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Mois de la Photo

(Fr) Entrevue avec Christina Battle

 General questions on your creative process

What is your artistic process? What is your starting point for creating a new work of art? What inspires you?

I often have no idea how the things I make come about until reflection after they are completed. I am inspired a lot by the news and media and the ways in which they are used to disseminate information, often in manipulating ways. Usually, that’s where ideas begin. The form and process changes based on the piece and how it needs to go.

Do you work on many projects at the same time?

I usually have a few things going at once. I like thinking about a number of ideas or approaches at the same time. Usually, I work on multiple things that are ultimately related. It lets me come at an idea from a number of ways.

Describe a typical day in your life as an artist.

Most of the time it feels like juggling 2 full time jobs. Most days are non-stop work – both at my job and for myself. I write a lot of emails, I do a lot of paperwork, I organize a lot of things, I cook, I garden, I try to make time to relax and enjoy life. It’s all a blur.

If you were not an artist, what would you be?

I studied Environmental Biology in my undergraduate studies and I sometimes think about going back to it (botany more specifically nowadays). It strongly informs my practice and I’d love to spend more time studying and researching it.

Art world related questions

What work of art do you wish you owned?

I just read an article online 5 minutes ago that Risa Horowitz (an artist currently in Regina, SK) posted on Facebook about Leah Emery’s cross stitch works and they are awesome. I’d love to have one in my house!

What is the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?

I once saw something pretty traumatic that I don’t really like to share. It was weird and it was terrible and really made me think about how sheltered museums and galleries often seem to be – but actually how public they are. We don’t expect to share traumatic experiences with others when inside museums and galleries and when it does happen it really pulls you outside of the experience.

Question on the sub-theme Reality Reloaded

The Internet can be thought of as a universal mirror in which the paths of our experience keep on forking: we can decide to exist and act in the tangible world, or in the virtual world, in which case the screen becomes the permeable membrane that affords us passage between one side and the other.

But in re-examining our notion of reality, we must also reconsider the meaning of the documentary genre as such. We can speculate, in deliberately tautological fashion, on the basis of two hypotheses, one holding that reality is what appears on our screens, which act as an interface between subject and object, and the other that in documenting the world in the form of images, we are actually generating more reality. 

What is your relationship to the Internet in relation to your artistic practice? To virtual reality?

Most of my work begins with information that I am exposed to on the Internet, it is my primary site of research. It is reality, unfolding at lightning speed in front of me. Sometimes it’s flawed and it isn’t always trustworthy but that’s all a part of it. I’m inherently interested in these parameters – the unreal and the real of it, those slippery moments where truth seems uncertain – and how it has changed the way we interact with images, with one another, and with the world around us.

 

Questions related to your work

What do the images in The people in this picture are standing on all that remained of a handsome residence represent and where do they come from?

The images began as found still images of a tornado that hit Edmonton when I was 12 years old. The tornado was quite devastating and was to date the only major natural disaster I have experienced. The images originally came from news sources that I found and appropriated from the Internet. They were then manipulated into abstraction.

 

You transform and beautify disaster images in The people in this picture are standing on all that remained of a handsome residence. What is” disaster porn” for you?

I think a lot about our need to see images of disaster – why we need to and why we revel in them almost to the point of them being beautiful. I once read a statistic that stuck with me – that only about 5% of Americans have actually experienced natural disaster – yet we all have an idea of what disaster looks like. With the rise of social media our thirst for seeing and sharing these images has grown. With an increase of natural disturbances over the past decade our ability to see documents of natural disaster, of death and destruction, has become commonplace. Yet, for those who actually experience and live through disaster those images are intensely personal. “Disaster porn” is a recent term used to describe this voyeurism. For me, there are things too personal to need or want to document in an image. The experience is too much to share. When I was sorting through images online archiving the tornado in Edmonton I remembered them – I knew the neighbourhoods they documented and remembered seeing what was captured within the post-disaster images in person. It felt strange to see people’s lives documented in that way almost 30 years later floating around the Internet.

