The constant displacement of images
Co-coordinator of the project La Recherche de l’art
To know things you have to grow into them, and let them grow in you, so that they become a part of who you are.
These words from anthropologist Tim Ingold perfectly illustrate the singular and powerful experiences of three young artists, graduates of the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie, during their residencies in the laboratories of Inserm (Intitut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale).
In departments specialised in digestive health, molecular medicine, and research on the brain and spinal cord, Amélie Blanc, Alexandre Kong A Siou, and Robin Lopvet certainly tried to understand all that the world of science could tell them. Yet above all, immersed for several weeks in these fertile environments, they have had the experience of imagining- from the science – the deep connections with their own creative universes.
Robin Lopvet takes the role of an architect of memory. He first produced his own images by observing the intimate spheres of daily life in the laboratory. Then he incorporated documents gathered here and there from scientific archives, appropriating them with zest and humour, and thereby shifting them into the realm of fiction. He thus invents mysterious narrations evoking many fields of possibility, infinite combinations conducive to creating effects with multiple meanings.
This dialogue proffered by Robin Lopvet between the archival document and the fictional account opens up highly interesting perspectives about the writing of a demystified history of science. This creation of narratives, this fictionalisation of the scientific creates the possibility of a ‘représentance’ in the words of Paul Ricoeur, that is to say a shared memory made from ‘the opaque mixture of memory and fiction’. And all the artist’s intelligence is directed, not toward constructing a clear and obvious account, but rather toward offering us a metaphor for the very creation of the scientific fact.
Alexandre Kong A Siou, inspired by the experiments of two researchers in the laboratory that hosted him, reflects upon and challenges us about death.
He plunges viewers into a cosmology of cells captured at the precise instant that they lose their vital functions. The fluorescence reveals the here and now (hic et nunc) of this transition. The surface of the image that envelops us becomes the shroud of this life that is passing by. The philosopher François Dagognet reminds us that the ‘living must die’ in his epistemological reflections on life and the living. Senescence – essential for life – is observed in most normal cells. Cancer cells, they do not follow this rule of apoptosis (programmed cell death).
In this strange light two radiotherapy masks, projecting their shadows into the space, thus take on a particular importance. They create, with these innumerable cells in which we are immersed, a global articulation, an overarching movement of great emotional force. This device, minimalist and powerful, is experienced as the symbol of a dialectic articulated between the initiation and suspension of death in life. One of the major challenges of contemporary biology.
Amélie Blanc’s work is one of high density. It can be seen in a multitude layers. ‘To think, is to make layers’ Gilles Deleuze taught in one of his classes on Spinoza in Vincennes.
To speak of such layers in this work, is to name this articulation found between a certain materiality in the images and ‘a visibility, a transparency subordinate to the material, a depth that foils the laws of gravitation, a presence partially based on absence…’ to use words from a preface by Yannick Butel devoted to the philosopher. With great mastery this young artist enables us to see in each of her images, in both the dialogue they provoke and the overall mechanism, a perfect balance between the intense concreteness of things and the evanescence and fleetingness of perceptions.
Indeed, while certain rapprochements are based on very elaborate image constructions, others rely on minute chromatic games with colours used by the researchers, subtle transparencies, glimmers, changes of scale… Amélie Blanc puts forth arrangements and evokes suspense with profound intelligence. She knows how to build, with great sensitivity, an ingenious interweaving of real, perceptive, representative, and conceptual spaces.
This exhibition aims to offer a repertory of images in constant displacement. Although they are part of very different iconic registers, the point in common among these three artists is that they re-examine the photographic medium. Beyond bringing these works to life in their own right, the goal here is also to see how they take on a different life by mingling together and through to the connections that they maintain with each other. And to see the meaning transform during the experience of the exhibition.