Mark Geffriaud

Toast (Campbon)

Take a glass of white wine and join the crowd. Tap the glass with a paintbrush to draw attention.

I'd like to give a toast
and take this opportunity to tell you how I ended up here among you tonight.
So I suggest you all have a refill.

In April, I received an email by François.
A rather long and complex email
to which I gave a short and maybe too simple answer.
So I'd like to take some time now to give him a better answer.
In his email, François explained a lot of things
such as the starting point of this exhibition,
a sort of point in common he saw between all the people he wanted to invite
and that made him want to gather us all.

Among other things, he talked about mind mapping
that he thought we were all practicing in one way or the other.
I have to say I’m always thrilled when somebody finds a link between what I do
and something I’ve never heard about.
Fortunately, there was also a link in François’ email to a series of pictures,
and I saw that a heuristic map is like a drawing,
or a kind of diagram that connects one central idea to all sorts of surrounding ideas.
Basically, it looks like a tree.
But not the usual image of a tree,
with a vertical bar for the trunk
and branches above, smaller and smaller, making a kind of ball,
or triangle,
or cloud…
Because instead of a vertical bar, there's just a dot right in the middle,
and all sorts of lines all around, divided into more and more lines.
And so in fact it looks more like a tree seen from above.
At the end of each line, or each branch,
there's a fruit,
or notion,
or idea.
The point in common between all these fruits or notions or ideas
is the dot in the center, that we try to understand, or see in a new light.
So here we are,
a heuristic map is a pile of things trying to work out what they have in common,
something we don’t entirely understand,
something that remains obscure.

I said that François’ email was quite complex.
By that I didn’t mean it was abstruse
but only that there was a lot of inputs.

Dip the paintbrush in the glass and draw on the floor.

There was: (circle)
— a paragraph about mind mapping (line)
— a list of tools (line)
— a rather strange multiplication table (line)
— two photos of the space we’re in, taken from each side (line)
— and also, an invitation. (line)

Mark Geffriaud

So now if we try to have an overall view of François’ email,
if we try to shed light on it,
what we get is like a sun,
or a sparkle,
or some sort of big bang.
Let’s say it’s very encouraging,
like a fresh start,
like the promise of a bright future.

I wanted to know what would come next
and I realized I didn’t remember,
or maybe never knew, what “heuristic” means.
So I looked it up,
and I read that it's the art of inventing
or the art of making discoveries.
I found that very stimulating
and felt like this whole story could keep on growing just like that,
by trying to shed light on François’ email.

Dip the brush and carry on drawing.

But I also felt there were many (line), many possibilities here (line)
and that it would probably take a lifetime, (line)
if not several, (line)
to explore all the associations (line) that could spontaneously come out (line) of François’ email, (line)
like when you illuminate (line) a tiny hole (line)
and that light pores out on the other side (line) and spreads everywhere. (line)

Mark Geffriaud

Then I wondered if the only purpose of all this light
couldn't be to see that there is a small black hole in the middle.
Something you can really only observe or understand once light is pouring all around,
something you can only see at the end,
or maybe never,
but in any case what’s certain is that if it does happen,
it will happen last.
The hell of a curious tool this thing François told me about.
You basically make everything start with something,
only to try to discover at the end what this thing might be.
I decided to keep that in mind
and to look elsewhere.

Attached to François’ email was also a very long list of tools,
the list of all the tools you can find here,
in Benoît-Marie’s studio.
I had a close look at this incredible list.
It’s really a beautiful list.
Everything is sorted out in different groups
according to what all these things have in common.

Draw circles around people.

There are:
— things that stick (circle)
— things that ad a layer (circle)
— things that take off a layer (circle)
— things that give you the size of others (circle)
— things that divide (circle)
— things that add up (circle)
— things that keep others still (circle)
— things that move by themselves (circle)
— things that file down (circle)
— things that go through others (circle)
— things that pretend nothing happened (circle)
— etc.

Mark Geffriaud

Come back at the center.

I was really impressed
and I wondered how Benoit Marie managed to make such a list.
I wanted to make one myself
but I got a bit lost.
Because I started to think about all there is, say, in a hammer, (circle)
and where the wood of the handle comes from, (line)
and where it was manufactured, (line)
and I realized I had no idea how we make steel, (line)
nor where, (line)
nor for how long. (line)

Mark Geffriaud

And then a hammer became something super complicated,
the confluence point of materials, shapes and decisions taken a bit everywhere on earth
for thousands of years.
I couldn’t figure out anymore how I was supposed to make it out,
how to find points in common with other tools
and to say that a hammer looked like anything else than a hammer.
Considering the situation,
I thought it would be wiser to limit myself to one tool,
a simple tool that fits nicely in your hand.

I took another look at the list
to try to pick a tool.
And while I was looking at the list,
I started wondering if something could possibly be missing.
And it seemed strange that there was no paintbrush.
I found it really hard to believe that Benoît-Marie didn’t have a single brush.
And yet, there was none in the list.
So I wrote to Benoît-Marie
and asked him if by any chance he wouldn’t have a paintbrush in his studio.

