1999 Conversation II, entretien avec Sylvie Parent

CONVERSATION,1999, traduction de Ross Ron. (le texte a été publié en franÇais dans Visuel(s) revue d’art et d’architecture, été 1999.)  Sylvie Parent: Since your last exhibition, at Galerie Vox, in 1994, you have used white frames to extend the margins of your photographs into the surrounding space by giving them volume. You then also created white, three-dimensional volumes as such. Could you explain this choice?  Jocelyne Al1oucherie: These frames are active borders that do more than delimit the space of the work. In their relationship with it, they assume the function, already mentioned, of a structure of reception and distance, a border line between the familiar and the strange. Their format and dimensions recall the window, the mirror, the portrait, or some common characteristics of framing and page layout, a polyvalence of meaning that requires a level of formal neutrality. Hence the necessity of the passage to white or near white. The same remarks pertain to the sculptural objects. This whitening, however, does not act solely for the effect of absence, an erasure that tones down the preciseness of certain elements. It is also an affirmative, dense substance, suggestive of the fine grain of paper, the yellowing of old plaster, the brilliance of stucco. It varies according to the objects evoked and acts as a mask, affirming or muddling the meaning of the objects.  S.P .: I would like to come back to those impressions of both the strange the familiar that your works give rise to. How do you explain them?  J.A.: They are complementary and necessary qualities. Familiarity is the means of recognition, of location; strangeness generates the peculiar, the unexpected. They ensure access to the work, as well as loss of control, deviation, disinvestment, and reappropriation. An effect of loss and gain. Loss is that pinch at feeling that the object, or image, or space, is only fleeting, in a constant flight from elements of the visual field. One can't be certain of having a reassuring grasp of the real. The work is an event that suspends this state of flux. Crystallized in this way, loss is not prevented in any way, but becomes measurable. Like time, suddenly given to be seen: that of several periods, sliding into one another. A condensation. It is a temporality peculiar to the plastic arts. That convergence, that concentration, forces an inner shift: a decipherment toward an altered or new knowledge.  S.P .: Some of the photographs show a landscape the particular outlines of which suggest that it has undergone human intervention. These landscapes do not evoke natural origins; on the contrary, they are very structured, very architectural. Besides, photographs of architecture are also very evident in your recent work.   J.A.: In the order of representation, uncharted territory no longer exists. Let's then think of landscape as a cultural imprint. It is a mirror, we might rather say, a revealer of various sensorial states and manifestations, individual and social values, unsuspected limits between private and public space, between the present moment and history, the intended order and its transgressions. I'll come back to the relationship between architecture and photography. I would like to stress, however, that my images are often very close to a stereotype.  S.P .: Could you elaborate a little more on this stereotypical aspect of the images?  J.A.: It's an intention. But I try to turn the cliche around, give it a mythical dimension: a point where it opens up, where it escapes a given period or a narrow cultural stratum, where it enters a historical dimension. This is obtained through excess. Something overdone or extraneous being inserted somewhere in the picture: too much light, too much darkness; a repetition, an insistence of points of view. Repetition generalizes. The common trait is accentuated; it stands out, but without doing away with uniqueness. Which is why these images must be neither foreseen nor constructed, but found, always; taken from a chance encounter with the real, so that they preserve a degree of eccentricity, of the unexpected, that necessary peculiarity...  The stereotypical character derives, in fact, from this preoccupation with the generalization of references. This generalization doesn't tend toward abstraction, nor toward conformity with an original model; it functions by reduction and compression; it does not transcribe any ideational or levelling value; it acts with the awareness of a constant discrepancy between the specific manifestations of things and an ostensibly anterior model. It takes command of constancy and contingency; it resists and inserts itself between the two. A qualitative degree oscillating between the usual and the peculiar or, to bring them back into our discussion, the familiar and the strange. The border line is always precarious, difficult.  S.P .: This generalization is rendered by a sobriety in your work, a distillation, which has lead a number of critics to associate it with minimal art. What are your thoughts on the subject?  J.A.: Art history seeks to identify movements, tendencies, and to dictate them. In regard to contemporary art, it is inevitable that criticism commonly applies a closed grid to objects invested by art. (It isn't the case with all historians, however). A formalizing vision keeps to a superficial reading of the morphology of things. The selection of human objects is limited and it is important to dwell on the nature of the relationships established between the elements of a work of art. All that is round is not necessarily organic; what is composite, not necessarily baroque; documentary, not necessarily social; and what is political, not necessarily so in the terms of the left. One has to be attentive to the nuances of art more than to the political issues. . .

