2 Neurones & 1 Camera

Olivier Thereaux

Travel in the 21st Century

They write to me. Somewhere on the Indo-Chinese border. Writing of terrible roads and unique encounters with small tribes. The people they are meeting don't speak much English, I gather. Doesn't matter much: linguistic proficiency beyond French is a rare genetic trait on this side of my family, anyway.

I'm back from China, too, somehow. Shenzhen, city of design, city of dreams, said the vice-mayor. She was given the dirty job of opening our plenary conference there. And she obviously has a wicked sense of humour. And then again, she called us “distinguished delegates” or something. So…

The Wait. People sleeping in an airport

The Wait. Hong-Kong International Airport, Nov 2013

Return leg: 2 taxis, 1 boat, 2 shuttles, 2 planes, 1 tube ride, 4 trains. 36 hours door to door. And the most surprising thing is: it was easy. The hardest bit may have been figuring out where in the bustling Shekou ferry terminal I was to buy my ticket to HKIA. The rest of it was on rails, under the overwhelming influence of a thousand commercial actors, all eager to make sure I never have to think, feel or ask anything.

The only modicum of friction was, thankfully, provided by various official authorities. Not willingly, of course, but as a by-product of security theatre and tit-for-tat diplomacy: multiple dehydration-inducing security checks, all insisting that no water should go through invisible gates, unless safely contained in a sack of flesh and bones. Chinese visa bureaucrats initially refusing my application because my invitation letter did not state my gender.

The means differ, the goal is the same: nothing to happen, no alarms, no surprises. An eventless A to B, disembodied and lobotomised for a few hours so I can go meet people in the flesh, in an exotic location, in windowless rooms with capricious air conditioning.

Welcome to 21st century, where travel isn't so much adventure, more like a pesky phase transition.

But then, another e-mail. They have network for the first time in ages. Civilisation, then. And the description of the bliss of re-discovering what a real bed looks and feels like.

My kingdom for a walking stick.

The Wait. People sleeping in a station cafe

The Wait (2). Saint Pancras International Station, Nov 2013


Tokyo: Voyage Sentimental


Juin 2013: Pas de nostalgie à retrouver un à un mes anciens appartements à Shonan et Tokyo. C'est dans les ruelles, sur les plate-formes de train, dans les villes, leur bruit et leur odeur que j'effectue mon voyage sentimental.

À suivre / 12 photos

The Rusty Web


A meditation on information, time, and the patina of the World Wide Web. Originally a set of notes for a talk given at Paris Web 2013, and prepared in open collaboration with old friend and partner in crime Karl Dubost.

Read more / 16 photos


Dans les hutongs


Avril 2017: Beijing. Traîner mes baskets dans les allées de poussière, zig-zaguer entre les piles de gravier et les épaves de vélos, et éviter tant bien que mal de me retrouver passager clandestin de tous ces scooters électriques dont le moteur est aussi silencieux que leurs sonnettes rivalisent de cacophonie.

À suivre / 14 photos

La Grande Muraille


Avril 2017: elle grimpe et chute en suivant les reliefs, de tour de guet en tour de guet, comme un trait d'union sur une carte qui aurait eu l'idée de se manifester dans le territoire.

À suivre / 6 photos

Shanghai, Chine


Novembre 2011. Shanghai: urbaine de l'ancien à l'ultra-moderne, du ras du sol au firmament.

À suivre / 10 photos

Hong-Kong, Kowloon

Avril 2001. Une semaine (brumeuse) à Kowloon et Hong-Kong pour un meeting du w3c.

À suivre / 32 photos