[Spring 2004]

by Jacques Doyon

The works brought together in this issue offer a variety of avenues for understanding the ways in which the mise en scène of the self is created in response to the other and how this representation is received.

Their grounds of exploration are diametrically opposed: from aristocratic dandyism to the closed doors of psychoanalysis, from the permutation of identities to the laboratory of exchanges. In each case, a situation is set up in which identities are fractured.

For Yinka Shonibare, the dandy misappropriates representations of power according to the classic game between master and slave, transposed to the colonial era. The hybridization of the cultures of English colonizer and African vassal that runs through all his work, notably with the batik motif, is transposed here into the city’s spaces of recreation and power. With Sorel Cohen, we are introduced to the scene of the psychoanalysis couch. Her different series investigate the implicit and unsaid underlying the mechanism of treatment. In the form of images or words, she literally presents what is at work there at once in the pent-up impulses and the overflowing transgressions that are traditionally associated with femininity, and the reinforcement of taboos that structure social cohesion. Nikki S. Lee, for her part, effects a brilliant reversal of the values of the fashion world, where she once worked. As she integrates herself into different socio-cultural groups, she records, in instantaneous forms, the traces of a personality in perpetual transformation. Adopting, in succession, the ways of life and the appearances of extremely different social groups (punk, yuppie, Japanese tourist, schoolchild, old person, transsexual), she interrogates both the stereotypes of our identitary perceptions and the possibility of some sort of oneness. Finally, both in spaces dedicated to art and in the street and domestic spaces, Massimo Guerrera creates devices for creative interaction. He acts as a catalyst for exchanges, performing his rituals of transformation of materials, offering inchoate objects for handling and play, sharing food, setting out the intertwined threads of his ideas in traces of many shapes . . . and offering a fluid persona that is open to transformation.

As you may have noticed, we have updated the magazine’s original name, while keeping in mind the significance of the letters of our signature abbreviation. We feel that the meteorological metaphor (Ciel Variable, or variable skies) still conveys our desire to report on the currents, manifestations, and thrusts of contemporary photography.
We are also introducing a succinct wording for what seems to us to define the field of art photography – the parameters of its current issues. Photography is a medium with its own characteristics and history, but above all it has a “specific hybridity,” at the crossroads of various art forms and of social and scientific documentation. Long disparaged, it now finds itself at the core of artistic relevance, as it constitutes extremely fertile ground for reflection on the transformations and challenges of art in today’s world – art above all, where we are concerned, but ballasted with an invasive referentiality, directly engaged with what shapes today’s aggressively mediatized culture.