Elsewhere … Nowhere

by Jacques Doyon

Travel is an inherent aspect of contemporary civilization. Whatever the distance, we have to see other places. We are all tourists, in one way or another, always foreigners to someone or some society, which we observe with mixed feelings of curiosity, empathy, rejection, or fear.

The image has become the heart of this inescapable regime of the regard. Fortunately, our bodies also travel, but nevertheless the driven desire for a change of scene draws on the omnipresence of images. They give rise to the wish to be elsewhere they shape, in the mode of the future past, memories of places we haven’t seen yet. In fact, we travel, and stroll, as much through images as in real life, and this plethora of images finds its exact equivalent in the exponential complexification of the world. Whence the predominant fashion for distancing and voyeurism: we are all audiences for realities and portrayals that are largely beyond us.

None of this is new. Modernity is a mode that substitutes for a nearby, well-defined world the abstraction of an elsewhere that is no longer mythological, but made of realities that are foreign to us. And the early modern scene of a humanity suddenly discovering that it was no longer the centre of the universe (Galileo) is, today, fully deployed in terms of socio-cultural geography. The gravitational force of our culture remains undeniable, but its foundations are relativized on all sides and the foreigner is among us. The foreigner is us.

In this issue, we present Wanda Koop’s video images: moving fragments of moments, materials, and atmospheres, detached from their context and sharpening our perceptions. Robin Laurence very sensitively puts in perspective the importance of travel for Koop and her constant search for images as a source of a multifaceted artistic production. Xavier Ribas’s photographs zoom in on a closer “elsewhere.” An anthropologist and photographer, Ribas is interested in marginal urban zones that people take over as free spaces for their leisure activities. His genre scenes, composed or fortuitous, show places that remain outside of functional rationality and at the same time, curiously, enable people to feel good in them. Alain Chagnon’s long bands of images attest to a search for the self within familiar images. He portrays a postcard America in which travellers lose and then find themselves, and his photographs reprise one of the mythologies of America: that of wandering in a country made of juxtaposed strangenesses. Robert Graham’s analysis beautifully describes the tropes through which this change of scenery operates. Also of interest is Olivier Asselin’s Point de vue discussing various modern figures of the walker and stroller and the modalities of their contemplative quest. Aesthetic experimentation, to which photography adds the capacity to freeze and aesthetisize a fragment of the world, is inextricably confronted with the reality of a world of trade. And all artists are thus a bit like ragpickers in a world where all specificities must deal with pressures toward homogeneity. Nowhere is everywhere.

I hope that this issue will touch you and encourage you to make comments