Sarah Charlesworth – Stills (Art Institute, 2014)

Charlesworth is an artist at the heart of the Picture Generation > appropriationist interest in mass-media photographic imagery (but in a very different way than Sherrie Levine > with Stills, she rips the images, crops them, rephotographs them in a way that the artist’s re-working of and engagement with the images is obvious – even subject of the work).

  • Stills, 14 pictures: images blown up from news wire or newspaper clippings, depicting people falling from a life-threatening height. Work from 1980, but looking at it in 2017 make this inevitably resonant with 9/11 > added layer of resonance, personal and public histories intertwined;
  • Details extracted, context-less (at least, detached from their original context);


  • Enlargement from very small sources > Big scale is a key element in the emotional impact of each image, as it suggests an equivalence between viewer and subject;
  • Over-lifesize enlargement from very small source pictures > images big and grainy enough to depersonalize the subjects without dehumanizing them;
  • Effect of proximate distance;
from Charlesworth, Witkosky, 2014, p.14
  • Repetition of the same trauma/accident. We know nothing about the outcome of the falls. Some people and places are identified, others are not. She denies the viewer a narrative that could help him to make sense of the tragedy. One of the pictures is from a stunt, but we do not know that, and it doesn’t really matter;
  • The images play in our mind long after we have seen them. Viewers contemplating a never-ending tragedy.  These images have haunted me for the past 3 years. Subjects in a state of suspended mobility because of photography > Does photography makes them ghost?;
  • Polarities at work: presence/absence, life/death, movement, arrest;
  • Ripped edges suggest violent, visceral action;
  • Some images tend toward graphic abstraction – strong visual experience;
  • Subject and suspended mobility leads to metaphysical questions;
  • Poetic dimension, to me, each image is a short poem;
  • Isolated, powerful moments, becoming symbolic > Sublime.

This work raise a great engagement from me as a viewer, wanting to connect with the subject, understand something about their identity, their stories. At the same time, I am fascinated by the inevitable question: who take this picture, how improbable it was in a pre-digital age to capture such scenes?

Charlesworth, S. and Witkovsky, M. (2014) Sarah Charlesworth – Stills. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago.

Other notes from Sarah Charlesworth: Doubleworld:

  • p.13 (Hal Foster): “…Charlesworth tended to treat the photograph not only as a serial image, a multiple without a unique print, but also as a simulacral image, a representation without a guaranteed referent in the world. In this way, she regarded the photograph less as a physical trace or indexical imprint of reality than as a coded construction that produces real effects as well as artificial affects, and she dedicated her to an exploration of this rhetoric of the image.”
  • p.30 (Sarah Charlesworth): “To live in a world of photographs is to live in a world of substitutes – stand-ins- representation of things, or so it seems, whose referents are always the other, the described, the reality of a world once removed. […] I prefer […] to look at the photograph as something real and of my world – a strange and powerful thing – but not a thing to be viewed in isolation, but as a part of a language, a system of communication, an economy of signs.” > self-reflective interiority.

Charlesworth, S. et al. (2015) Sarah Charlesworth: Doubleworld. New-York: New Museum.


The Nix – Nathan Hill

nix_cover_final_sideJust a few notes about some ideas that came to me while reading this novel:

  • Imagine how I could symbolically or metaphorically represent phantoms from the past (the ghosts from the old country (whether they are people, secrets, events, etc.);
  • How I could find substitutes for them and use them as an element of vocabulary within my images without necessary revealing their nature;
  • Metaphor of the stone getting heavier as you get away from the shore/home (see below).


Hill, N. (2016) The Nix. New-York: Knopf.

Gauguin, Artist as Alchemist (Art Institute of Chicago, 2017)

I have visited the exhibition dedicated to Gauguin at the Art Institute (

Elements from the exhibition that I found relevant to my own practice:

  • In his early paintings, Gauguin projects with subtlety on the wallpapers the dreams of the subjects sleeping in his paintings. He already starts to merge different kind of spaces (geographical or psychological) in his paintings;


  • Later, he also projects visions, narrative episode in the landscape of his paintings, in the furniture he decorates;
  • Having traveled a lot, Gauguin’s inspiration his fueled with lots of different universes, imageries and imaginaries which all merge together according to his fantasy (women from Brittany are depicted doing their daily activities in the south of France for example).I found very interesting this idiosyncratic aspect of his artistic practice. ;
  • Not only he merges space, but also times: most of his work about Polynesia consisting in creating scenes from a past that does not exist anymore but which he convokes persistently in his paintings almost in denial state. There is something at time chocking in his refusal to accept the world he seeks refuge in as it is;
  • One point I found interesting too was how he adopted/adapted a local mythological character representation to create an alter-ego. At this point in his work, I thought that he had found an interesting strategy to overcome his frustration with the world changing in Polynesia too;
  • Finally, the painting In the Waves (Ondine I) made a strong impression on me:


  • It looks almost like a photograph, the framing is surprising (now I realize that may be it has something to do with my interest for bodies in water too > cf. blog post It is a fragment taken from a larger composition which doesn’t exist. A chapter without a book. It is suggest a missing piece that in reality was never there.

