Born in 1975 in Paris, Romain began his studies at the Faculty of Protestant Theology in Geneva. The discovery of medieval mysticism gradually led him away from the orthodoxy of his initial curriculum and it was at the Faculty of Philosophy, in the class of André de Muralt, that he was introduced to the thought of Master Eckhart. The reading of the book Voici Maître Eckhart allowed him to discover John Cage, in whom he took a keen interest. The following year, he chose to study musical composition and electro-acoustic music at the Conservatoire supérieur de Genève.
2001 – 2011 : from music to visual arts
In 2001, Romain joined IRCAM where he was a composer. The institute, under the direction of Bernard Stiegler, allowed him to collaborate with artists such as Melik Ohanian, Pierre Huyghe and Ugo Rondinone. It is with them that he became familiar with the field of visual arts. In 2005, he presented the performance Dérive at the Soirées Nomades of the Fondation Cartier, where the sound of four electric guitars and a lighting installation in the garden converged from dissonance to unison and from day to night. In 2006, Romain left IRCAM to focus on visual arts.
In 2007, he joined the Pavillon du Palais de Tokyo where Ange Leccia accompanied him in his development. It is there that he signed his first videos, with a contemplative style, which he exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo and at the Transpalette de Bourges. It is also then that he imagined the musical performance Ad Genua where Buxtehude’s music was stretched, with the electric guitar, until it became an experience. In 2009, Christine Macel and Emma Lavigne invited him to present Ad Astra during a Prospectif Cinéma session at the Centre Pompidou. The same year, Romain was artist in residence at Villa Kujoyama (Tokyo) where the artist’s desire for narrative emerged. He imagined Blue blue electric blue (commissioned by the CNAP, Diagonale exhibition), a film without image with desertic influences.
2011 – 2017 : Turkey
In 2011, wishing to put his images in motion, movement in his images, Romain embarked on a shooting in Turkey, decisive for the pursuit of his work: the road movie My empire of dirt led him from Istanbul to Mardin. Fascinated by the country and its language, he then imagined a series of projects between 2013 and 2017, in which the narrative would take on its full amplitude: from the film Marcher puis disparaître (CNAP collections), which takes its source on the Tuz gölü salt lake, south of Ankara, were born forms signed by Benjamin Graindorge and a website documenting the experience of the entire project. So long after sunset and so far from dawn, shot between Mardin and the ruins of Ani and unveiled in 2015 at the Nouveau Festival (Centre Pompidou) at the same time as Lafayette Anticipations, is an installation mixing video, photography and a Kurdish speaking voice reciting a poem. Rien que de la terre et de plus en plus sèche (collections FRAC PACA) features two characters waiting for a future, an elsewhere. The radio project Pourquoi je veux partir (commissioned by Radio France / CNAP) marked by its retrospective structure the end of the artist’s anchorage on Turkish territory.
Since 2018 : possible worlds
Since 2018, Romain has been developing what he gradually conceives as possible worlds: spaces, neither fictional nor real, simply sensitive, appearing in various forms ( visual, literary, musical, graphic, performative), where the public can dive in, and remain immersed. In his eyes, these possible worlds are spaces of experimentation, worlds that could be ours if some displacement, often of a moral nature, did not create a strangeness. The experience of this strangeness, therefore.
In his possible worlds, Romain offers the audience intimate experiences, such as sending messages to the characters, meeting them, observing or using their productions. He proposes the experience of a contact and a space with them – together.
In 2018, Romain imagined the project Tout est vrai, where a multitude of forms combined to conjure up the narrative of three survivors who witnessed the disappearance of a loved one. Works signed by the characters were combined with works signed by the artist. Sculpture in concrete and photographs were exhibited at the same time as a film was shown in theatres, readings of the novel written by one of the characters were organised and a performance was held at the film’s location.
In 2019, to extend the experience begun with Tout est vrai, Romain imagined, within a novel, the narrative Boaz, named after a young man whom the community designated a legend, aware that the legend cannot live: a sacrifice. The first visual works, derived from the story and produced by the characters, were exhibited in 2021 at the Sator Gallery (Komunuma). New works of a posthumous nature – subsequent to the temporality of the novel, which the story now surpasses – were exhibited in 2022 at the Kunsthalle in Mulhouse. They included videos, photographs, drawings, performances, sculptures, sound works and texts produced alternately by the characters and the artist. In the exhibition journal, one could read a series of interviews between the characters and those close to the artist; also find the email addresses of the characters with whom one could engage in a dialogue. Boaz is an unfinished project and new forms are regularly imagined as the story progresses. The third phase of the project is currently being designed.
In 2021, Romain returned to the character of Simon, born in the novel Tout est vrai, now twenty years old, whose development he wished to pursue through a network of works: the film and novel Sans qu’aucun matin, a mobile application, a series of drawings, several photographic series, texts and music. Like Boaz, the network of works revolving around Simon is by principle unfinished.
In parallel to these two long-term projects, Romain has been developing “finished” projects such as Providence (2021), a narrative taking shape in a world as common as it is singular and magical, unfolding in visual artworks that, unlike the previous projects, are gathered in a box and only exist together. The box guarantees the secrecy of the narrative.
In 2022, Romain imagined Valéry, manifeste, a world that unfolds in the form of two ensembles. On the one hand, a novel: the story of two young men and a pact made; on the other, graphic artworks composed of posters, scores, digital drawings and photographs that accompany the reading of the novel.
In 2023 Romain wrote Mickaël-monde, delicately subversive, which led to a series of editions (notebooks, posters, K7 and other forms to come) that he sees as a project per se, a new way of getting in touch with the public.
Today, Romain is working both on the development of the two long-term projects Boaz and Simon, and on completed projects – sometimes sudden, such as Providence, Valery, Manifeste and Mickaël-monde, through which he offers to experiment modest and simple worlds, liberated from certain moral constraints as much as from the way the contemporary intends to liberate from them, without forgetting the root of the word monde [world in French] (mundus: symmetrical to the Greek kosmos: ordered, elegant, adorned).