 

What do you think of the proliferation of disaster images in the media and the fact that their diffusion has become a form of spectacle?

In 2014 I wrote a piece for Incite Journal of Experimental Media titled: “Hollywood Movies, Media Hype, and the Contemporary Survivalist Movement: An Appropriated Study” where I looked closer to this question. I think it is related to the statistic I mentioned above – so many of us have never actually experienced disaster in real life but yet we have experienced it endless times thanks to Hollywood movies and the media in general. We have a false sense of what disaster actually looks like and because of this it can be nothing but spectacle.

 

Can you explain the process of glitching and datamoshing?

Glitch and datamosh are two methods that allow you to manipulate digital images. Both take advantage of the fact that digital images are made up of code. The way that I used glitch was to initially manipulate the code of the still images themselves. I recoded the images to manipulate their initial form – to change the way they displayed colour as well as the way that the elements of the image were presented. Later, I used datamoshing techniques to blend the glitched still images with video documentation of tornados (also gathered from the Internet). The result is a moshing together of the static glitched images with the movement of the tornados.

 

What has drawn you to this process and what does it allow you to communicate through your images? 

Early on while researching the project, I knew that I wanted to work with images of disaster and when I initially gathered the images from the Edmonton tornado I knew I couldn’t use them as they were. It felt too exploitative, they documented the personal trauma of strangers and I wasn’t comfortable in utilizing them. After further researching our relationship to disaster imagery I realized that manipulating the images would be the only way that I could take on these ideas and, since the images were found online and existed in digital form, I felt that I needed to use digital strategies to do so.

 

What is the future of the still and moving image in contemporary art according to you?

Hopefully it will constantly remain in flux with artists tackling new and pressing questions related to different forms as technology changes and becomes more (and sometimes, less) accessible.

 

Museum Exhibition

(Fr) Entrevue avec Jacques Pugin

 

General questions on your creative process

What is your artistic process? What is your starting point for creating a new work of art? What inspires you?

My type of photography is an experimental one in which artistic research is combined to a reflection on time, space and the complex relationship that man has with nature. My process is characterised by my interventions on my images, while shooting or after via different techniques, digital tools, drawing, painting. I redefine photography and its subjects. I pay particular attention to the traces that testify to man’s presence and to natural elements in the landscape.

It is often during trips and nature treks that I find my inspiration. Walking allows me to confront nature, to be in harmony with it. It puts me in a creative state.

It also happens, and it is the case with Les cavaliers du diable, to dream about my projects. I wake up in the morning and I start my creative process. 🙂

Which artist had the most influence on your practice and why?

I don’t know if I can speak of influence, it is sometimes very subtle effects in the path of an artist, and the influences are often unconscious.

What I can say, however, is that people find that in my work Sacred Site there can be an influence of Richard Long, an artist I incidentally appreciate a lot. That being said, my process is very different from his, because he constructs his sculptures in space whereas I photograph the traces that sometimes, in fact, are circles. But I don’t create them.

To these people I answer that I would very much like to photograph a sculpture from Richard Long, if I could find one in my multiple walks. 🙂

Do you work on many projects at the same time?

Yes, it often happens that I work on many projects at the same time, leave aside one project and come back to it later, maybe sometimes with more distance.

Describe a typical day in your life as an artist.

I wake up in the morning and I go to bed at night! In between, it depends of the days…. 🙂

If you were not an artist, what would you be?

No 1 tennis player! 🙂

Jokes aside, photography is my means of expression, it allows me to express what I don’t know how to put into words. If I were not a photographer, I would probably practice another art form, why not pianist?

Art world related questions

What work of art do you wish you owned?

I don’t particularly wish to own a work in particular, but I really like an artwork that was realised in 1920 by Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp’s Dust Breeding.

Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp’s Dust Breeding

Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp’s Dust Breeding

A plunging photography on the dust accumulated on Marcel Duchamp’s artwork can make me think of an aerial view or traces or lines that are highlighted. We were speaking just before about inspiration… 🙂

What is the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?

