The villa Noailles, Hyères, France, is a modernist villa designed by the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens between 1923 and 1927. Situated high up on a hill, it overlooks the sea. Built within the ruins of an old monastery, it was a winter home designed with all comforts. A hub for the avant garde, it attracted many international visitors from an array of disciplines – visual artists, designers, dancers, performers, musicians – who, invited by its patrons of the arts Marie-Laure and Charles de Noailles, reveal a rich insight into the inspirational and troubled times of its heyday, and a creativity that laid the path of a modernist and surrealist legacy in France.
The house was a place of change, its interiors evolved with the invitations of its visionary owners. A space in flux. Its garden can be divided into two sides, the modernist garden designed by Gabriel Guevrekian and a more wild Mediterranean side, its seeds and plants bartered and exchanged, planted freely, but at the same time fastidiously recorded by Charles de Noailles in his log book.
Within the house is a room dedicated to flower arranging, a small room barely over a meter squared, it has a sink, a window, a light, a place to stand just about. What is interesting about this room are its walls, painted with a geometric pattern designed by Theo Van Doesburg. On a visit with Mo Laudi to the villa, I was struck not only by the room’s function, how it served the house, but also by the mistakes pointed out on its wall painting by a group of architectural students from Rotterdam. Masking tape marks the place where the lines should have been… Von Doesburg got his measurements wrong, as he never visited, but sent a drawing and instructions instead. Making a wall painting that is out of place, displaced… shifted in space. Like the plants and flowers themselves that are cut and displaced from their natural environment, they enter the abstract space of the flower room , becoming visual and pictorial compositions : nature morte.
We got up at dawn, when the birds began to sing. Mo Laudi’s field recordings blend the bird song within the garden, a local ecology, its echos, proximities and distanced murmurings of bird communication. Linguistically complex and musical, the score enables sound to become a material, where non-music elements mix with low frequencies and the sound waves of birds migrating. I photographed the garden as the light appeared. Both of us looking to create a space of exchange. In the exhibition space in art3 a multilayered composed soundscape fills the space, its silences as rich as the bird song that appears and fades in and out. The walls have a displaced visual score, the deconstructed sound transverses in stereo as a line zigzags and divides the space in layers.
Décalage highlights various slippages, lapses, intervals, physical, abstract and sonic delays, spaces where creative interpretations occur to connect through time. A vision, a location, emitted signals, specific instructions transform and are played back to be received anew.