The Tunnel under the Atlantic
VR, networks, video and audio communication, music

A televirtual event by Maurice Benayoun,

Musical creation by Martin Matalon

linking the Pompidou center (Paris) and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Montréal - September 19 - 24, 1995

images of the Tunnel and the 'diggers' in Montreal and Paris, snapshots of the virtual tunnel , video QuickTime (58 Mo)

download full presentation documents and press clipping

December 1995.

The Tunnel Under the Atlantic, televirtual art installation, established a link between Montreal and Paris, two towns physically distant by thousands of miles.

The Tunnel enabled hundreds of people from both sides to meet. From each side, a two-meter-diameter tube, made us think of a linear crossing of our planet, as if it were dug under the ground, shouting up in the middle of the Contemporary Art Museum in Montreal on one side, and in the lower floor of the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

The route that lies between the two spots is no simulation of the ocean underground, it is a block of symbolic matter in which the geological strata leave the place to iconographic strata. They are layers of pictures taken in the history of the two cultures that everybody can reveal each time they dig. The collective exploration uncovers fragments of rare or familiar pictures, which are as may opportunities to wake up the collective memory of the participants. Helping us to loitering and talking to people, these remains transform everybody's digging route into a unique experience, into a personal assemblage made up of sounds and pictures amidst a three dimensional space architectured through their moves. While digging, the visitors can talk with their partners across the Atlantic Ocean. The sounds of their voices are anchored in space and they enable everyone to find out the directions where to meet the other. I takes six days to built and pave the symbolic space before the de visu meeting of the two-continent diggers.

Free from the physics constraints, Space then is a function of Time. There, speed is not the best way to speed up the meeting, but a way of specifying everyone's position within information. The Tunnel architecture created by each visitor determines the editing of the picture in the time of their moves and in the built space.

Altered and shaped by the newly dug tunnel, the revealed images conjure up the very matter of scenery that redefines itself as the aftermath of each explorer's/visitor's decision. Their sequencing in Time and assemblage in Space are neither merely elements of predetermination nor elements of randomisation. Through the things they deal with, and through the selected images, both come from each visitors own way of digging, If we cannot master what we are going to discover, what we find out depends on our own way of doing things. If we let ourselves enjoy the tantalising immediate feeling of euphorical capacity of digging at high speed, we do not come across the same iconographic remains as the ones we can see when explore the discovered elements carefully and curiously. Everybody's interest in some details in the documents accounts for the theme and the semantic developments that will come afterwards. The writing process then does not concerns a definitely established building up of sounds and pictures any longer, but does concern the creation of their appearance conditions thanks to the visitors exploratory behaviour.

The combination of chance and determination which defines the result architecture, makes the world-to-explore similar to our current experience of life. The "Gadevu", the agent developed in a basic version for the Tunnel under the Atlantic has become the Z-A Profiler we can use for the dynamic and intuitive exploration of complex databases. Combining the spontaneous actions and dialogues, the music composed by Martin Matalon alters in the course of event and is organised around personal routes, as it is the case with the pictures then revealed.

The televirtual event -i.e. a remote connection of people in an interactive symbolic space- is filmed with four virtual cameras. What they get is automatically mixed and edited and that takes into account each participant speech. They can discover, in the event of a counter-shot, their own live pictures floating within the space they have just dug up. They will not be able to see each other before the two sides of the tunnel meet. The exchange, essentially made up of sounds so far, then becomes visual. When the meeting is achieved, other persons can at last take the same way or create new ones as if they were in a collective quest of a shared memory.

maurice benayoun 1995-2003

the Tunnel under the Atlantic

Directed by : Maurice Benayoun

Computer development : David Nahon & Tristan Lorach (Z-A Production)

Produced by : Stéphane Singier (Z.A Production)

Stage Manager : Michèle Ange Coumau (Z.A Production)

Press relations : Karen Benarrouch (Z.A Production)

Musical creation : Martin Matalon

Musical assistants : Xavier Chabot, Frédéric Voisin & Xavier Bordelais (IRCAM)


France : Z.A production Paris France

E-mail : maurice benayoun

Canada : Zone production Montreal Canada

the Tunnel under the Atlantic is :

A Délégation aux Arts Plastiques, Ministère de la Culture public order (France).

Coproduction : Z.A Production / IRCAM / Mission Recherche et Technologies du Ministère de la Culture / Centre Georges Pompidou.

Thanks to Ministère canadien du Patrimoine - Musée Canadien des Civilisations de Hull - Réunion des Musées Nationaux - Silicon Graphics France et Europe (SGI) - Canon France.

An ISEA 95, Montreal common project.

WEB adresses :

IRCAM - Ministère de la culture