Armelle Canitrot, Absence
From the monography Corinne Mercadier, Filigranes Editions, 2007
“Friends, parents, children on the beach in the evening, all immersed in the moment. They are busy, bored, playing, talking… but not me. I am suddenly struck by the view I have of them. They are turning their backs to me, or, more accurately, I am going to see their backs, and what I find is their absence and my own. It is an urgent photo of an immobile scene.” (Note 15) A memorial photograph that holds the trace of a memory given directly by the real, Années-Lumière is the founding work in the “Longue Distance” series. There is no staging here, no sculpture; the artist abandons the square format, uses strict black and white and presents a large number of “figures.” This, in other words, marks a real break in Mercadier’s work. In relation to Années-Lumière there is a “before” and an “after.” Conceptualised, notably, by Roland Barthes with his “that-has-been,” the memorial role of photography was obvious right from its origin. In Mercadier’s work, Années-Lumière is the image that really takes on this responsibility in relation to the memory of the real. The “vision” here is direct: hence the stunned feeling of the photographer herself when she saw this tableau where everything was in place, without her having to force destiny. Hence, too, the power to stun of all the images in this series, even if those that follow were once again made by the artist, with her own arrangements between chance and necessity.
For the presence of several polyptychs in the Longue Distance series, the three images of Carré Lunaire taking us form night to day, those of La Terrasse, or of L’Or, all heighten the temptation to tell ourselves stories. Grouping together scenes that are very close and show different moments of the same sequence, for Mercadier these triptychs are not narratives built from still images, as is the case in Marker’s La Jetée, but, on the contrary, a sequence of “frames” taken from a film that is constantly elusive. Not so much a desire to recount a fiction as an artefact to signal the flight of time and to figure forth impermanence. Proof by the image of the incapacity to hold back the moment and the movement of life. In the same way, the hero of La Jetée understood that “we cannot escape time, and that this moment that he had been given of seeing as a child, and that had always obsessed him, was the moment of his own death.”
In L’Or we would like to see those three images in the perfectly delimited space of the swimming pool – a stage, just like the theatre – come back to life. Especially the two figures caught in mid-dive, just above the reflective water. Here we will think of the parallel with The Reflecting Pool, that fascinating video by Bill Viola in which a diver hangs in the air in a foetal position and eventually dissolves into it, only to re-emerge from the water that we have never seen him penetrate. (Note 18) A strange resurrection. In these ghosts reflected between two watery surfaces, and in Viola’s doubled, high-low vision of the image, we find obsessions close to those of Mercadier. Gold, diving – Mercadier does not keep symbolism at a distance, which is something she has in common with Viola’s inspired approach. Thus gold, or one of its alchemical imitations, is invoked not only in order to reinvent light, but also to go further in the exploration of sculpture. This goes from being a flat, reflective surface delimiting a space, as with the gold leaf used in icons to symbolise infinity and sacredness, to a protean volume, like drapery capable of constantly adapting to new shapes, of manifesting itself in new forms.