In one word…en un mot

Month: October, 2012


Photomonth, Rich mix, films by Photographers, 4th November 2012, 35-37 Bethnal Green Road, London


It all began in the most mundane of places, some deem lit bathroom, a damp murky floor, a dark corner. No one seemed to notice something growing there. I found it amazing that once again, a form of life found the insane will to emerge in a particularly hostile environment where frankly even humans were in hygienic peril. The absurdity of it and the vulnerability of this object inspired me to record it. I did this every day for several weeks. The object struck me for its resemblance to an ear and later to a foetus. I thought of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet opening scene, and as the editing work progressed, it found echoes of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001Odyssey‘s cosmic inferno and the last scene. Animations by Jan Švankmajer and the Brothers Quay also inspired the abstract visceral undertone of this project.

 The mushroom took a life of its own and dictated a new identity. It spoke of primordial formations in the depth of the Earth, then, turned into an embryonic utterance in the eye of a storm in the aftermath of the Big Bang. It congealed and exploded day by day, a figment of life intertwined with a figment of imagination.

It reflects a view of the world from the perspective of the unborn or the departed; of the outsider as the observed but equally of the witness who cannot grasp the essential substance of their condition and for this reason continually seeks to possess the flux of life, an impossible solution, the cinematic product being here a closer approximation to a form of immortality since time is recaptured endlessly within the experience of the medium as it unravels a fictional truth before us via montage interlinked with footage.

From a technical perspective, the aspect ratio is inconstant and was kept this way as an asymmetrical rhythmical beat that points to the unpredictable irregularity of our psychological vision of any particular scene or object.

Although there is no linear narrative, the composition parallels our empirical knowledge and our instinctive comprehension of the cosmology we belong to. It refers certainly to the first moments of universal creation but also paradoxically to a more mythological story of human evolution. More over, the sequence develops as a sensation, evoking the internal perception of a world we cannot yet see or touch as it would be in a womb in a state of perpetual transformation. It is a glance into the primeval cave of shadows and lights, prior to our entry into the world of physis. For this reason, it resonates with chaos and the feeling of a sublime solitude. A world latent within us as much as it is inaccessible outside of us. The images are constructed, deconstructed, reconstructed, out of a vast archive of previous analogue records and various video sessions.

Cell Divide Osmosis 144

Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012

HOLD BACK RENGAINE by Rachid Djaïdani.The question of freedom and gender in traditional Algerian and African societies within a secular context


What is important today? What is a pressing concern? What brings people from every corner of this planet to gather under one roof, and to listen so attentively? We are desperate to hear what the noises of the city constantly drown, desperate to hear some sense out of the cacophony of the mundane. This festival was admittedly about Algeria, it celebrated the 50th anniversary of the liberation of…the country?…the people?…and this is exactly what came to be questioned. Who was liberated? It became clear that some people are indeed more equal than others. Who? It appears that under the protective and self justifying yoke of most religions, the male will be the more equal part of the human equation, and that this weighs in the balance with such imponderable mass that our civilization has lost the meaning of humanity itself. In ancient traditions linked to alchemy and some of the gnostic gospels, the original principle of our existence was hermaphroditic. Jesus also hinted at this principle when he said that our spirit is neither male nor female, which cancels out the first premise. It makes sense. What is a mind? Has it got sexual attributes? Does it look sexually tempting to either sex when we reveal portions of it? Yet, this continuing erroneous idea of gender separation and gender discrimination persists as if we had forgotten the simplest axioms of logic and common sense. We let a faceless mind dictate our life for peace of mind. We let two equal halves of the population rage against one another, torture each other, blame each other, destroy the possibility of true love, abort our dreams of friendship, repress our most profound aspirations, twist our instincts to match the general consensus, itself the artificial product of an institution directed and dictated by a cast we know nothing of other than its absence from ordinary life. And what ever this cast, this refined elite, this barbaric aristocracy, this mythical sociopathic race has decided to inflict and to impress on the populace, we believe blindly, we submit to its debilitating dogma, we follow like miserable loyal dogs who will not even trust their own senses when confronted with new directives commanding us to cause devastation, suffering, misery, because one woman has supposedly seduced one man, long ago, under the hungry gaze of a god who no doubt had coveted this being…that is had he/it existed. In matriarchal mythology, the stories are of course significantly biased to the female, and the roles are partially reversed. Eve lives in all of us, Adam is not a man, god is a failure, humanity has lost its soul and the universe is a black hole, because we have denied the most essential aspect of our being, freedom.  We are ruled by an inane idea, and our liberation will escape us so long as we perpetuate this myth for the benefit of our pitiful survival. Why pitiful?…because it comes at a greater price, a price greater than physical comfort, greater than law and order, greater even than superficial health, greater than moral values…this price is self-knowledge. And if we continue this line of thought, we will find that, as a result of our search for self knowledge, we will gain all the necessary tools to understand others, the world around us, right and wrong, the purpose and consequences of our actions, without prejudice, self righteousness, or preconceptions; we will comprehend the true meaning of compassion. Of all the speakers, one marked me most, Zahia Salhi