Draw 29 lines the size of real paintbrushes.

A few days later, (1 line)
I received 5 beautiful images (5 lines)
of the 29 paintbrushes Benoit-Marie owns, (1 line)
neatly lined up (1 line)
and sorted out by size (1 line)
next to a tape measure (1 line)
to be able to tell their exact dimensions. (1 line)
It was exactly what I needed. (1 line)
I looked at every brush (1 line)
and realized only two (2 lines)
were for decorative painting. (1 line)
All the others (1 line)
were worn out (1 line)
which lead me to think (1 line)
that like most artists, (1 line)
Benoît-Marie had probably started (1 line)
by painting. (1 line)
I started wondering what kind of paintings he might have made, (1 line)
and for how long, (1 line)
and at what age, (1 line)
and what his parents thought of it all. (1 line)
Especially since he hadn’t taken an easy road (1 line)
because these brushes (1 line)
were made for oil painting. (1 line)

Mark Geffriaud

Dip the brush and extend the line in the middle while the others evaporate.

Mark Geffriaud

Among all these paintbrushes, I spotted this one
that has a nice look.
Something in its proportions must have caught our eyes,
its wooden handle,
its abundant tuft,
who knows?
It was the 15th in the list.
Basically, the middle one.
Anyways I decided that among all of Benoît-Marie’s tools,
this was the one I would choose.

On the picture,
I noticed you could still read on the handle:

Read the reference on the handle of the paintbrush.

17 Raphaël 8889 France.
I went on Raphaël’s website
and among the hundreds of paintbrushes listed,
impossible to find this reference.
Probably too old.
But by going through the list and the images of all the Raphaël paintbrushes again and again
—images that actually look very similar to the ones Benoît-Marie sent me—
and by looking closely to all the different parts a paintbrush is made of,
namely the handle,
the ferule
and the tuft,
I got to the conclusion it was indeed an oil painting brush,
of the common species named round paintbrush
and that the handle was probably broken
or cut.
From the color of the handle and hairs
I deduced it was more precisely what is called an impasto,
commonly used for details,
and touch ups.

Extend each line one by one.

The fact that it is an impasto
also means its hairs were pulled out of cow’s ears in China, (line)
sold at market prize at the international hairs’ market in London, (line)
before being combed, sorted out, examined through a magnifying glass, (line)
gripped, tied, examined once again through a magnifying glass, (line)
shaped, glued, coated, (line)
fitted and crimped in Saint-Brieuc, on the side of road 12, (line)
by at least 30 of the 270 brush makers (line)
who produce 30 to 40,000 paintbrushes like this one every day, (line)
in the oldest paintbrush factory in Europe, (line)
founded in the middle of French Revolution, (line)
before it was bought by the great great grand father of the current CEO, (line)
condemned last year for union discrimination and moral harassment, (line)
and that seems to me too to be one hell of a bastard (line)
judging by the way he runs the industrial operation of a knowhow invented in China 4,000 years ago. (line)

As for the ferule, it is made of nickel-plated brass. (line)
As I didn’t know what brass was, I looked it up on internet (line)
and found that it's an alloy of copper and zinc, the oldest alloy with bronze, (line)
that prehistoric humans started making as soon as they started using copper, (line)
the very first metal they used, over 10,000 years ago. (line)
The copper in that ferule probably comes from the mine of Chuquicamata, in Atacama desert, in the north of Chile, (line)
whereas the zinc comes from China, Peru or Australia. (line)
There's also some nickel in there because nickel is resistant to oxydation. (line)
That’s why we use it in coins, (line)
such as American change (line)
that gave the expression “it’s worth a nickel”, to say it’s worth shit. (line)
Anyhow the nickel inside this ferule must have some sort of value (line)
for people to bother shipping it from New Caledonia, (line)
or the region of Norilsk, above the polar circle, in Russia. (line)

Mark Geffriaud

Take a step back.

At that moment I thought I knew a bit more about this brush
but that I still had a long way to go
and could carry on like this forever
if only to find out how many people had it in hand.

Turn around and draw on the other side.

Then I suddenly realized that the link between all these brushes, but also all of Benoît-Marie’s tools, (1 long line)
the point they all had in common, (line)
the reason we agreed on calling them tools (line)
and not bacterias or hydrocarbon, (line)
is that in one way or the other, you can hold them in your hand, (line)
no matter in the end what you do with them. (line)

Mark Geffriaud

At that moment,
I went back to François’ email
and noticed there was another image attached,
an image of a multiplication table
that was supposed to be easier than traditional multiplication tables,
yet for some reason I couldn’t make anything out of it.
I thought it was way easier to learn to count with your fingers
and that after all, mathematics must have started that way.
It reminded me that a mathematician I like
once said it’s a bit of a lie to say a point is “the intersection of two lines with no thickness”,
that this only exists in your head,
and even not in everyone’s,
and that actually if your slightly honest,
you should say instead that a point
has the thickness of the tip of your finger.

Make dots.

