No two Paris Mois de la Photo are the same. Some are impoverished or conventional ; others offer the public an opportunity to discover excellent work. The 2012 photo month was of the latter kind. For example, I was much struck by the radicalism of the work of three artists who have reached full artistic maturity, Patrick Tosani and Lynne Cohen, whose praises I have sung here before, and Corinne Mercadier, who has magisterially refreshed an iconography that sometimes was too poetically pretty.
WHISPERS OF SOLITUDE The end of the production of Polaroid SX70 film gave Mercadier the opportunity – after some doubt and despair – to impart a new power to her work, as attested by the digital images in the two series Black Screen and Solo. One could be considered as the double of the other, and the other its inconscious. Since the beginning Mercadier has used little sketchbooks to draw and paint with gouache. Blotches that become landscapes and then the womb of the photographic work to come. In these series light plays the same role as in theater. It is light – deep darkness and luminescent, radiant white – that conditions and stages reality. So much so that these photos resemble negatives, as if by means of digitalization this artist had paradoxically gone back to the « mother image », the very womb of photography. In Black Screen, she returns to her obsessions : the Renaissance perspective box, doors, simple, rough everyday objects (buckets, plates, boards); and always the construction of a black space that blocks any possible opening, any possible breathing, and yet obviously false, « an artifice that makes the image a little colder ». Reminiscences of glassplate photography are also implied. In each of these pictures solitude whispers ; a question about the shape that one should give to his life. While everything in Black Screen was founded as is, everything is constructed and meticulously staged in Solo, a series that is founded on a triptych called « La Piste » as a suddenly stopped action or flight. A white line runs through the entire space, crossing the black sleeve of a woman poised to start a foot race. The line endows the scene with materiality, but it also separates « the livable from the too mysterious ». In most of the scenes there is an actress with an hieratic air, a prophetess, Madonna or Diana the Hunter proudly defending her place against flying objects. For as a conductor of her work, Mercadier directs off-camera assistants to throw balls, sticks and tires in a kind of an homage to Etienne-Jules Marey’s experiments in capturing motion and to Chris Marker’s « La Jetée ». In these pictures taken in a salt marsh or at an abandonned landing strip, people and objects bathe in the golden hues of twilight. There is a powerful magnetism between objects and people, « dream catchers, lightning rods of the instant », while the frozen movement suggests a complex relation to dance. A woman is magically surrounded by four balls thrown at random until chance become destiny, and a seated, motionless man (a watchman?) is reminiscent of the sittin toreador shackeled in the bullring in Goya’s engraving Temeridad de Martincho? The austerity and structured, almost architectural quality of these photos is what makes it possible for them to « give shape to the unthinkable », this distance, this infinity. Our place in the world. Standing atop a ladder from which she directs her actors and object throwers, Mercadier seeks to construct circumstances that bring about meaning through the relations between places, light, objects and figures, to create « something that can give us justification » ? For the artist, photography, which she calls her « treasure », became a space for achieving what she wants to do with her life. Like a raw diamond that is cut, given shape and light, and becomes dazzling.