Front and Center: The Vocabulary of Furniture (HPAC, 2017)

Below are my notes about a few pieces that captivated my attention when visiting the HPAC 2017 Center Program exhibition in August (

Bambi Breakstone‘s 3 pieces featured below are delicate paper prints. I don’t know much about them but I am fascinated with how thin the papers are. Fascinated too with how the tearing of the paper both disrupts and directs the attention of the onlooker, duplicating the altered details in a ghost like way. It talks to me about absence and presence, fragile memories. There is something visceral in this approach which has been more and more present in my own work too lately. These images attests of a discussion between the present and the past.

I am interested too in printing photographs on papers and fabrics not usually used or dedicated to that. This is a skill I should learn to develop during L3.

Bambi Breakstone

The other work that I really enjoyed was Silvia Inés Gonzalez‘s installation Volver I Return. A simple portable memorial, objects, collages. The presence of the soil in the luggage, and as an idea in the collages, seems to me to suggest at the same time the idea of being uprooted and the possibility to take root through art wherever you need to.

I appreciated the symbolic and metaphorical quality of this work.

I probably projected a lot of my own concerns in these pieces, but that’s what art is here for no? To enter in a dialogue with it…

Bodies and Water

I have received a few days ago family pictures that my sister kindly sent me – but only looked at them today, now that my assessment submission is finally sent to Barnsley.

I was looking for glimpses of details from our childhood house: wallpapers, fabrics, tiles, etc… I am glad because there is some material in the few pictures she sent me, I should be able to extract a few elements from these images if I want to.

However, what captured my attention today were the 2 following photographs:

Personal family photo archive
Personal family photo archive

There is something important there. I have a strong relationship to water since I am a child. It is my safe space. I often dream about hiding quietly underwater because there is danger above the surface – I feel so calm and completely protected there. I have written about my interest in home and childhood being related to the sensation of feeling alternatively extremely safe/ or in total danger in this space (home), and time (childhood). Water has this symbolic power too – I mean generally, but in relation to my personal history particularly. Home, childhood, safety, feeling of danger, are linked to the complex figure of my father. Water is what linked us – it is where we spoke another language and accepted each others – or faced danger together.

I realize how psychoanalytically there would be so much to explore in relation to what I just wrote, but that’s not where I want to go now.

I am setting these 2 images apart for now.

In my previous work from the archive, many of the images I had selected had something to do with water too. See below:

Found photo archives

I am trying to look at what prevails in my work, and one of the reference that keep coming back to me is often Sarah Charlesworth’s exhbition Stills ( I should write about her work again soon. But I can see how I could transform these images in a similar fashion to how Charlesworth worked from the newspaper clippings.

Sarah Charlesworth’s exhibition ‘Stills’ – Art Institute of Chicago, 2015 (photo: S. d’Hubert)



First discussion with BOW Tutor, Robert Enoch

I had yesterday my first Skype discussion with my BOW tutor Robert Enoch on Skype and we talked about the seeds of ideas I have at the moment, about what I would like to do with Level 3.

The work and reflection done with the Landscape Course strongly helped me to understand who I am as an artist, what I am engaged with. The Digital Image & Culture Course led me to understand where this can fit in the contemporary photographic  & artistic landscape, but it also helped me realize how much I care about the role of the audience as reader and co-author. It is the first thing I care about.

So yesterday, when we started talking about my ideas, I started by what might look like the wrong place to start: the outcome. I am an avid reader of all kind of books, and I have created 5 books during my OCA (1 handmade and 4 published on Blurb). I would love to produce a work with this course that would exist as a book (something in the spirit of Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood) and which could exist too as an installation (with objects, video work, etc…); an installation that would be complementary and not repetitive. I think I really can do that. My tutor was surprised initially to see me starting there but when I started explaining that this desire to create a specific kind of engagement with the reader was crucial in my work, he completely understood my approach and our discussion have been extremely fruitful.

We defined what attracted me in books and installations. My tutor said something about my idea having to do with perception and the artist trying to be “eye of the spectator”. Somebody reading these lines might think that I am speaking about controlling the reader’s reading, but it is the opposite, it is about relinquish control and giving him a strong creative part in the work. Making him indispensable to create meaning.

