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Laurent Pernot, The Citation, Hannah Arendt, 2014

Yavuz Erkan reviews Paris Photo 2014.

It has been a month since an excess of images bombarded my eyes, yet only a few still remain in my memory. As a recent art college graduate my trained eyes necessitated in seeing, but I was blinded by my own desire to apprehend everything. The exigency of compressing the fair at Grand Palais into a single day was obviously a mistake but with some unforeseen after-effects. I believe I am now one step closer in laying my hands on the obscure in the obvious.

Over the course of 4 days, throughout 143 galleries and 26 publishers/art book dealers, the 18th edition of Paris Photo was an exhibition of grand scale. It functioned as a hub for every imaginable kind of photographic consumption. Works on display ranged from vintage to modern & contemporary, photographers included old masters, hottest market icons and emerging talents. Apart from thematically curated exhibitions from JPMorgan Chase Art Collection, Alkazi Collection of Photography and MoMA, there were multiple book signing sessions and daily discussion platforms framed around the current state of the medium. For those who are interested, the entire platform’s video recording sessions are available online.

Christopher Williams, Cutaway model Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 ZM Focal length: 15mm. Aperture range: 2.8-22. No. of elements/groups: 11/9. Focusing range: 0.3 m – infinity. Image ratio at close range: 1:18. Coverage at close range: 43 cm x 65 cm. Angular field, diag./horiz./vert.: 110/100/77º. Filter: M 72 x 0.75. Weight: 500 g. Length: 86 mm. Product no. black: 30 82016. Serial no.: 15555891. (Subject to change.) Manufactured by Carl Zeiss AG, Camera Lens Division, Oberkochen, Germany Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf, January 18th, 2013, 2013.

Christopher Williams, Cutaway model Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 ZM Focal length: 15mm. Aperture range: 2.8-22. No. of elements/groups: 11/9. Focusing range: 0.3 m – infinity. Image ratio at close range: 1:18. Coverage at close range: 43 cm x 65 cm. Angular field, diag./horiz./vert.: 110/100/77º. Filter: M 72 x 0.75. Weight: 500 g. Length: 86 mm. Product no. black: 30 82016. Serial no.: 15555891. (Subject to change.) Manufactured by Carl Zeiss AG, Camera Lens Division, Oberkochen, Germany Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf, January 18th, 2013, 2013.

Amidst all these happenings and within a limited capacity to project that which I could comprehend in 8 hours, I will only present you with a glimpse of my own viewing experience. In order to stake a claim, as someone whose interest in photography escalated towards the non-representational (anti)aesthetic, works exhibited at Paris Photo were not conceptually defunct. Thus, I perform this review solely around contemporary works that I consider to be thought provoking.

Most of the time I rushed through a maze of crowded corridors, being subjected to a plethora of successively (un)curated booths comprised of aesthetic attractions. But then, I came across The Citation, Hannah Arendt by Laurent Pernot (Galerie Odile Ouizeman), which made me pause for quite a while. Facing with this work restored my senses for the disorderly in the photographic. The installation is an entire wall of meticulously scattered (virtually scientific) photographs that are barely discernible in ordinary sight. Whilst my eyes scanned the entire wall for signifiance, I constantly had to shift my viewpoint towards each and every particular photograph. Soon enough, I realized that this viewing strategy could only bear a partial affect, because the installation was set to repetitively deterritorialize what my eyesight single-handedly tries to register, that is to discern the singularly visible.

Putting aside the wow factor because of its photographic grand scale, upon viewing Pernot’s work, I immediately reconsidered the impact of those 500-year-old durable platinum-palladium prints from Hiroshi Sugimoto’s ON THE BEACH (amanasalto). In stark contrast to Sugimoto, who is preserving what is beautiful inside the photographic surface and physically representing what is discarded/resurfaced ashore, Pernot simply renders the impermanent in the photograph. After talking to the gallery director, I also found out that he had intentionally accelerated the aging process by applying a particular chemical onto these found photographs. Concerning the photograph as a personal document, Pernot’s work then becomes a systematic erasing of the indexical in retrospection of the archive in memory. Seen in this way, the that-has-been’s are also transformed into near unseen images or objects of contemporary memento mori. An entire wall of poignant indices, discoloured by time, was laid out in front of my eyes as an epitome of absence, yet they spoke to me of an irresistibly corporeal presence. Feeling visually insignificant but still refusing to take a selfie, I constantly asked to myself: what can be visible in the invisible?

