Domaine de la Source
Home of Chaos
Thierry Ehrmann, the Neighbor from Hell
Travelling upstream along the River Saône from Lyon one comes to Fontaines and, a few meters before Paul Bocuse’s famous restaurant, a strange billboard, graffitied with a sinister skull and the words, “Chaos dwells at Saint-Romain.” A few kilometers further along, here finally is the quiet. Well, not that quiet, in fact. Because recently Thierry Ehrmann, CEO of the Server group and of Artprice.com has set about “deconstructing his property” and turning it into the “Home of Chaos”, a huge work of destruction that is not to everyone’s taste.
The first time I went to the Domaine de la Source, that historic building looked rather different from what we see today. When Thierry Ehrmann bought it with a view to making it both his home and company headquarters, it was a bourgeois manor of some 100,000 square feet, built in the famous golden stone of the Monts d’Or and standing in the privacy of a walled park.
But since 2001 this Domaine de la Source has gradually become the Home of Chaos and the walls no longer hide a thing -on the contrary. The scene today is one of desolation, worthy of John Carpenter’s New York 1997.
Apocalyptic. On the parking lot a score of charred autos look like wreckage from inner city riots or a terrorist attack. All around, huge meteorites have dug craters while further on a plane has crashed into the park. But the most spectacular part of all is no doubt a ten-meter sculpture of the ruined World Trade Center, made with 18 tons of steel and 90 tons of concrete. Nearby, ehrmann plans a Berlin Wall that will be transformed into the barrier being put up by Israel in the West Bank.
In places the facade of the house itself has been liquefied, the fine gold stone turned into a muddy lava by a thermal lance.
The interior has been transformed too. In Ehrmann’s office, Renaissance paintings and furniture have been replaced by welded metal, rubble walls and cables hanging from the ceiling, making this strategic room look like the headquarters of a secret organization.
It would be impossible to describe all the details -besides the house keep changing. Elodie Lesourd, Nicolas Delprat, Marc Del Piano and Ben are among the artists who have helped Ehrmann on this work in progress so far. Next up is the construction of Rudy Ricciotti and Mathieu Briand’s bunker, which will house the Organe, a contemporary art museum. As Ehrmann puts it, “It’s the day after.” The atmosphere is one of post-atomic chaos, post-civil war, something very contemporary, not unlike what you see on the TV news. Ehrmann describes himself as a news addict.
He must have noticed how the word “chaos” has become a media catch-all, a way of saying that the horror couldn’t get any worse. That’s why he wanted to give tangible and spectacular form to this slow collapse of a mutating world, in a gigantic installation including all the world’s major events and figures -religious, political and intellectual.
Stone by Stone. The original neighbor from hell, at least for many locals. A member of the governing party even suggested a special law to bring artworks within the range of urban planning regulations. But he withdrew it. Because this is, officially, a work of art: Ehrmann is registered with France’s Maison des Artistes and deposited the idea for his “Demeure du Chaos” in 1999, before he started work. A man with a legal training, he loves to find loopholes in the law and drive a truck through them.
Anyway, the Demeure du Chaos is unique, a kind of post-9/11 version of the Postman Cheval’s “Ideal Palace.” It now attracts a very mixed bag of visitors, from the curious to mystics, graffiti artists and nuns come to pray. Some seven hundred people turn up every weekend, sometimes returning home with a little bit of black stone as a relic. The Demeure du Chaos looks set to run and run.
Richard Leydier Artpress 2005 © Translation, C. Penwarden
“the Neighbor from Hell” www.chaosmansion.org/articles/article037.htm