whose subject of discussion was Women in today’s Algeria: towards less gender inequality  and the ideas emulated rejoined those exposed in a movie that was screened earlier although not as part of the festival: Hold Back by Director Rachid Djaïdani.


The film is shot in reality hand held style, grainy, raw, with much natural lighting, it includes scenes of actors on a set, a la Francois Truffaut, and the cinematic organic quality is close to Dogma, “the bare essential” brought about by Lars van Triers and Thomas Vinterberg in the 1990s with “Festen” (“The Celebration”), but also close to Éric Rohmer’s , Le Rayon Vert, 1986, and from an added social commentary and philosophical perspective,  to Robert Guédiguian, as in  Marius and Jeannette, 1997, and La ville est Tranquille 2000.

The first scene opens on a couple, young, innocent, exchanging soft words and gestures, but this idyllic vision is soon inter-cut with the aggressive walk of a man, hard stubble, squinting eyes, like a bird of prey. We follow him, reluctantly, he is looking for someone; he is looking for his sister. The two worlds that seemed so far apart are slowly but terrifyingly drawing closer, to end in the final collision, yet, in this journey, we are taken into the intricate syntax of the family circle, a circle that, as it tightens around the novitiate, drains the living day light out of him or her alike. On one side, Christian bigotry, on the other, Muslim arrogance; both portrayed as equally parochial, insensitive, reactionary, immutable, and catastrophic. Sabrina, the sister, loves Dorcy, who loves her. This seems simple, and should flow towards a natural conclusion. Their dreams are full of sweetness. But the world around them is made of a different material. It is angular, intransigent… inhuman. Dorcy comes from Christianized Africa, she is from North Africa, but Islam is the religion of her family. Dorcy’s mother rejects her on the basis of the color of her skin. She is adamant and will not change her mind, prepared to disown her son who in her eyes commits a crime against his ancestors and his race. She has no intention of harming the girl who in her eyes does not really exist, since her maternal and more so moral judgment prevails over her son’s. Sabrina has forty brothers. And one by one, they are informed of her plan. Some are outraged, the younger one in particular is incensed. The horde grows in numbers, and the hunt begins. We are gripped by the violence of their reaction, by their dreadful commitment to a brutal interference, by the will to divide two lives from one another, and each life from themselves. They feel absolute in their righteousness, the sentence is passed without doubt. The family will be the laughing stock, the blood will be soiled, allah forbids it. Who knows the mind of god as well as the ignorant? In the streets of Paris, the long laborious chase is on. Slimane, the self appointed eldest who ponders heavily on his sense of justice, moral duty and fatherly responsibility, is involved with a white Jewish woman. He promised to marry her, but does not have the courage to bring her into the family fold…he knows he is committing an aberration, and that the 39 other brothers would prevent such a sacrilege. One of the brothers refuses to help him in locating the address of the “negro” lover, his outlook is different, but his life is filled with other issues, with a purpose too. Slimane has not much of a life. He is lost. He must find a mission…and to rescue his sister from evil is a supreme guaranty of worthiness. There ensue three horrifying moments. Those moments are revelations. Dorcy is kidnapped, Sabrina is cornered by the brothers, but always manages to banalize their attempt at straitening her. Their language becomes saturated with divine retribution, with the militant obsession of the believer’s avenger. Anger is displaced by emotionless calculation. The audience is therefor led to expect a determinant action. The audience stops breathing; under excruciating torture, the almost naked body of Dorcy expires. We are stunned, appalled, puzzled. The lights suddenly flood the room, Dorcy can get up. This was an act, and what an act. The director had urged him to deploy pure unadulterated emotion, but here, we are at the end of our tether, the injustice and the psychopathic savagery of the execution having suddenly added a new realism to the story, a layer of visceral truth. We know Dorcy’s fate is pending and we hope for his escape. But since he is ignorant of his new status, that is, the status of victim, or rather, of the sentenced man, fusing his existence to the terrifying world of religious extremism in some morbid dance, his path draws nearer to that of his assassin as the film progresses towards a dark yet illuminating denouement that will transpire to leave the last question unanswered. Slimane is a coward, abused by his own subjugation to the debilitating mechanisms of an institution that runs in his blood. He confronts a man we had been introduced to in a scene where Sabrina is involved in a deep and emotional conversation with him, They embraced  and this alerted us to the undeniable fact of their deep closeness. This man is the eldest brother, shunned by the family for 30 years…because of his homosexuality. Slimane despises him as much as he despises himself. He has bought a gun and points this gun at his brother who simply tells him, not afraid, as Slimane always is, “shoot me, I am already dead”. Slimane carries this fear inside him, calling it faith, calling it his raison d’ être. He and the brother, the true eldest, stare at one another, one with love, lost love…the other with hatred. Slimane leaves. We know whom he will meet next. Around a street corner, young Dorcy feels his piercing gaze scratch the side of his face. He stops and turns towards the self appointed executioner. Everything stops here in this slow motion mortal coil, two gazes once more, entranced, desperate, ascertaining the destiny of each man. The tragedy rises silently, and the eyes glisten in the deem light. Both characters are caught in a web, and at the centre the gigantic spider watches on, assured of her victory. Slimane cries, his tears are filled with the immense pain of humanity imprisoned in its own irrevocable stratagems, atrophied by centuries, millenniae of soul-destroying politics. Finally, Slimane speaks…”forgive me”  he simply whispers. As Dorcy walks away, his back exposed to us, we are not sure whether, it is his spirit or his body…if Slimane has already shot him, or if he will before Dorcy reaches the next corner. But we know all of these people are ensnared inexorably, and will soon or later perish for the sake of an indestructible lie. We know, that the audience is made of victims and perpetrators, sisters and brothers, lovers and haters…that it is up to us to make this film a relic, to turn this condition of ours into a thing of the past.

Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012




Art of Imperfection, October 2012

Doomed Gallery :  The Art of Imperfection
An exhibition curated by Pascal Ancel Bartholdi.
Negative/Positive, the permutations of the photographic phenomenon
With Pascal Ancel Bartholdi

, Ryuji Araki:

Each object that I create has a human perspective, as you could imagine every object having a different appearance of style and feeling.  These objects were composed with the thought of a particular position in society. All creatures have their own consciousness and an irreplaceable lifetime. It is hard to think there is a solution, a better future for our society, however we cannot go back to the past; we, as humanity, will advance into the future.

Two prints – Feeling of Life: 91.5cm X 91.5cm Digital C-type Matt Print. 5 Edition
Feeling of Life X: 91.5cm X 91.5cm Digital C-type Matt Print. 5 Edition
Two prints – Human System: 70cm X 50cm Giclee Print
3×3=9G : 70cm X 50cm Giclee Print.
One print – 11.3.11: 48cm X 48cm Digital C-type Matt Print.
Five prints – Square 01: 30cm X 30cm Digital C-type Matt Print.
Square 02: 30cm X 30cm Digital C-type Matt Print.
Square 03: 30cm X 30cm Digital C-type Matt Print.
Square 04: 30cm X 30cm Digital C-type Matt Print.
Shell: 30cm X 30cm Digital C-type Matt Print.

and Bernhard Deckert :  father and son (1st attempt)’, 2012

„do it again, it’s not good enough! do it again!“  „it’s perfect, it’s more then perfect. full stop! …I can always call it ‚1st attempt’…“

‚father and son (1st attempt)’ is about dreams, questions, answers and more questions. About the perfect, mistakes and control.

It’s work in progress and will always be. I’m working with digital and traditional photography, with sculpture and chemical processes. By challenging the ‚rules’ of the media, I work until the image feels right, until it moves me. The process is a conversation, changing a clear idea and starting point with every pixel, grain, stroke.

2 c-type prints, black and white, handprocess, approx. 39×47“, unique copies

In the nineteen century, john Hershel made a surprising discovery described thus in the focal encyclopaedia of photography: “latent images could be prepared which could only be seen when breathed on …acquiring in this process an extraordinary intensity “This statement contains the enigmatic contradictory nature emulated throughout the development of the photographic phenomenon.

Is photography an art? Can it produce art? Can this art relate to previous modes of expression? Do we betray the so-called function of photography by interlacing its process and that of other forms of expression? Can painting be related with photography without losing its organic edge? Can we see photography with fresh eyes and allow it to expand and transform as an art in fact able to embrace all other mediums? Is photography a basic mode of seeing preceding our own conscious vision of the world and as such do we in fact go back in time by allowing this instinctive device to modify our perception?