Viktoria Binschtok, eclipse99 cluster (plane window, eclipse99, gold tool), 2014

Viktoria Binschtok, eclipse99 cluster (plane window, eclipse99, gold tool), 2014

Perplexed with this question, I kept pacing through other works in the fair until I came across Viktoria Binschtok’s cluster series at KLEMM’s. What caught my attention was the installation/grouping of the works more than what the images were of, because it was clear that the colour & composition combination was the determining factor to cluster these images. Then I recalled Paul Adair’s Circle Jerks (2012), whereby the artist had fed an image of a basketball to Google Images and sculpted the output of various round objects based on visually similar image finding algorithms. In a similar fashion, Binschtok utilizes reverse image search engine strategies of the Internet. Instead she reforms (selects, restages and manipulates) the results based on the input of her own images. In cluster formation, she then restructures our singular perception of what the image of an object is through what others collectively had photographed and uploaded. Hereby, the disorderly repetition mechanism of clustering is the key factor, which interrupts the continuum of photographic output as automation. For me, Binschtok’s work is another systematized way of disrupting what we are accustomed to see and photograph most. And, if these photographs are repetitively made available online, the confines of the original will be even more distorted through its constitutively (dis)similar digital other(s). Whilst the excess of all possible (digital) photography renders and presents what is photographable as gradually and potentially indiscernible, Binschtok’s work pleads the happy snapper for an agency of stuttering and stammering in the Everyday.

Marking these two aesthetically dissimilar yet conceptually correlated works as my personal highlights, I now introduce two more works that I was burning with desire to see in flesh before Paris Photo.

I begin with Joachim Schmid, whose works were both at Galerie Alain Gutharc and Robert Koch Gallery. His skillfully complex series Photogenetic Drafts (1991) is based upon an inquisitive product of national mistrust shown towards the medium of photography. Schmid carefully composed a provocative text in The Institute for the Reprocessing of Used Photographs, whereby he playfully and spatially posited photography as a red herring risk for the German public. From the pool of submitted images to this virtual institute, he then engineered a typology of 32 collages, which can be read as a mental topology of East/West Germany after the fall of Berlin Wall. The doubly partial face in the single photograph affirms the nation still to remain in the ruinations of submission, authority and manipulation.

Joachim Schmid, Photogenetic Draft #15, 1991/2001

Joachim Schmid, Photogenetic Draft #15, 1991/2001

Like Schmid, Christopher Williams’ works are equally revolutionary and witty, if not more critical. Williams, who had a very neat looking solo show at David Zwirner, is renowned for scrutinizing the medium of (commercial) photography by exposing the subject, object, photographer tripartite of consumerist agency. His works are primarily concerned about what the camera sees and how that mechanically sighted image sets itself in stone as a finished photographic product. In his technically immaculate, clinically displayed photographs, we basically see close-ups, cross-sections, or behind the scenes of the camera at work. His photographs demystify the magic in photography and in its fully reserved industry. Personally, I find his work to be particularly well suited to art fairs, for the respects in which their presence brings forth several legitimate but unanswerable questions about the medium and how the market is set to function.

Last but not least, I would like to mention Michael Reisch and Dan Holdsworth (SCHEUBLEIN + BAK), Chris McCaw and Alison Rossiter (Yossi Milo Gallery) Jim Campbell and Robert Currie (Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery), and Shirana Shahbazi (Galerie Bob van Orsouw), whom I also kept an eye out concerning representation, digital/analog antinomy, (anti)aesthetic abstraction, imaging time and index. Likewise, there were two books that deeply affected me, Inventario by Oscar Muñoz from Toluca Editions and Christoph Bangert’s War Porn published by Kehrer Verlag. All in all, despite my archaic concerns and misconceptions, I have not lost faith in these well-established art fairs thanks to all of these artists and galleries mentioned above.

To end on a lighter note, having discovered two very influential artists to my own thinking in art practice, I sincerely cherished the fair as a holistic platform for exposing a comprehensive genealogy of photography. With and in thinking about photographs during and after Paris Photo, I not only exposed myself to a (trans)flux of hybrid input but also rekindled my enthusiasm to photograph anything and everything again. In my modest opinion, this is the must-go fair for all photography enthusiasts and professionals, despite the rising star UNSEEN.

Yavuz is an emerging photographer currently completing his MA in Cultural Studies at Bilgi University in Turkey. For more information on Yavuz and his work, please visit his website.

Banner image: Laurent Pernot, The Citation, Hannah Arendt, 2014.

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