Surface and volume – Antoine d’Agata’s “Anticorps” exhibition

March 15, 2013 - Paris

A photographic print is in essence on “object” of limited charm, of little potential desirability in its physicality. It is a sheet of paper. Granted this “paper” can have various sizes, as well as various textures, and even weights. Yet it remains a “poor object”. Which accounts for all the efforts put into their presentations, be it in portfolios (boxes, folders, etc…), or within frames hung on walls. There you will find wonders of imagination trying desperately to give some materiality (i.e. respectability, i.e. respectability, i.e. market value) to objects that have so little of it on their own.

This is one of the –many- issues I found to be intelligently addressed by the exhibition of the work of Magnum photographer Antoine d'Agata, called  “Anticorps” at le Bal, curated by Fannie Escoulen and Bernard Marcadé. Pretty much all the works are presented in one single room, where the walls are literally presented from the ground to the ceiling. The curators explore the two possible extremes of the presentation of the photograph: first the image is accepted with its physical limitations, and used to cover the walls, thus reduced to wallpaper motifs glued to the exhibition walls. Over this first layer are hung more traditionally framed photos of varying sizes, but also of varying depths. This way images exist both as surfaces, and as objects.

This creates an interesting tension both questioning the status of the “picture hung on the wall of an exhibition” (did i come here to look at printed wallpaper ?) at the same time as the curatorial device forces each viewer to navigate the immensity of the content according to his own personal choices, thus creating unique viewer experiences (far from the traditional left to right, one image at a time exhibition setups we most often encounter).

Sadly this intelligence in the presentation is not compatible with the book format, or perhaps was it not pushed enough in the published version of “Anticorps” (Editions Xavier Barral). An apt reminder that seeing exhibitions is good for your health!

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