Derived from τύχη, Greek for chance, a tychoscope is a device that “witnesses chance.” Invented in the 1970s to investigate telekinesis, the speculative ability to influence or move objects using the power of one’s mind, this tin-can sized robot draws random patterns on paper. In laboratory experiments, human participants were instructed to “bring the tychoscope towards them with their thoughts.” The tychoscope drawings were then analysed to determine if they deviated from pure statistical randomness in comparison to control sessions drawn by tychoscopes with no human subjects in the room. The hypothesis was that any measurable deviation from chance would demonstrate the existence of telekinetic phenomena.

At the age of seven, Éric Baudelaire participated in tychoscope experiments conducted in the Trasbior laboratory, overseen by his mother, Isabelle Baudelaire, within the French industrial conglomerate CGE. The company aimed to perform a statistical analysis on a sample of 1,000 experiments, but was nationalised in 1981, leading to the laboratory’s closure after only 215 sessions. In 2020, Éric began exploring his family’s history of parapsychological research, including his great-grandfather’s pioneering studies in telepathy and clairvoyance and created a contemporary replica of the original 1975 tychoscope.

The project “What It Is Of” resurrects the Trasbior protocol, inviting visitors to engage in tychoscope sessions. After participants have spent 25 minutes seeking to influence the course of the robot’s movement with their consciousness, a control session is carried out. The resulting drawings become part of the exhibition and are displayed side by side throughout the gallery, contrasting the drawings that may or may not have been influenced by the participants’ thoughts with the control-session drawings created without a subject present.

The drawings created in the context of this exhibition are archived alongside materials from previous renditions of the project, contributing to an ever-expanding collection that delves into the interplay of mind and matter while probing notions of randomness and belief. With the aim of achieving a much larger sample size than the prematurely-cancelled original experiment, the cumulative archive of drawings, along with a protocol for their display and further experiments, constitutes the work “What It Is Of.”

Download the exhibition libretto ︎︎︎
What It Is Of
June 16–September 16, 2023
Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, Brest

What It Is Of
November 17, 2023–February 10, 2024
Barbara Wien gallery, Berlin

Tychoscope Portraits are unique works on paper consisting of a pair of tychoscope drawings juxtaposed in a single frame. They are created following the same protocol as the experiments conducted as part of the “What It Is Of” sessions, but the sessions are longer, lasting 40 min. Alluding to the structure of a Rorschach test, the direct opposition of the two drawings allows for speculation about the parapsychological faculties of the portrayed individuals.

Tychoscope Portrait (Éric Baudelaire) 2023
2 tychoscope drawings on Hahnemühle Watercolor 300 g.
76 × 56 cm each

Tychoscope Portrait (Jibril Baudelaire) 2023
2 tychoscope drawings on Hahnemühle Watercolor 300 g.
76 × 56 cm each

Tychoscope Etchings is a series of prints made with found copper plates whose surfaces bear the marks of time, producing unpredictable background textures and motifs. Over eight consecutive days, Éric Baudelaire engraved plates using a customised tychoscope equipped with a dry etching tip. Each engraving is named after the day of the week on which it was made, layering the random textures from the original copper plate with the pattern etched by the tychoscope. During the sessions, the artist sought to influence the robot’s movements with his thoughts to generate a formal interplay from these two sets of patterns.

Tychoscope Etchings (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday Again) 2023
8 etchings on BFK Rives paper 250 g.
50 × 65 cm, each
Edition of 5 + 1 AP