S.P .: There are aspects, then, of the art work that these critical readings don't take account of, such as the many references that are made possible by this generalization and which distance the art work from minimal art.   J.A.: True, these references remain allusive; they are bypassed in literal readings. Thus, we tend to regard as exclusively formal an object that manifests horizontal and vertical characteristics and straight lines. That's too simple. We forget that these characteristics come from a very primary knowledge of the body and that they constitute important foundations of contemporary architectonics, deriving from the very nature of available materials. A major source of references already exists. . . I come back to generalization. The elimination of overly definite precision allows for greater mobility between formal and referential levels, as well for their convergence.  S.P .: Could you tell us more about the presence of architecture in these photographs, and ofhow it comes into the work?  J.A.: In the nineteen eighties, I mostly explored private space, whence the frequent allusions to furniture. I now dwell more on the city, its monuments: the squares, the thoroughfares. Generalization is most easily graspable in urban architecture. It is obviously produced, constructed: by compression, by recurrence, by cultural habit. The common trait is revealed as historical, not originary. Paradoxically, I am attempting to take account of intimate aspects of architecture; a feeling, a keen awareness of presence crystallized in particular instances of space and time. This demands a close observation of the landmarks of the body: the imagining and seeing body; blind, mobile, ultra-sensitive; the historical and symbolic body, social and political. I look at the stroller, the loiterer, the urban nomad. I note how he experiences his environment, inhabits it. Like him, I appropriate the city for myself during calm, dead hours of the night or day; it's also the moment where peculiarities emerge... Thus, myarchitectural images often come about from a mistaken glance. Under a certain lighting, and by the accumulation of profiles, some street corners draw vague contours of monuments of history and power. Un- ascribable; plausible, but fictive. . . (an interesting observation can be made on an imaginary crossover between people's houses and public buildings.) I then feel myself drawn into a reality that escapes me and of which I scarcely imagine all the justifications and ramifications. What we call the West. That's when discreet events of the sky make their presence felt behind the volumes. At that point, photography comes into play.  S.P .: How does the architecture appearing in the images interact with the sculptures that occupy the space, themselves resembling architectural forms by their dimension and structure?   J.A.: A very close connection exists between photography, sculpture, and architecture, that of a seemingly direct relationship to reality, though integrated more by contingency and in a heightened temporal fluidity, and though the relationship manifests itself in each case on a very concrete level and according to factors far removed the one from the other, the effect is the same: the inevitable observation of the object's instability and its continual dispossession, inscribed in the constant flux of light and time. Which is more discrete in architecture and sculpture. We always believe that we perceive space as solid, immutable. No volume, however, resists the metamorphosis imposed by variations in light or changing states of visual attention, by which it is gauged, adjusted, reevaluated from every point of view under the sun, in search of a solidity that is ceaselessly undone, the volume ceaselessly eschewing its fixity. Thus, it retains mobility, is measured, regained, displaced, set to dance, and becomes the body's distant echo.  This connection between photography, architecture and sculpture explains the bond that manifested itself between these disciplines at the very start of photography. I try to explore and to pursue it in both the images and the objects. This produces parallels, that sometimes cross and converge. . .  S.P .: How is this connection between artistic media defined in White Hole, for instance, one of your recent works presented at the Biennale de Montreal 1998?  J.A.: In White Hole, you find the western city's double metaphor as centre and thoroughfare. Human locations remain my constant subject; the notion of place is vast, it fluctuates between the symbolic, the imaginary, and the actual site, surrounding states of being and the private body-politic. Like the architecture that derives from it, a generalization is produced. It is historical, and not originary. White Hole is articulated on two levels; on the wall, along negative of time and recurrence, a photographic frieze conflating the different with the similar; images of several western cities seen from their centre, images of fortresses. Echoing space is a central architecture, an empty square, a non-place, a hollow where public and private resonances accumulate. These two levels are not in a dependent relationship. They have their autonomous force. In their great differences, they repulse and exalt each other. It is an effect of discrepancy (similarity - difference) pushed to the extreme. A paradoxical, but complementary relationship. The central object of White Hole is not a naive retake on White Cube. It is an inhabitable object: a shelter, a great wall, a table, a tank. Obviously, had I superimposed specific objects, I would have obtained an identifiable cluster; very baroque. (That is the way I proceeded until 1987, but it seemed to me that the accumulation of precise elements had a levelling effect; their density was lost. Reduction now allows me to avoid this trap.) Therefore, the essence of the wall is its thickness; of the table, its horizontal top; of the well, the hollow at its centre; of the shelter, that it can receive us. It is a structure of reappropriation. A frame for the beholder.
 S.P .: Les Tables de sable, as well as several subsequent works, incorporate sand, most often placed on top of the volumes. You've employed this medium before, in works of the 1970's. Sand creates its own images, it can allude to landscape. The material is unstable in form, at once solid and fluid, and may suggest disintegration and time. . . What reflections brought this material back into your work?  J.A.: Sand is very similar to photographic material; light, fluid, malleable. Grain, particles. It makes and breaks form at will. And I can't ignore the fact that it is an obvious metaphor of time and emptiness. I've learnt all the ways of configuring this used, ground, and crumbling material, that can suddenly combine once again, allowing images to surge forth. In Les Deserts, my last works, sand becomes a border underlining a presence inscribed as an absence, a cut from sculptural volume. Ungraspable like the contents of negative form, the inverse of an object, anthropomorphic by certain faint aspects: the centre, verticality, weight, dimensions. They are autonomous sculptures but I develop them along side a photographic series, also autonomous: Aujourd'hui la nuit. This one presents events similar to the border lines of sand, fragile luminous limits, hard to capture as well as to re-transcribe. Real snapshots which, in their apparent simplicity, demand a great mastery of time and light. An incisive quickness like a shot from a bow.  I don't preoccupy myself with gravity or levity, which are often premeditated and artificially grafted onto art, to the point where they become caricatures of themselves: pathos and superficiality. Between the two, fortunately, there is the void. There is a form. That of vertigo and risk; a peculiar movement in a funnel that drains everything toward a point, always the same; mental distance.