Printemps de Septembre

Various Venues

Under the artistic direction of Jean-Marc Bustamante and co-organized with Pascal Pique, this year’s Printemps de Septembre, titled “In Extremis,” was situated squarely within contemporary investigations of the image—artistic and otherwise. Beyond the range of generations (from Giovanni Anselmo to Clotilde Viannay, a recent graduate of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris) and styles represented, the works, regardless of their medium, shared a reflection on the image in all its forms, and on representation and the infinitely complex relationships that art maintains with the real. Between Josiah McElheny’s “Landscape Models for Total Reflective Abstraction,” 2003– , and Franck Scurti’s series “Les Reflets” (Reflections), 2002—2004; that is, between precious objects made of reflective glass and tending toward total abstraction on the one hand, and neons that reproduce distorted and inverted reflections of common commercial signage on the other—between the disappearance and the concerted blurring of signifiers—the various works on view interrogate the supposed transparency of images and reintroduce their share of shadow. Sculpting reliefs based on newspaper photos, for instance, Pascal Convert subtly reveals an iconographic tradition and a mise-en-scène that profoundly modify their putatively neutral status.

Three main axes linked the works to one another, creating multiple echoes across the exhibition. The first of these was the relationship to the real, from the seemingly most direct capture of the simplest everyday reality in Martin Kippenberger’s “Psychobuildings,” 1988, and Anne Daems’s photographs to the most flagrantly staged works, such as Christoph Draeger’s Le Radeau de la Macumba (The Raft of the Macumba), 2004. Here, the projection setup allowed one to go deeper into the image, indefinitely: If this low-tech horror film keeps the viewer at a distance, the reconstructed decor absorbs and blurs the borders between reality and fiction. A second fundamental area of concern, a fascination with the flaws in the image-as-mirror, underlay the otherwise different approaches of Roni Horn, who reveals in her photographs, and in their echoing and shifting interplay, the image’s absent time, and of Rémy Zaugg, whose paintings make only sparing use of images even while investigating the mechanisms of their construction, in the endlessly replayed exchange between the subject and the world.

In spite of their minimalism, these works actively participate in the definition of the viewer as perceptive body, and, while primarily investigating sight, they compel the extension of the field of the image to the other senses. The installations in general, by artists ranging from Jane and Louise Wilson to Jan Fabre, highlighted this axis, by means of a spatialization of the image. This is particularly true of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot and his schizoframes, 2003–2004, in which computer-generated shapes and sounds—sound and vision—respond to each other in a calm atmosphere, in contrast to the blatant violence of Guitar Drag, 2000, by Christian Marclay, a fourteen-minute-long video showing a guitar being dragged behind a pickup truck. The interrogation of the image ultimately explores the relations between the visible and the mental, from the optical unconscious in evidence throughout the exhibition to the more or less realistic representations of internal worlds (Elmar Trenkwalder, Virginie Barré, Børre Saethre). Into each work is woven a reflection on the complex mechanism that makes up the image.

Guitemie Maldonado

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.