Mark Geffriaud

Which means there are big ones,
and small ones.
So actually, a point isn’t a thing in itself,
but rather the sum of all the tips of all the fingers.

Draw a line connecting as many dots as possible.

Mark Geffriaud

So in a way, the point in common between all these points
is the finger itself.
And that would maybe explain why a point in common has nothing to do with a point,
but is more like a line between things,
a line between points,
a kind of hyphen.
But that’s me speaking,
and I’m not so sure the mathematician I like
and whose name is Henri Poincaré (Henri “Squarepoint”) would agree with me.

This is about were I was when I received a second email by François
asking if by any chance I had an idea for the exhibition he was putting up.
I remembered his first email
also included photos of a space
and an invitation to make something inside.
And I answered no,
for the moment, I have no idea what I could do.
François knows me quite well now
and he told me it was fine,
and that anyway, it was time to go on holidays.

When I came back from holidays,
I read the email he sent me in April again
and I focused on the two pictures of the space we’re in
and that were taken from each side.
At first I thought it looked like a big corridor
but then at the same time it was more complex or more simple than that
because it was leading nowhere.
A window on one side,
a wall on the other.
An opening
and an obstacle.
and darkness.
In the end, more than a corridor,
it looked like a cave,
or a grotto.
As I didn’t know the difference,
I looked it up and found that a cave comes from latin caverna (Open circle)
which means “opening”, (1 line from inside to outside)

Mark Geffriaud

and that grotto comes from Italian grotta,
that comes from French croûte,
that comes from Latin crupta,
that comes from Greek kruptein,
which means “to hide” or “to cover.” (1 line going from outside to inside)

Mark Geffriaud

So in fact it’s wonderful
because a cave and a grotto
are exactly the same thing,
it only depends on where you stand
and in which direction you’re looking.

Then suddenly everything went really fast.

Dip the brush and draw a line to the wall at the far end of the gallery.

Everything that had spontaneously come out of François’ email merged in one direction
like a beam of light towards the end of a cave or a grotto,
a beam that gets thiner and thiner,
while the small hole in the center of your eye gets bigger and bigger,
to try to catch a bit more of the tiny stream of light,
as you go deeper and deeper in the gallery,
towards the far end of the cave or grotto,
like people used to more than 30,000 years ago
when they gathered and went through underground galleries,
to put their hands on the wall,
blow pigments,
and go back,
leaving the shadow figure of their palm and fingers behind.

And that is something a very good friend told me
when we were very drunk on a jetty in the middle of the night
during the holidays,
so without knowing, he gave me the idea of what I could do here
and how I could answer François’ invitation.
And since he had this idea
and he’s here tonight,
it would be wonderful if he would come help me blow pigment on the wall.

Put the hand on the wall and give phosphorescent pigment to Yoann to blow on it. Take off the hand. All lights turn off and the negative hand appears.

What I really like with this story
is that we still have no clue why,
why people more than 30,000 years ago
would gather like that
and we’re still banging our heads against the wall to try to build some kind of dialogue with them
through the handprints they left behind on the stone,
like a greeting or something,
because we really have no clue why they would do that,
even if we all have an opinion on the subject,
and maybe the sum of all these opinions could give us a glance
of the reason why they used to go inside grottos
or caves
only to do that,
although they didn’t live there
and were only passing by,
like some sort of ceremony maybe,
and what we think,
is that these hands that we call negative hands,
are a link with us,
an hyphen
or a point we have in common.
And so we elaborate all sorts of theories to try to explain, at the end,
what these hands are,
all these dots and lines they left behind
and that we consider now to be the first artistic gesture,
although we don't understand the gesture.
And so all sorts of people come to observe these hands
and sometimes spend their entire life trying to understand what they are
and why they are so fascinating,
especially since they were made at the far end of grottos or caves,
where there was no more light,

Walk backwards towards the entrance of the gallery.

so that when they went back out,
no one could see them anymore,
and that they stayed there invisible
for thousands of years,
before a dog or a sheep fell in a hole
and we discover what they left there
when they turned back
to retrace their steps
and find the opening of the grotto
or the cave.

As I was saying, I'd like to give a toast.
A toast, in the 11th century,
was a small slice of grilled and spiced bread
that we would put in a glass of wine
and pass around,
and that the person to which we were drinking would empty
before eating the piece of bread full of alcool.
But before we invented this ritual,
we simply drank to honor gods
or to consecrate a place.

And so we would pore a bit of the content of our glass on the ground,
like an offering.
Tonight I’d like to give a toast in the honor of Benoît-Marie
who is the point we have in common
and who had the good idea of bringing us all together for the opening of his grotto,
or his cave
or his gallery.

Thank you Benoît-Marie!

Published on <o> future <o>, October 23, 2017.

[CC BY-ND 4.0](

This toast was given by Mark Geffriaud on September 9, 2011 at Mosquito Coast Factory in Campbon, France, at the occasion of the exhibition There Must Be a Right Way curated by François Aubart at the invitation of Benoît-Marie Moriceau. First toast from an ongoing series, these are the notes read by the artist, accompanied by drawings made directly on the floor.