When the air becomes electric

01.05 — 02.06.2019

Curator : Marco Poloni

In collaboration with ECAL

Since 2017 the Centre de la photographie has been developing a new cycle of exhibitions that involve showing the work of former students of art schools in the Lake Geneva region; teacher artists the CPG has already worked with in the past suggest a selection of former students who have been successful in getting their artistic endeavours noticed. For the first of these exhibitions, in December 2017, the CPG showed Littéralement et dans tous les sens by Bruno Serralongue in collaboration wit [...]

Since 2017 the Centre de la photographie has been developing a new cycle of exhibitions that involve showing the work of former students of art schools in the Lake Geneva region; teacher artists the CPG has already worked with in the past suggest a selection of former students who have been successful in getting their artistic endeavours noticed. For the first of these exhibitions, in December 2017, the CPG showed Littéralement et dans tous les sens by Bruno Serralongue in collaboration with the alumni of the HEAD.

We are delighted to host the exhibition When the air becomes electric at the Centre de la photographie Genève from 30 April to 2 June 2019. This exhibition brings together the work of nine young artists who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to photography: Florian Amoser, Julien Gremaud, Quentin Lacombe, Clément Lambelet, Douglas Mandry, Noha Mokhtar, Anja Schori, and Jean-Vincent Simonet, Sebastian Stadler. The exhibition is curated by Marco Poloni, an Italian and Swiss visual artist, filmmaker and photographer, and an associate professor at the ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne, appointed to run this project with the support of Milo Keller, the Head of the school’s programmes for Bachelor and Master degrees in Photography.

Quantified Landscape by Florian Amoser introduces research still in progress into the photographic transposition of space onto a flat surface, lying at the boundary of the registers of photography and topography. Amoser maps the reliefs of subterranean galleries by placing a laser mounted on an engine on the floor of the gallery. The light beam slowly sweeps over the walls of the cavity, so drawing a continuous line following the principle of contours. These long poses create black and white landscapes evoking analogue practice as well as the digital rendering of three-dimensional modelling. The images show us both the digital deconstruction and the disappearance of the cave, the reference reflexive space of the western philosophical tradition.

In his series Sans titre [Untitled] Julien Gremaud presents large wallpapers reproducing views of parts of stands from major art fairs, reworked in palimpsest. By using reflections to integrate the exhibition context into the works that he photographs, Gremaud sets out to subvert the status of the reified image to remind us that any object – whether it be ordinary or an “art” object – can exist only in interdependence with others.

Arzak, a recent series of images by Quentin Lacombe, consists of large solarography images produced using a pinhole camera with an exposure time of a duration equivalent to the solstice. The photographic paper overexposed in this way is then scanned without being first stabilised. This process in which cosmic and mechanical light sources are added together produces a collision of spatiotemporal scales within the image: the macroscopic expanse of the nocturnal landscapes and sky is convoluted with the micro-entropic dimension of the moulds produced during the slow formation of the image.

Clément Lambelet’s Happiness is the Only True Emotion series uses algorithms to analyse the modelling of the complexity of human emotions. By showing alongside one another images of actors enacting basic emotions and the representation of these emotions in figures, extrapolated by a range of Microsoft digital tools, Lambelet provides a powerful criticism of the flattening and normalisation of affects engendered by digital technologies.

Douglas Mandry is showing two groups of images taken from his Monuments series: photographs of mountains lithographed onto fabric taken from tarpaulins used to hold the meltdown from glaciers, and photograms of ice in the process of melting derived from those same glaciers. Through these two sets of images, romantic in the first case and empirical in the second, Mandry attempts to convey the slow disappearance of the Alpine landscape due to the effects of the anthropization of the atmosphere.

In collaboration with Gregor Huber, Noha Mokhtar is exhibiting three large screen prints from their American Standard series. These are images of ordinary objects put up for sale on Craigslist. By means of these images, the artists offer an analysis of one of neoliberalist regime’s ‘cheap’ economies, based on “how to turn your trash into cash”, as well as of the effects of that regime on the obliteration of the boundaries between private and public space, and between work time and free time.

Nummer Sechszehn (RGB) and Nummer Siebzehn (RGB), the works shown by Anja Schori, are part of a research project she has been engaged in for two years. Schori digs into the very material of photographic prints on aluminium with a sander, exploring the boundary between photographic and performative practice, between painting and sculpture. Her research subverts consolidated concepts of photography and seems to play with the idea that the technical image is acheiropoetic, as Hans Belting puts it, i.e. not made by the artist’s hands.

Jean-Vincent Simonet with his photographic images of ravers taken on Izu [Oshima] Island in Japan is attempting to convey the madness and insolent freedom that lay at the origin of photography, to quote Foucault. By exploiting technical errors made by the plotters used to print them, then by testing inks and papers through the use of chemical products, and finally exposing them at night-time to rain, Simonet sets out to liberate his images from their original intention, that of arresting time.

With the series of photographs Sebastian Stadler calls L’apparition, he re-adopts an old trope of analogue photography, double-exposure. Stadler overlays views of landscapes with details taken with a macrophotography lens, and leaves a lot of room for the workings of chance in his selection process. By arranging his images in sequence, Stadler suggests that a narration of the materiality of things – of their being in fact things – is possible.

The individual photographic practices of these nine artists, although they differ totally from one another as regards the subjects they explore, converge in their questioning of the automatisms associated with their medium. In his/her own way each of these artists explores the formal conditions required to bring his/her work into existence, and as a secondary consideration required to arrange it in the exhibition space.

In its modal aspects this exhibition likewise offers an intermittent connection to what is identified as the metamodernist trend, namely an emerging sensibility in the generation born in the 80s lying in an oscillation between the impassioned sincerity of modernism and the ironic positions of postmodernism; a socially committed sensibility that rehabilitates narration and historical continuity.

In its formal aspects, this exhibition shows different attempts at reformulating the question of the medium in

the practice of photography. In the field of photography it takes account of the radical reassessment of the notion of medium proposed by the American philosopher Stanley Cavell in his writing about cinema at the end of the 1970s. For Cavell the definition of a medium as arising from a material or a formal cause is insufficient. A medium arises from automatisms derived from repetition in the conventional tradition, then from experimentation from the starting point of modernism. These automatisms precipitate a practice into a recognizable form, genre, type and technique which are then established as a medium. For Cavell, to achieve true autonomy, an artist’s research must do more than merely produce new statements, it must jettison the automatisms embedded in his/her practice so as to cause a new medium to emerge. In short, it must move on from the condition of automatism to that of autonomy. In the context of photographic practice, these questions relate less to its form as an object than to its performative dimension. In other words, they are less concerned with understanding what a photograph is than with what photography is. Thus these questions go well beyond certain debates to which the photographic medium has been confined because of its mechanised nature, namely the question of film as against digital, conventional photography as against lensless photography, the flat photographic image as against the transplanar image. The questions raised by these artists touch on deep issues regarding the nature of photographic practice, such as the relationship between automatism and performativity, causality and intentionality, between realism and fictional competence.

Marco Poloni


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