Marginal Tactics: to make an arrangement with facts that resist

Nicolas Cilins’ work does not fit into the broad categories of audio-visual artistic genres; it is neither fictional or documentary cinema, nor video art that reflects on its own medium. There is another sense of ‘medium’ that establishes itself: that of a witch doctor come fortuneteller, like the ‘marabout’ Cilins has worked with. In other words, an intermediary solicited to solve a problem, to reach a goal, to perform an action, or to satisfy a desire. From a formal language aimed at disclosing its specificity, the medium becomes the name of an obscure conciliatory agent, one that has dubious rules and uncertain effects.

Nicolas Cilins delegates to intermediaries, inviting them to negotiate and exchange with him, in order to complete a transaction, the main purpose and stakes of which are the creation of a new project. For the work to exist at the margins of the artistic fields, as well as of society, it requires local tactics and mutual trust in the collective capacity to exchange solutions. Opportunism, makeshift handiwork, schemes, and other ploys are the inevitable means as well as the dramatic trigger.

The making of a film, for example, appears as a problem to be solved from a certain starting point, and is offered as an inclusive process built upon intersubjective relations. These factual situations may be an underground bar in Geneva, where Roma boys talk about money and prostitution (Gineva, 2015), a beach in the South of France, where young people dream of becoming actors on the silver screen (Bricofutur, 2017), or even the hidden and confidential world of ‘marabouts’ in Paris (Marabout, 2018). Those who enter into this process become the agents of the work itself. Unlike ‘actors’ in the strictest sense of the word, these agents, who are enlisted to participate in the creation of a film, remain part of the factual starting situation. Their commitment relies

on a decisive mechanism: a kind of narrative atom, which leads them to engage with the project through the re-enactment of a personal anecdote, the writing of a script, or the projection of themselves into the future. Each film is thus created according to specific parameters through the activation of the starting situation by its agents.

Away from a “participatory art” that would achieve its aim by simply making people contribute to a creative process, an important condition for the experiment to take place is the uncertainty of the bond between the starting situation, the agents, and the narrative principle: the impossibility of producing pictures is marked by a blue background in Gineva, by the marabouts’ iconoclasm in providing performance instructions, or by the prison guard’s black pictures inDiscipline and Punish.The work of Nicolas Cilins is to record the fundamental contingency of the project and its necessary negotiation to resolve with reality.

Rather than being driven by a formal purpose, writing, or editing, the assembling and tinkering of facts, expectations, desires, and interests constitutes the very essence of the work. This singular ’parafactual’ dimension encapsulates the ethical and political aspects at stake, as revealed in ACTIONS, a performance about the reception of refugees in Europe, conceived by Nicolas Cilins with Yan Duyvendak and Nataly Sugnaux. At each city in which the performance takes place, the question is not so much to perfectly understand the current situation, but to immediately see what can be done to improve it. There is a risk involved in being at the margins of the law: an elected local official, after a performance of ACTIONS, smuggled two teenage refugees across the border with her car. Thus, the works of Nicolas Cilins puts into practice the art of making tactical collective arrangements upon facts that resist.

David Zerbib