The Manu Solerti project was born out of my interaction with the spaces in which the entire champagne creation process takes place at Ruinart.
I knew very little about champagne and how it was made. Several aspects struck me during my first visits to the site. Primarily its’ relationship to history, which is omnipresent. Maison Ruinart has been making champagne since 1729 and although the methods have been modernized, the process remains basically the same as it was three centuries ago. I found myself in the presence of certain secular gestures. When one discovers the chalk pits that serve as cellars, one is impressed by the almost sacred atmosphere of these strangely proportioned spaces carved out by human hands. We detect on the rock the imprint of endlessly repeatative pickaxes. The actions performed in this environment, such as the manual riddling of the bottles, give the feeling of ritual.
Besides the impressive volume of the chalk pits, and the expanse of vineyards, just a few kilometers from the city, I was also struck by the fact that, on my first visit, some of the workspaces in the workshops were completely empty, devoid of any human presence. They were dominated by a great silence, but paradoxically it was in this silence that I could imagine the presence of the men and women who ensure the process of creation.
I was able to observe then, in other places and at other times, the way in which the workers invested these spaces of creation and reproduced the gestures which participate in the elaboration of the wine. I was struck to see that despite the mechanization of the process,
its”industrialization”, human intervention remains paramount. The human hand is called upon in several stages in the development of certain cuvées, notably Dom Ruinart. It is for example entirely “dressed” by hand.
My approach consisted of paying tribute to the expertise of these workers by staging their different skills, which profile the actions they perform on a daily basis in the creation spaces; hence the title of the series, Manu solerti (“with an expert hand”), reflecting both the secular dimension of know-how, and the expertise of the gesture.
I feature in some of these stagings, because I was naturally inclined to represent my own encounter with this universe, these professions, these gestures, which were unknown to me and in which I was immersed for several days. Some gestures were shown to me and explained to me. It is also this dimension of interacting and learning that I wanted to communicate.