That which we cannot see

[Winter 2005-2006]

by Jacques Doyon

Seeing better, seeing farther; disrupting the representation, dissolving it: these approaches seem contradictory. Yet, paradoxically, they hew to a single frontier: that of the visible and representable, that of the limit of our capacity to see and our perceptual expectations.

They meet in a common exploration of light as a mode of revealing matter. Whether through a return to elementary processes that play with excess of light saturating the recording surfaces, or through exploration of techniques that renew our vision and push back the horizon of the abyss, all of these works are involved with exploring the limits to representation of matter – too far away, beyond the ability of our instruments to capture, or too close, where over-familiarity predetermines perceptions and expectations.

By returning to the earliest photographic methods, Michael Flomen makes works that operate on the raw material of the image, mini-mizing and foiling its representational capacity. For instance, the images in Teeming, in which the marks left by snowflakes or raindrops mix with the traces of the manual preparation of the medium, form true abstractions, further reinforced by the photogram process. Higher Ground, capturing the nuptial dances of fireflies, is an abstraction of bioluminescence. And Rising, which evokes a starry night, is the result, in fact, of close-up shots of snow photographed in full daylight. All three series play with our perceptual expectations, plunging us into a world in which matter is not revealed by light but, on the contrary, transformed by it.

The research of Marie-Jeanne Musiol is also involved with the dis-embodiment of matter. Musiol seeks to penetrate through the outer layer of animate and inanimate objects to unveil the underlying structures of a world of energy revealed by electrical irradiation and captured through electrophotography. The Prélèvements series, made on her preceding images of irradiated leaves, takes us to the heart of an infra-world of cos-mological dimensions, revealing curious affinities between the infinitely small and the infinitely large. Here, matter dissolves into a luminous abstraction that radiates over a background of non-matter made of absolute darkness. Claudia Fährenkemper’s microphotographs of insects, crystals, and plankton, made with an electron microscope that can magnify up to three thousand times, uncover infinitesimal levels of reality, whose meticulousness and beauty are amazing. This world is located beyond our common perceptions. Objects hit by an electron beam, not by light, take on a hyper-real dimension, with extreme clarity, tonal nuances, and density of blacks. Isolated from all context and magnified by the solarization of their contours, the objects reveal textures, structures, and architectonics that open up a world of fantastic, unreal modulations. Drawing is the source of Paul Lacroix’s photographic works. His drawing practice is based in a constant return to motifs and a slow dissolution of his referents. This search for purification leads him to the most minimal trace, a simple erasure on a shadowed surface, which is enough to express the body as site of origin and passage and as site of desire and loss. The exploration of the most elementary processes of photography (including the photogram), takes him toward something that is in the order of the inexpressible: a reversal of the trace that transforms it into a pure luminous pulse against an abyssal background.