artists / researchers


Antoine Boutet


2009 | South Water North Transfer (Nan Shui Bei Diao Project) 2010 | vidéo HD | 23'

copyright Les Films du Présent, Antoine Boutet 2010

production Suspended spaces

Antoine Boutet is as ever involved in his work to do with spaces in mutation. Here he films the colossal Chinese public works project known as Nan Shui Bei Diao—the Transfer of Water from South to North. This monumental  construction site is attempting to provide an overall solution to China’s water problem, with the hope of developing in its path new pockets of prosperity, thanks to the conveyance of this “blue gold”. This is one of the world’s largest transfer schemes, and it will eventually deliver 34 billion cubic metres of water per annum at an estimated cost of more than $60 billion. It has been on the drawing-board for half a century, and will be under construction until 2050; it will form a gigantic artificial grid which will stretch from the south to the north of the country, and from the east coast deltas to the uninhabited mountains of Tibet—all regions currently in a state of suspense, pending the completion of a project with the look of  a totalitarian utopia.

For the Suspended Spaces project, Antoine Boutet is presenting an initial montage of long sequence shots that he filmed during a Chinese journey he made in 2009. This is a work in progress, which will culminate in 2011 with a full-length film.

The montage being screened at Amiens mixes images from the east of the country, in a region with a thriving maritime commercial transport network , where the project is already complete, and those from the country’s central regions, marked by industry processing raw materials; it then opens onto the preserved zones in western China, at the source of many of the country’s rivers, in the natural sites of Tibet, where the project is currently being studied. In order to define the metamorphosis of a space and the gigantic alterations which human requirements give rise to,  the montage shows large overall shots, often static and akin to a cinematographic aesthetic; these shots encompass extremely vast expanses and in them the landscapes appear in all their monumentality. The sublimeness of the still virgin landscapes contrasts with the rough shapes of the concrete structures which are already transforming many sites. Antoine Boutet’s images also play on the contrast of scales: in them, people  appear faraway and small, and the hydraulic project seems just all the more stunning. Antoine Boutet takes one or two actions by surprise, which, in the face of the project’s gigantism, take on a poetic character that at times underscores the absurdity of the situation—and this all the more so because they are perceived through his foreign eye, which is remote and questioning.

Location 2009/South Water North Transfer thus reveals the political implication of natural resource control: on hoardings, beside certain construction sites, slogans explain and legitimize the project. Without using any militant discourse to speak out against this undertaking embarked upon in the name of progress, and its collateral damage on local people, Antoine Boutet’s images attest to the violence of such a scheme to master nature.

Charlène Dinhut - Françoise Parfait - Eric Valette

Translated by Simon Pleasance & Fronza Woods