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Retour aux sources

RUINART X Mouawad Laurier

Retour aux sources

In the heart of the crayères, the artists duo Mouawad Laurier has created a visual and sound experience, at the crossroads of art, sustainable development and artificial intelligence.

"Retour aux sources" THE ARTWORK

In the lead-up to Ruinart 300th anniversary, Ruinart has commissioned a work of art from the Mouwad Laurier duo, entitled Retour aux sources, which brings data, artificial intelligence and the living world together in an immersive experience.

The work takes the form of a root planted in an ancient crayère chalk cellar. The root listens to what is happening within its natural surroundings above. Endowed with sensitive intelligence, it listens to the natural elements involved in the champagne production process through a device that uses complex artificial intelligence. It reminds us that human beings and nature are intrinsically connected.

This installation immerses the audience in a visual and sound experience 30 metres below ground. Deep inside the earth, where there used to be an ocean, the audience is confronted with the physical and temporal character of humanity.

Mouawad Laurier The artists duo

Mouawad Laurier is the collective name for two artists who work and live together. Maya Mouawad and Cyril Laurier have been collaborating on innovative artistic projects together around the world for many years, working with other artists under the name Hand Coded. They now sign their own work under their real names.

In partnership with Pablo Valbuena, they were pioneers of video mapping and have continued along this path, collaborating with leading video mapping artists such as AntiVJ and Romain Tardy. They started using AI in 2006 and Retour aux sources combines elements of the work they have presented in the past.


Retour aux sources is an autonomous entity installed in the crayères chalk cellars, and is able to perceive the world around it. It expresses the changes in seasons, climate, wind, and temperature, as well as the phases in winemaking including budbreak, harvest, fermentations, riddling, maturation, and so on. It then generates genuine emotion in the visitors who experience it.

Artificial intelligence techniques need data to exist. The root feeds on the data provided by the vineyard, wine production and climate. Depending on the season, the root will react in different ways to key indicators it is given.


Dozens of meters below earth, there is a place where time stands still: the Ruinart crayères chalk cellars, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This layer of chalk once formed the bottom of an ocean that has long since been forgotten.

With Retour aux sources we are striving to reconnect with our roots, those at our very core and origin.



A vine draws nutrients through its roots, acquiring all the minerals it needs to live. The root is also a complex network that offers vine plants a way to communicate among themselves. A root is therefore full of meaning.

The sculpture presented here is of a root feeding on a network of neurons, and emphasizes the conscious intelligence of nature.

This root is planted in chalk, because the elegance of champagne and its complex flavors all derive from chalk.


Each hand-crafted Murano glass bubble represents the importance of the minerals and water that feed the root. These lamps generate the effects evoked by dazzling light refraction, especially when it occurs under water. Sound devices also move through the space.

Seeing these light effects reminds the viewer of the ocean that once engulfed the chalk walls that stand in the cellars today.


The result of both sedimentation and fossilization, the thick chalk layers took millions of years to form. Since ancient times, men have dug out this chalky soil by hand to shape incredible underground cathedrals.

Now countless miniature sources of light (LEDs) have been installed in these immense spaces, they can become the backdrop for extraordinary sound and light presentations. The experience created is a reminder of mankind’s insignificance in both time and space.


Artificial intelligence (AI) is used to give the root an idea of its environment and temporary existence. The type of data it feeds on allows the root to express the present: an instant and constant flow of information through the seasons and passing years.

Provided with its own character and ability to learn, the root continuously develops how it communicates, becoming more sophisticated as time goes by.


The root feeds on data from the living world that it then expresses in its own way using light, colour and sound, as well as movement and rhythm.

Its current state reflects what is happening around it, as well as outside, in the vineyards, tanks, cellars and bottles.

The root is connected to the Internet and a set of sensors, so it can analyse and synchronise with what is happening in its environment.



The root feeds on organic data from any given moment, comparing it with the data it already has stored. It provides its own interpretation of its current environment, whilst challenging how the onlooker perceives it.

When experiencing Retour aux sources, the viewer is encouraged to question the role of mankind within nature and how interdependent our ecosystems must be. Maison Ruinart has purposefully chosen to embark upon a long-term sustainable development approach because it believes no human product really lasts unless it is created with respect for its environment.

This approach involved many fundamental components: from vineyard to winemaking, from waste management to green energy, from eco-designed packaging to shipping, not to mention the transmission of savoir-faire. Retour aux sources is one of many initiatives, in this case an artistic initiative, designed to develop awareness amongst a wider audience.


Countdown 1729 - 2029

On the eve of its fourth centenary, Ruinart has chosen to combine art and artificial intelligence in an immersive, sustainable and self-contained installation that is driven by life itself. 

In September 2009, Ruinart, the oldest champagne house, will be celebrating its 300th anniversary. Over the course of its rich history, it has fostered parterships with artists such as Alphonse Mucha in 1896, and more recently taking part in the world's largest art fairs through an annual carte blanche programme, granted by Ruinart to a different contemporary artist each year.

This project has enabled Ruinart to present its heritage, history and know-how from a series of innovative angles, through the vision and preferred medium of the chosen artist.