Rituals of the Antisocial
This is a series of stereotypes that seek to inject a sense of narrative and humour in photographic images that incorporate elements of architecture, vehicles, bears, women, and children. All the above presented within the framework of a controlled theatrical setting.
Within the frame of these silent dramatic scenes, the artist/hero here is the great manipulator, he is the comedian, the actor, the master of ceremonies, the stunt man acting out the humorous, the violent, the cool, the cruel, and the strange. This is indeed a well-lit dark world where the hero, the child, the woman, and the “others” attempt to live.
The challenge, how to exemplify and defy the established patterns of human social interaction? How to create a series of new images that reveal in a fresh manner the irreconcilable contradictions within our social inter-reactions that constitute our known world?
The agent of subversion is at work here. What is my place? What is your place? By trading places, by amplifying certain patterns, by flirting with the absurd, the concealed foundations of a “strange” society become clearer.
First, a detour to the Vox Gallery – yes, yes, the one connected to Vox Populi, responsible for the Mois de la Photo in Montreal, chance (?) does things well – is a must. You will find a series of photographic diptychs by Robert Duchesnay, of the most humorous of tastes and at the same time loaded with inevitable dramatic effects.
Like a photographic thriller, Duchesnay has concocted an absurd story that follows the episodes between an omnipresent character and . . . stuffed animals who are sometimes his accomplices, who elsewhere betray him, etc. Think again. It is not only about a wacky and laughable aesthetic. On the contrary, this story full of twists and turns (truly) stems from a cinematographic aesthetic referring, as Céline Mayrand very appropriately underlines in the short text that accompanies the exhibition, to The Man in a Suitcase, The Fugitive and The Saint, a list of television series to which we could add The Prisoner, and on the side of the “high art” of cinema, David Lynch, Godard and Hitchcock. Nothing less, I swear!
Straddling narrative continuity and closed image duo, this sarcastic and elliptical narrative can be approached in multiple ways. Sometimes the images are organized in sequence, elsewhere small differences between two images of the same diptych suggest a more formal reading. This sometimes-cruel theatre, made up of crimes, betrayals, settling of scores, heroism, and fear, operates absolutely in a vacuum, like a sordid parenthesis. An excellent production, playing on the known codes of the conspiracy story and which diverts it to reveal its greatest absurdity. Would have succeeded in brightening up the “documentary photo” part of the Mois de la Photo with a touch of humour and a beautiful shift from the fictional genre.
Not to be missed, under any circumstances.
Le Devoir, “Les Arts,” Saturday, 13 December 1997 (translated by R. Duchesnay)➔