Maybe visual artist Deborah de Robertis who reinterpreted Gustave Courbet’s work. This young Luxembourger proposed a very personal interpretation of Gustave Courbet’s The Origin of the World, a painting from 1866 showing the genitals of a woman. At the Musée d’Orsay, where this painting is exhibited, she chose to pose in front of the painting, sat and legs open, in the same position as that of the painter’s model.

Question on the sub-theme Reality Reloaded

 

The Internet can be thought of as a universal mirror in which the paths of our experience keep on forking: we can decide to exist and act in the tangible world, or in the virtual world, in which case the screen becomes the permeable membrane that affords us passage between one side and the other.

But in re-examining our notion of reality, we must also reconsider the meaning of the documentary genre as such. We can speculate, in deliberately tautological fashion, on the basis of two hypotheses, one holding that reality is what appears on our screens, which act as an interface between subject and object, and the other that in documenting the world in the form of images, we are actually generating more reality.

 

What is your relationship to the Internet in relation to your artistic practice ?

First of all, I don’t systematically use the Internet. I used it to create Les Cavaliers du diable and for another ongoing project.

In the series Les Cavaliers du diable, my relationship with the Internet is double:

-On the one hand, I use it as a TOOL that made Darfour accessible, through Google Earth, and that allowed the realisation of my project.

-On the other hand, Internet becomes the SUBJECT of my work, it is an integral part of my intention, because through this series, I question the role of the Internet as a journalistic tool of modern times and as a memory tool.

Finally, I distorted the image from its information role to make become pictorial photography.

 

How can we document reality in the Web 2.0 era in which all can be falsified and rigged ?

First of all, you ask a question about reality…. Reality does not exist, everything is subjective. Even the news give a point of view, certainly factual, but that depends on one’s own interpretation. Yet, we did not wait for the Internet to falsify information: Christian Caujolle in his foreword on my work shows clearly that in reporting and in documentaries, war pictures can be great propaganda tools.

Questions related to your work :

Why did you choose to work with images from the Internet for the first time of your carreer for Les cavaliers du diable?

It was the only way I could realise this project, and at the same time, Internet is the OBJECT of this work, since my series questions the role of the Internet as a journalistic tool. (cf. Infra)

How did you create this project and what does it represent?

I chose not to work on my images, but to use pictures taken from the Internet. They are satellite photographs of Darfur taken from Google Earth, taken from thousands of kilometers from the Earth.

They represent traces from burnt down villages, remains from the civil war in Darfur. At first glance, these images are very graphic and do not presage the underlying subject. My intention is to draw attention to the aesthetic appearance, then to raise questions, “what is it I see? The celestial vault? A city seen from the sky at night? Before revealing the eminently violent and hard subject of genocide.

Why did you use black and white for this work ?

In their original state, when I extract them from Google Earth, these images are in colour and represent black marks on an orange sand background. This is what the satellite sees.

I chose to apply a double treatment to these images: I removed the color and I put them in negative, in order to signify symbolically the fundamental black character of the negative and the inhumanity that they witness.

This process transforms the black lines in white marks, symbol of light, of the passing of fire.

Some people think that the circulation and transmission of « beautified » catastrophe and destruction images is problematic. What do you reply to them?

I think that this comment does not apply to this work.

I do not propose beautified images, but a presentation that makes them abstract. My intention through this work is to show a different form of journalism. I do not show, like it is often the case with war journalism, mutilated bodies, dead people, etc…images that are so violent that one looks away and goes to something else.

My process is different: I show an image that, on the first level, seems aesthetic and attracts attention.

Then, it raises questions.

What is the future of the still and moving image on contemporain art according to you?

I don’t have a crystal ball to answer this question 🙂

Museum Exhibition

(Fr) Entrevue avec Liam Maloney

General questions on your creative process

What is your artistic process ? What is your starting point for creating a new work of art ? What inspires you ?

