themselves thanks to the surface tension of water. Because of its lightweight nature, origami lends itself well to this kind of work, that we can also relate to the stakes and challenges of today’s microcomputing, nano- and biotechnologies.

In the use of materials such as cardboard for the signs and polystyrene for the gliders, Étienne refers to the packaging of goods and their circulation across the globe for consumption, especially hi-fi and technological equipments. Turning these packaging materials into fragile micro-gliders contrasts with their usual content: high-tech products that will soon just be long-lasting trash piling up in dumps.

Walkalong Gliders

Surprised and impressed by the symbolism and the gestures of micro-gliding videos on the Internet, Étienne is fascinated by these people walking with signboards in order to maintain a delicate glider in front of them and the tension between the two. This evokes the difficult balance between the values ​​to which we aspire (the placard) and everyday's life, often difficult to handle (the glider). On the other hand, the signboard also seems to be used as a shield (these ideas that give a meaning to life but which sometimes block our prospect) above which a slight thing casually glides defying the gravity, like a poor man’s metaphysics. Étienne tries to give an account of this duality by making placards on which images and symbols are laser-engraved, seeking some sort of balance between the lightness of the gliders and the severity of signs. One moderates or completes the other.

About Étienne Cliquet

Étienne Cliquet lives and works in Toulouse. His work can be seen online, in art centers, museums and galleries. He is exhibited internationally. Co-initiator and animator of the online collective Téléférique from 1999 to 2004, he developed since then researches on folding in relation with computing and networks.

Practical Info

Opening: Thursday 19th September

Opening hours:
20th September - 20th October
Wed>Sun, 13:00-18:30
Free entrance!

Group visits
02 410 30 93

Location: iMAL
30 Koolmijnenkaai - quai des Charbonnages
1080 Brussels

Media Gallery


Terrain d'Envol is an exhibition produced by iMAL with support from Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles in the context of Quinzaine Numérique
Special thanks to the Musée Royal de l'Armée et d'Histoire Militaire of Brussels and the AELR association (Brussels Air Museum Fund) for their support of the video shootings.

Etienne Cliquet Assistant: Louise Moraldy
Drone pilot : Christopher Teixeira Mota