By Sylvain Campeau
It has often seemed to me that Joan Fontcuberta’s particular aesthetic involves two complementary aspects. One aspect might bring together works such as Fauna Secreta, Sputnik, The Artist and the Photograph, and the Miracles & Co. project. In all of these series, the photographic image is presented as an exuberant testimonial, a trace of an invented real, a convincing artefact of a reality constructed on the basis of a medium perceived as purely documentary. In the other aspect, the truth of the photograph is the result of its flat reality – the apparently immediate contact between photosensitive paper and a material that permeates it. I am thinking here of series such as Constellations, which seem to be shots of starry skies but are in fact photograms of insects that are crushed on the windshield of Fontcuberta’s car as he drives. Fontcuberta plays with similar traces in other series: in Hemogramas, he makes images from dried blood; in Frottogramas, Palimsestos, and Terrains vagues, the trace of a photogram is never far from the direct intervention on the paper; it almost looks as if the images he creates are thrown directly onto the sensitive material of the print. In the transition from one aspect to the other, the photograph is held up to a measure of authenticity. But can this authenticity be understood as having a relationship with the real or must it be reduced to its visual reality, its status as trace by contact, its infusion with chemical substances? The image, in its analogue dimension, is co-presence – evidence of what has been placed in the presence of the camera. In the case of the first aspect described above, the reality of events, narrativized accounts of facts presented as actuality, is suggested. In the case of the second aspect, it is the truth of the contact that is at issue. It is as if Fontcuberta is evoking the very status of the photograph and its documentary capacity: first, as fact presented as reality; second, as reduced to materials in contact, in which would reside the true reality of the image, of images.
Of course, since then Fontcuberta has produced the Orogénesis and Googlegrams series, in which the photographic image is measured against its dispersion, its incredible amplification, and the way in which it is changed by its digital version and its absorption by the web, making it both protean and ubiquitous. We are now in the realm of the digital, less concerned with the visual reality of the image, which no longer seems to conform to this reality, than with its fluidity, its incapacity – by nature, one might say – to attach itself anywhere except for a brief period…
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