The starting point for creating new work is always meticulous, detailed research on the issue I am interested in exploring. What is the historical context? What is unseen? What themes exist beneath the surface?

Which artist had the most influence on your pratice and why?

My practice as a documentary photographer is strongly influenced by the work of Tim Hetherington, whose ideas about visual storytelling helped me search for natural intersections between journalistic work and more conceptual approaches.

Luc Delahaye is another photographer who grappled with the distinctions between fine art and photojournalism and created work that considers the nature of photographs as historical record.

Do you work on many projects at the same time ?

I work on multiple projects at the same time.

If you were not an artist, what would you be ?

I was a musician for ten years before I picked up a camera. If I wasn’t an artist… wait, who said I was an artist?

Art world related questions

What work of art do you wish you owned ?

I’m currently in love with Canadian artist John Player’s paintings of secret sites and drone strikes.

What is the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery ?

The weirdest thing I’ve ever seen in a gallery? Nothing really comes to mind. Nothing weirder than real life, anyways.

Question on the sub-theme Reality Reloaded

The Internet can be thought of as a universal mirror in which the paths of our experience keep on forking: we can decide to exist and act in the tangible world, or in the virtual world, in which case the screen becomes the permeable membrane that affords us passage between one side and the other.

But in re-examining our notion of reality, we must also reconsider the meaning of the documentary genre as such. We can speculate, in deliberately tautological fashion, on the basis of two hypotheses, one holding that reality is what appears on our screens, which act as an interface between subject and object, and the other that in documenting the world in the form of images, we are actually generating more reality.

What do you think about new means of communication used on smartphones, tablets and other devices in relation to the representation of conflict ?

War and technology have always been intertwined. Smartphones have proven invaluable to refugees seeking to share intel and coordinate meetings. They are used to distribute aid to populations that would otherwise be difficult to access. They are used to alert migrants to checkpoints, hot zones and new developments in the battlespace. They are used to share information about wounded or dead relatives and the threat levels in neighborhoods under siege. They are also used to post information about war crimes and human rights violations. They are  vulnerable to security breaches that can threaten the lives of citizen journalists, activists and civilians. Finally, they can be a tool for spreading false or misleading information and state propaganda.

There is no question that smartphones have had an immense impact of our understanding of contemporary conflict. There is a risk that as we are inundated with this new data, we can develop a sort of technological myopia – the historical context becomes obscured by the repetitive minutiae of human suffering. Out of this comes an inability to act decisively to address grave humanitarian crises.

Questions related to your work

What has brought you to photographing and picturing the lives of refugees for Texting Syria?

I have been documenting the Syrian refugee crisis since 2013. The world has not seen forced migrations on this scale since the end of World War II. The sheer number of people displaced by this conflict and by the resulting regional instability is almost incomprehensible. Photographs can help, but conventional representations of the suffering do not seem to awaken the kind of compassion that can lead to policy change and concrete action. I was interested in telling a quiet story – a hidden story – that would connect the crisis to people back home.

How was your project received by the refugees? How did they react to being photographed?

I spent a lot of time listening to the people I photographed, trying to understand what they had been through and where they saw themselves going. Unsurprisingly, they want the same things we all want for our families – security, stability, opportunity and community. They were incredibly open and very graciously gave me access to tell their stories.

Is your project staged photography?

None of my photographs are staged. Staging photographs in a documentary context is completely unethical. When you are documenting real people with real problems, you have a moral obligation to photograph the situations in front of you as truthfully as you can. People are not props. These photographs were taken late at night, outside of the building where the refugees had taken shelter. They were talking, smoking and drinking tea, and of course, checking their messages, watching news clips and communicating with family and friends.

What does interactivity bring to your exhibition as visitors can send a text message to a number and receive some messages exchanged by refugees in Lebanon?

Interactivity is an important component of the installation. Receiving these sometimes banal, occasionally urgent texts on your own phone brings the conflict home to viewers, and leaves them with all these two or three line stories that they then carry around in their pocket.

