Connotations

2016 (Collaboration project with Win Harms)

When we observe the reality in front of us, do we see it through our own eyes or through our cellphones’ ones ?

Since the invention of photography, it has always been possible to alter the reality (the one seen through our eyes) by its intrinsic « Doppelganger » effect. Photography « looks like » our reality. Various retouching techniques were developed thereafter, allowing us to create a « tailor-made reality » and stimulating the rise of the photography. Thanks to our vanity, photography quickly became the most widespread technique to realize portraits that corresponded to our vision of the reality. It finally supplanted painting, thanks to its promise of improvable reality and its capacity to seize a moment of life. The beauty of the photographic reality more and more astonished people. That reality never ceased to evolve, becoming very close to our eyes’ reality. These two ways of observing the reality (through our eyes or through photography), clearly distinguishable at first (B&W, resolution, ISO, temporality) are nowadays merging. To my opinion, the photographic reality even seems to surpass our naked eyes’ reality. For instance, when we observe beautiful landscapes, we are inclined to say or to think, « it looks like a postcard » or « it looks like a photography » because we are captivated by images since our birth. The prism of an evaluation based on the photographic reality distorts our judgement or evaluation of the ocular reality, our reality. A sunset will appear as beautiful when it will match the representation we made of it through the photographic reality.

If you look at the social networks such as Flickr or Instagram, you can clearly observe the influence of the photographic eye thanks to hashtags. Through these influents medias, the problem of the interpretation coming with observation (what do I observe ?) is solved by using hashtags (and of course, nobody doesn’t care anymore about the « when », « how » and « why » of the photography). Photography has always been categorised, though, with denominations such as « nature » or « nude ». Now, images are summarized as meaningless clouds made of thousands of detailed sub-categories. So, the most used hashtags on Instagram so far in 2015 are #AskRachel and #PrayForParis. Now, photographies get their meaning through key-words and no more thanks to the image itself. And these key-words become the base used for the creation of new identical images, replicating themselves.

For this project, I wanted to appropriate these « cliché » images and reproduce my own creation as « déjà-vu » product, such as photo stocks. These images that I created are no longer « singular » but « public ». Images amongst images. As close as possible to the ordinary.

As a starting point for my creation, I wanted to use somebody else’s souvenirs and memories. Something very personal and intimate…I used then the work of my American and poet friend, Win Harms. We met in Lille at French school where she showed me her poems. I still remember the first time I read these very (too much) intimate poems that evoked vivid images of each person she was describing. I felt like looking at portraits like Nan Goldin’s ones. We had many conversations about her difficult life’s details and more and more, I pictured myself a specific representation of each man, those she had sex with, those she exchanged needles with. That’s why I decided to collaborate with her, to show the reality distortion of our eye in our time by using these very personal memories to transform them into collective memory. To create these images, I proceeded as follows :

  1. I started with a drawing of each image, using the image I had in mind while reading Win’s poems. Each image represents a man of her past. Using this drawing as a model, I created the first collage thanks to images I found on The Internet with Photoshop. This first collage (Collage 1) was my own vision of each poem.
  1. I looked for images on Flickr and Instagram using key words that were mentioned in her poems, such as « west coast » or « farewell » to understand what was the common representation perceived through these words. Following the same method as for the first collage, I created a second collage, the « common collage » (Collage 2).
  1. I created a third collage (Collage 3) by merging arbitrarily fragments of Collage 1 and 2.
  1. I asked Win to name each boy she evoked in her poems. I used these names to do my researches on Flickr and Instagram.
  1. I collected 100 faces for each name and created a face for Collage 2. I then mixed the unique face of Collage 1 with the « 100 faces » face of Collage 2 to create the final face of Collage 3.

Each final collage is made of more than 100 images without including the 100 faces. I think we can say that these collages are somehow a « collective memory » although they keep individuality thanks to this Collage 1’s fragments I kept.

Finally, these images have more a « draft » aspect than those of my previous project, « Présage ». They incorporate more details and distortion. When you try to observe closely these « déjà-vues » images to understand what they contain, the more you pay attention to them, the more they escape from your sight, like all images from our time, fragmented and rebuilt.

Or maybe do we consider that these images aren’t worth seeing it ?

You can watch a video version of this project including Win Harms’s poetry reading  HERE