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, taking a further step towards narrative, Romain has been developing what he sees as possible worlds: sensitive spaces taking various forms (visual, literary, musical, graphic, performative, digital) in which the public can immerse themselves. In his eyes, these possible worlds are spaces for experimentation, worlds that could be ours if a few displacements, often of a moral nature, didn’t create a strangeness. The experience of this strangeness.
In his possible worlds, Romain offers the audience intimate experiences with the narrative, such as entering into a dialogue with the characters, meeting them, observing or using their productions. He proposes the experience of a contact and a place with them – together.
In 2018, Romain imagined a long-term project centred on the question of bereavement. In its first phase, Tout est vrai [All is true] reveals the story of three survivors who witnessed the disappearance of a loved one. Works born out of the narrative mingle with works signed by the artist: concrete sculpture, photographs, film, a performance among the characters and an eponymous novel signed by one of the characters. In 2020, wishing to continue developing the project, Romain created the film Sans qu’aucun matin [May no morning ever], in which Simon, born of the novel Tout est vrai, tries to overcome the disappearance of his mother. His mother gave her name to the third phase of the project, Rebecca (2024), a web application imagined by Simon himself, offering the dead the chance to talk to the living – and the living the chance to hear the dead. The application was unveiled as part of the Seconde personne exhibition held at Les Tanneries (Amilly) that same year.
In 2019, Romain imagines the story Boaz, named after a young man whom the community has designated a legend, aware that the legend cannot live: a sacrifice. The first phase of the project focuses on the novel’s temporality; Boaz’s tragic life is unveiled in 2021 at the Sator gallery. The second phase is posthumous to Boaz’s life and to the novel: after secular and living belief comes dogmatic hubris, which takes shape in 2022 at La Kunsthalle in Mulhouse through multiple media. The third, critical, phase is currently being developed.
Alongside these two long-term projects, Romain also imagined Providence (2021), Valéry, manifeste (2022), Mickaël-monde (2023) and Né en mai (2023), which combined novels with graphic and sound works. In 2023, he publishes novels and posters, available at modest prices, a way of making contact with the public outside the context of the exhibition. This series of projects offers an opportunity to experiment with modest and simple worlds, freed from certain moral constraints as much as from the way in which the contemporary intends to liberate itself from them, without forgetting the root of the word world (mundus: symmetrical to the Greek kosmos: ordered, elegant, ornate).