Is the soundtrack that can be heard in your exhibition recorded live in Lebanon? Is the bombing sound real?

The audio was recorded on the last night I photographed the Syrian families for this project. It was the first night of Ramadan. You can hear dogs barking, someone banging a drum, babies crying and being comforted, doors opening and closing, fragments of conversation… there are some dull thuds in the background that could be distant mortar rounds falling inside Syria, but could just as easily be thunder strikes in the mountains. From our location, there was no way to know with any certainty.

Why did you decide to include it as part of your work? 

The installation is intended to be immersive, and audio is one way to do this.

What is the future of the still and moving image in contemporary art according to you?

Something like 2 billion photos are uploaded to the web every day. Over 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Show me something I haven’t seen before. I want to learn something. I want to feel something. I want to feel connected to something. This is still possible, even with all the noise, maybe even because of it.

Museum Exhibition

(Fr) Entrevue avec Paul Wombell

Pour sa 13e édition, Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal a invité le commissaire britannique de renom Paul Wombell à développer une programmation d’exposition sur une thématique brûlante d’actualité – Drone : l’image automatisée. Du 5 septembre au 5 octobre, des artistes locaux, nationaux et internationaux exploreront la relation en pleine mutation entre le corps et la technologie dans 25 expositions présentées à travers la ville.

L’événement Drone : l’image automatisée met l’emphase sur les fonctions et l’intelligence de l’appareil photo, ainsi que sa transformation en un appareil sophistiqué possédant ses propres lois et son propre fonctionnement. Comment en êtes-vous arrivé à ce thème?

On m’avait demandé de produire un livre sur l’histoire de la photographie sportive. Peu à peu, mes recherches dans des archives photographiques m’ont amené à réfléchir sur les changements technologiques dans le domaine de la photographie. Dans les années 1980, les appareils se sont développés au point où il était devenu possible de les envoyer dans des endroits inatteignables par les photographes – par exemple, au sommet des poteaux des buts ou dans l’habitacle des voitures de course. Le livre est donc devenu une historique de la photographie sportive et de l’évolution technologique de la discipline.

C’est ainsi que je me suis intéressé à la manière dont les appareils photo pouvaient être opérés à distance. Il y a également une image qui m’intrigue depuis longtemps. Il s’agit d’un autoportrait de la photographe Nan Goldin, quelque temps après avoir été battue par son petit ami de l’époque. Qui a pris cette photo ? Certainement pas son petit ami. Peut-être était-ce un ami ? Enfin, j’ai remarqué que Juergen Teller, avec qui j’ai travaillé sur une exposition importante en 2009, se place parfois devant l’appareil photo, parfois derrière celui-ci.

Et bien sûr, on a récemment beaucoup parlé de l’utilisation militaire des drones dans les médias.

Alors, le sujet m’habitait depuis plus d’une dizaine d’années. J’y ai donc songé lorsque je cherchais un thème pour cet événement.

Jon Rafman, 3081 Valmont Road, Boulder, Colorado, É.U., 2012, de la série The Nine Eyes of Google Street View (2008). Avec l’aimable autorisation de l’artiste; de la galerie antoine ertaskiran, Montréal; de la Zach Feuer Gallery, New York; et de la Seventeen Gallery, Londres © Jon Rafman

Jon Rafman, 3081 Valmont Road, Boulder, Colorado, É.U., 2012, de la série The Nine Eyes of Google Street View (2008). Avec l’aimable autorisation de l’artiste; de la galerie antoine ertaskiran, Montréal; de la Zach Feuer Gallery, New York; et de la Seventeen Gallery, Londres © Jon Rafman

Pourquoi présenter ce thème à Montréal?

Quand j’ai commencé à réfléchir aux possibilités du thème, celles-ci me ramenaient constamment vers le Canada, par exemple aux œuvres de Michael Snow, et puis plus précisément à Montréal, car le travail de plusieurs jeunes artistes d’ici s’insère très bien dans le thème.

