The recent exhibition by French contemporary photographer, filmmaker and writer Alain Fleischer is part of Month of Photography Asia. Two distinct characteristics of his work stand out: his obsession with superimposed images on toys, female nudes and then re-photographed; cinematic projections (or at least I think they are) on buildings, and then re-photographed within a setting. The pastiche is unsettling, especially in the former, in a 80’s cibachrome saturated, grainy look. Perhaps influenced by early French nude photography, and art from the Neo-Classical, Rococo and Baroque, Fleischer’s photographs are less rudely shocking, more ‘curious’ than mysterious.
It helps when one considers the relationship between daguerreotype, the chemical processes that precedes black and white photography as we know it, and the genre of photography. Portraitures, landscapes and the city were subject matters since the invention of photography. It thus seems legitimate to reference that experimental spirit of daguerreotypes in Fleischer’s work, somewhat fleeting and considerably longer in time exposure.
The relationship between film/cinema and photography are inverted here: usually, one talks about film as photographs 24 frames per second, but here, photographs become filmic, caught in a stasis of meaning given by the juxtaposition of the film’s title/context, and the buildings on which they are projected onto.
The un-labelled newly created work from his Ecran Sensible (Sensitive Screen) series, is perhaps the most revealing and thought-provoking, un-assuming piece in the exhibition. Tucked away in the depths of the gallery, a lone room with pinned up and floor-strewn photographic paper lies witness to works produced at Lasalle, and only a video recording to suggest the Lasalle masterclass activity. The image on the paper on the wall bears 2 figures: a haunting image of a beautiful Asian lady in a dress-down blouse, bearing her shoulders, and another ghostly figure in the middle ground. The context and the surrounding of the picture is baffling, and seemed to be unimportant to the artist, from the lack of wall texts.
What is thought-provoking is his adaptation of a simple video camera and elementary projection technology, despite his level of comfort one may feel after working years in a particular style. From the video, one gathers the image is recorded on a sony video camera, inverted to a negative, and re-projected as a digital negative onto photographic paper, as in the Lambda printing process, but from a low resolution 1024×768 LCD projector. The paper is then developed like and black and white photograph. While inverting the digital image back into analogue, the final image is evident of square pixels on the chemically developed photographic paper. What is amazing is the demonstration of the co-existing ‘pixels’ and ‘silver crystals’ on a singular plane, and the sheer determination to process the paper, while it is still on the wall, with mops-full of chemicals – developer, stop, fix, wash, waterbaths.
The resulting image, detached from its original digital rendition, is both emotionally charged and ghostly. The figure in the foreground gives the impression she doesn’t want to be photographed, but nonetheless ‘captured’, taken, and possessed on paper. The otherwise static image, is sensitised and made emotionally charged with the splashes and spills – imperfections from the raw process. Perhaps the body of photography is also being sensitised and revived, making sense of traditional darkroom techniques in the digital era.
21 June – 3 August 2008
Singapore Art Museum
*sensitize: make (photographic film) sensitive to light