Beat Streuli

Galerie Anne de Villepoix

Beat Streuli’s most recent photographs, made in New York during a long stay in 1994, underscore the particularity of that city, which more than any other in the world is marked by a constant flux of bodies in the streets, bodies that form part of a collective but remain seemingly unaware of each other. Jean Baudrillard described New York as “the city [that] never empties. Everyone is in some way assigned to a stage set. It is practically useless to question the destiny of all the accelerating particles. This absolute mobility is a prodigious phenomenon. This phenomenon almost constitutes a collective work.” What city achieves the transculturality New York does, where all cultures can succeed and seem to be free of their own weight? New York presents a unique kind of fusion.

Until now, Streuli’s work has been articulated around images of the moving crowd; in this new series the artist focuses on a gang that regularly assembled under his windows when he was living in New York, and the “micro-society” they established, with its own codes and rites. Even if the artist had aimed a stationary camera at these youngsters from the window of his apartment on the first floor, it would not have been out of voyeurism—to track them from a distance or to unmask them without their knowledge—but out of a desire to get inside the group, to emphasize the importance of life on the street and to show its reality. Far from viewing this group as inhabiting some exotic, unfamiliar social sphere, Streuli attempted to capture the energy of their interrelations, their movement, their music, recalling that today culture, fashion, or the modes of conduct are born much more on the street than ever before—the street as meeting place, as the path on which all differences run parallel, are juxtaposed, and where everything is played out, both utopias and harsh realities.

Streuli’s video records everything, but in silence, putting the sound at a distance in order to conserve the energy of the image, of all images. Though fragments of an extensive work, the large photographs that covered the walls of the gallery were clearly parts of a whole. In this way, Streuli marks the collectivity necessary to infuse the photographic image with a new energy, to resist the flood of isolated images that issue from the sphere of the media: their ephemerality, their disappearance at the instant of their appearance, the ceaseless replacement of one with another.

Jérôme Sans

Translated from the French by Diana C. Stoll.