Étant européen, je distingue une sensibilité différente ici, différente des autres villes canadiennes telles que Vancouver. Je pense que je n’aurais jamais pu monter une telle programmation à Londres. Les préoccupations, l’esthétique, le bagage culturel sont complètement différents.

Les drones ont récemment fait l’objet d’une plus grande couverture médiatique en raison de leur rôle dans les conflits politiques et les guerres actuelles. Comment le caractère sombre des drones se manifeste-t-il dans votre thème ?  

C’est un sous-thème des expositions, mais cela ne constitue pas le thème principal. L’événement n’est pas axé sur l’utilisation militaire des drones ou la surveillance. Je cherche plutôt à questionner ce que cela signifie d’être humain. Comment nous redéfinissons-nous à travers notre utilisation de la technologie ? Un autre sous-thème vise à questionner notre rôle central dans l’univers. Nous ne sommes qu’une espèce parmi tant d’autres… Qu’en est-il des autres points de vue, comme celui du chien de Jana Sterbak, ou des autres perceptions du temps, comme dans les œuvres de Michael Wesely ?

Michael Wesely, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin (27.3.1997 – 13.12.1998), 1997-1998. Épreuve à développement chromogène, Diasec, cadre métallique, 80 x 110 cm. Avec l’aimable autorisation de l’artiste © Michael Wesely

Michael Wesely, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin (27.3.1997 – 13.12.1998), 1997-1998. Épreuve à développement chromogène, Diasec, cadre métallique, 80 x 110 cm. Avec l’aimable autorisation de l’artiste © Michael Wesely

On voit donc un renversement total de la perception humanocentrique de l’être humain à la Renaissance.

Oui, les inquiétudes à propos des changements climatiques en sont un exemple. Nous commençons à comprendre que nous avons non seulement perdu le contrôle, mais que nous ne l’avions peut-être jamais eu.

Racontez-nous un peu comment vous préparez une exposition avec un artiste.

La première chose à faire est de discuter avec l’artiste. J’aime rencontrer les artistes de façon plutôt informelle, dans un bar, un studio, un café, et juste bavarder. Il est important de leur faire comprendre ce que je veux communiquer, pour qu’ils puissent décider si le lien entre la thématique et leur travail a du sens pour eux. C’est le meilleur moyen de procéder, que l’artiste soit bien établi ou non. Puis on parle de comment l’œuvre pourrait être présentée. Ensuite, il s’agit de gérer les détails pratiques. C’est un processus de plus d’un an.

Un des grands plaisirs de mon travail consiste à aller dans les musées et les galeries chaque semaine pour voir les œuvres, comment les pensées qu’elles inspirent évoluent avec le temps.

Qu’espérez-vous que les visiteurs emporteront avec eux à la sortie de l’événement ?

Ce que j’espère qu’ils emportent et ce qu’ils emporteront réellement sont des choses souvent très différentes !

Quand je vois une œuvre, ça me donne le goût d’en apprendre davantage sur l’artiste, sur l’idée sous-jacente, et ces pensées mijotent en moi, parfois même pendant des années. Les meilleures expériences que j’ai eues en appréhendant une œuvre (ou quelque chose dans la rue !) ont été quand l’œuvre a déclenché un processus de pensée, en tissant des liens avec d’autres choses que j’ai vues ou lues, et que ces dernières ont par la suite mijoté ensemble. Ces pensées m’aident à comprendre le monde. C’est ce que je souhaite aux visiteurs des expositions du Mois de la Photo à Montréal.

Entrevue réalisée par le Mois de la Photo.

Image à la une : Trevor Paglen, Reaper Drone: Indian Springs, NV; Distance – 2 miles, 2010. Épreuve à développement chromogène, 76,2 x 91,44 cm. Avec l’aimable autorisation de l’artiste; de Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco; et de la Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne © Trevor Paglen

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