In the reflective summary to my last course I wrote:

“All these reflections helped me to understand something important about my practice. My projects are as much about the ideas developed in them than about how we read images, about the viewer/reader as author, creator and consequently subject of what he is looking at. However, I don’t see my work as a comment upon the death of the author. I don’t want it to be didactic either. I am searching to create a visual experience, or environment, inviting him to an active artistic participation in the artwork. I use the personal in order to serve as alter-ego, substitute for the reader. The disrupting devices are pointers for the viewer, inviting him to refer to his own experience, hinting at the creative reading process at work necessary to activate meaning – phenomenologically and not only semiotically, with the onlooker gaze as center, merging point, context and perspective.”

In term of theoretical influence, these ideas are built from:

  • Brecht
  • Bachelard 
  • Olin‘s re-lecture of BarthesCamera Lucida
  • Bergson‘s intuition (Sarah J. Kember)
  • Heidegger‘s Aletheia (Emma Bennet)

(All these will be analyze in the CS section of this blog).

However, I have also told my tutor that while having this in mind, I am prepared to change direction and follow the work where it will lead me. But as it is what drives me now, and since a long time, that’s where I am starting now.

This framework established, we discussed about what this work be might about. Same here, 3 things are driving my inspiration since a few years and I feel that I am not done with them, I feel that I have not arrived yet to where I want to go with it:

  • Looking at my relationship to:
    • the place I live in (Chicago, Hyde Park – Michigan Lake as a wall);
    • the place I come from (especially LA MAISON)
    • childhood
      • Each of these relationships deals with the concept of distance, roots, sense of belonging and sense of alienation, places/times where safety and insecurity are intrinsically linked. Myself hovering between magnetic polarities whose field force I cannot escape. Liminal spaces.

These could be 3 different projects, or it could end up being just one, we will see. What is interesting to me is that all of them explore a relationship that everyone experiences in his life, in a very personal and intimate way – and if we cannot relate to other’s backstories in a direct way, we might be able to recognize patterns in the relationship we personally have with the subject looked at.

In term of artistic influence, the artists I am looking at are:

  • Nicolas de Crécy:
    • ‘Periode Glacière’ (graphic novel investigating fictionally how we read images without cultural context and historical knowledege);
    • ‘New-York sur Loire’ (bringing unrelated places together);
  • Christian Patterson (book/installation work; multiplicity of source materials; open-ended narrative, narrative with reflection about truth value in photography, use of the landscape beyond the topographic);
  • Todd Hido (mixing found and personal images, use of the landscape beyond the topographic, placeholders, reflection about American Myths);
  • Carolle Benitah (strategy to express her relation to childhood);
  • Joreige & Hadjithomas (creativity in term of installation, interaction, fictive strategies to escape ideological narrative and let personal experiences emerge);
  • Krebs & Oronato (representation of the USA myths in ‘The Great Unreal’ + playful visual reflections about what does it means to look at photographs, what do we really see).

This is not exhaustive, but that’s a start. We discussed what it could mean in term of projects, it was really inspiring. Along our discussion Robert invited me to look too at several artists, some I already knew, some I did not (I’ll write some posts in the next weeks):

  • Dayanita Singh
  • Beate Gutschow
  • Bettina Rheims, Serge Bramly ‘Chambre Close’
  • Sophie Calle
  • Hannah Collins
  • Araki
  • Ralph Gibson

Finally, Robert also gave me some precious advice:

  • Go with the inspiration, if it starts with reading, go with it (it felt good to hear that because it is always where it starts for me). If it starts with taking pictures and creating images, go with it;
  • Put all your images on your wall;
  • Take pictures/make pictures > try to connect it with where you live (If you want your kids to take pictures too -in  relation to the thematic space and place/childhood –  go for it – they can participate to the work);

The discussion with Robert was extremely inspiring, my sketchbook is full of ideas and suggestions that emerges during our Skype session. I feel that between Robert’s and Garry’s enthusiasms, interests and our fruitful discussions, I am in very good hands to make some good work in L3.





This will be my blog for the Level 3 courses Body of Work. My tutor for Body of Work is Robert Enoch and my tutor for Contextual Studies is Garry Clarkson – my learning log for CS will be offline.

I am planning to start slowly until mid-September as I am currently preparing my submission for the assessment of the Digital Image & Culture course. But it feels good to set up the blog now and to start thinking ahead – preparing for an assessment session always give me new ideas too!

I can’t stress how enthusiastic I am about reaching this new level with its new challenges and different framework to develop my work!