Critics’ Picks

Avenue Mohammed V pendant le Sommet Mondial sur la Société de l'Information, Tunis, 16–18 Novembre 2005, color photograph, 49 1/4 x 61 1/2".


Bruno Serralongue

Galerie Francesca Pia
Limmatstrasse 268
March 8–April 12, 2008

“The only thing that might interest me is the lack of aesthetic orientation,” said artist Bruno Serralongue, in an interview, as he described the impetus behind his photographs. Using the methods of photojournalism in order to subvert them, Serralongue, like Alfredo Jaar and Allan Sekula, attempts to find a constructive way of navigating the endless proliferation of media images whose “ecology,” to use Susan Sontag’s term from her book Regarding the Pain of Others, we can no longer hope to find. As a reporter with no assignment or accreditation yet thoroughly equipped with, for example, a large-format camera and a tripod, Serralongue travels to sites and attends events of social and political importance. Rather than offer sensational and incisive images, many of his pictures depict almost irritatingly unspectacular and aesthetically banal views of deserted second-tier arenas. This exhibition, titled “A World of Difference,” presents eight representative works produced between 2002 and 2007. Each photograph is part of a larger series; one, for instance, is from “Sommet Mondial sur la Société de l’Information Tunis” (World Summit on the Information Society Tunis), 2005. Instead of a stereotypical view of the summit’s location, viewers encounter an empty street in Tunis and a government banner praising freedom of information, of the press, and of assembly—this in a state with rigid censorship measures. And the two photographs from the “Serie Calais,” 2006–2008, are bathed in a deceptively mild evening light. In one of them, a shipping container is being used for housing, while a second depicts a dirt path in the refugee camp near Calais in France that was forcibly abandoned in 2002. Taken years before measures against illegal immigrants were implemented by Nicolas Sarkozy, these pictures re-illuminate an explosive event long after the chronically premature fizzling out of media attention. In an unpretentious but intelligent way, Serralongue’s photographs strike a bargain between the assets of journalistic images and those of art, documentary, and deconstruction.