Narrative Series

[Winter 2011]

The works presented in this issue are characterized by the accumulation of a large number of images and the creation of series that may be systematic, or may be intuitive and fragmentary. In some of these works we can discern an iterative mode that operates in the formal arrangement, the object of investigation, or the repetition of a motif. In all of them, however, is a narrative dimension that accentuates both the arrangement and the story itself – whence their incompleteness, fragmentation, or playfulness; whence also the sense that they are more virtual than really actualized.

Michel Campeau’s pictures of darkrooms arise from a systematic inquiry into a reality that is becoming extinct. Yet, his approach is neither neutral nor objective. Campeau describes the aesthetic of his series as analogous to the observations of an insurance claims adjuster. The cold, direct lighting and the tight framings expose the traces of wear and tinkering in these darkrooms, making tangible both the use of the spaces and their obsolescence. Without revealing the details of individual lives, these images somehow retrace a short history of photography by evoking the experiences and ingenuity of the people who worked in and with them.

Alain Pratte
’s Histoires series appear to be stories in suspension, like stills from a scenario of which only a few scenes from the narrative have been disclosed. In this sense, his images are narrative mechanisms into which viewers need to project themselves. Made of little moments, details, and ambiences, as if captured by chance during a stroll in the city, his photographs are offered as inner stories tinged with a distant, melancholic sentiment. Even the presentation of these images, grouped in an always-identical grid of a number of small views around a larger one, reinforces the perception of a gaze that sketches out narrative sequences.

In Attractions, Yan Giguère proposes a constellation of images of urban sites and gardens, paced by the photographs’ textures, formats, and relationships. Entirely modulated by the forces of attraction, the piece takes the form of a fresco mural made of condensations and sequential linkages, punctuated by a series on a floral motif. The underlying vision of this very personal world is based on a systematic yet wide-eyed exploration of modalities of perception and expression for which Giguère uses a multitude of cameras, many of them obsolete. The result is an intimate and poetic evocation of a world, an emotional cartography of the places where the artist lives his life.

Through Before Photography, Chuck Samuels probes how values and culture are transmitted by appropriating elements of the family story and movie culture of his childhood. Combining photography and video, Before Photography uses both narrative deconstruction and series to probe, in a playful mode that takes the form of a fictional autobiography, the fabrication of Samuels’s identity as a photographer. By playing multiple roles and blurring the reception of stories, which he delivers only in snippets, he depicts himself as a sort of Zelig of photography to reveal the complexity and contextual side of the identitary tangle. Translated by Käthe Roth

Jacques Doyon

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