Michel Foucault wrote once of humanity as a mere trace about to dissolve: “Man will be erased like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.” Since the dawn of our time, the humanoid has performed acts of self idolatry parallel to intense rituals of universal absorption using one of the most instantaneous and natural methods, the imprint of his signature, the sign of his presence, the ideogram representing him most acutely and accurately, the hand in particular, a predecessor to portraiture, in particular through the medium of photography and painting. This is perhaps where the affiliation truly lies, this act of affirmation in the face of oblivion, This portrait of the human self however can and will take many forms, especially in relation to a more internal or mystical search. We can find examples of this in some of the oldest traces of our creative presence as with the hand stencils in the Altamira caves. This also puts another determining factor of rapprochement between painting and photography, the use of a two-dimensional surface as a carrier of a three dimensional subject and as a signifier of a space invisible to the eye. It seems photography has evolved along the lines of the human embryo encompassing in its fulgurant journey the evolution of life itself. Its natural occurrence predates human utilisation, as it is hinted at in John Hershel’s comment, where he discovers a process that may manifest without him. I recall having left a page of tracing paper pinned to a wall in which words had been cut out. Upon removing it, a friend and I realized an imprint had been made, a negative where the paper had not obstructed the light. This was the result of a natural phenomenon called photography. Having found what appeared as a saviour from romantic illusionism, our hopes for scientific perfection has seized and arrested the fluidity of a vision tuned in the very wave of time/space continuum.

No less relevant and another area of contention is the compositional property of painting as opposed to the purported acompositional property of photography. Edgar Degas shows us that having embraced photography as a worthy medium with which he experimented daringly, his use of composition drastically challenged pictorial tradition, showing the tell-tale signs of a lens based perspective, the eye now cornered into the apparatus of ‘mechanical vision’ deconstructing the institutional static model. A fusion of two arts at war with one another was beginning to take place, and it became clear photography would become a hot bed of revolutions, admitting tradition as well as avant-garde on an equal footing. Along the line a third permutation occurred, the digital Coptic regime. Once again however, even this apparently monopolistic medium was incorporated in the evolution of a medium thriving on innovation. Instead of a clean linear brake, the vision was transformed and its complexity multiplied resulting in a rebirth of obsession for the root of its application. In 2012, while humanity drowns in virtual images of itself, certain artists use photography as a metaphoric tool, as did certain painters, suggesting this particular medium despite its ability to be reproduced can also produce unique portals into the deeper folds of consciousness where traditions and conventions are superseded by imagination and poetry. Instead of saving us from art, photography proves we cannot evolve without it, although a tendency to impose symmetry with the patina of false perfection has impeded this momentum. As Orson Wells quoting Kipling says in his momentous movie F for fake: “And the devil asked…It is pretty but is it Art?” One could venture that without the devil and his curiosity, the detail is dissolved in the banality of a perfect and pretty world. Raw beauty is not pretty as Orson Wells fully demonstrated.
This show includes three artists who make use of this medium with a conscious disregard for flatness, reproducibility and static design entering the quantum realm by unifying the instant and the eternal the distant and the local. Photography moving with a body, transmuted into a personal understanding of the Mandala

among natural forms or fathomed as receptacle of visceral and psychic phenomena, with an accolade to the Dada artists, the anonymous visionaries of medieval times and the creative shamans who painted on rocks more than 15 thousand years ago.

Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012



REVIEW: Mythed , at Doomed Gallery, a dual show with Karlos Armandariz and Chloé Meunier

We enter the scene through pixelated eyes, the work of Karlos Armandariz.

There are rectangular shapes across the walls, they are dotted, multi-coloured, inscrutable…at least until we re-adjust our optics and gather enough information to link one dot to another, then many to others and fashion an image that makes sense, no longer abstracted but coherent; that is we no longer see this as a semiological representation inviting us to ponder on the development of remote communication and object/subject relation, removed from our sense of actuality …we are confronted with other eyes watching us, or so they appear; a gaze , a human gaze. I will suppose I know nothing of their origin, or anything about the reason for this display, and I prefer it this way for now. From very far out, a parallel universe, these dots congregate into a meaningful constellation, and through this gathering of evidence, the connection between the viewer and the mind of the artist behind the work is achieved. The image grows in our conscious mind reflecting a path already taken. It re-forms as we intend to decipher, so long as we keep enough distance. We remain on the margin, and this allows us to encompass a wider perception. But we are compelled to come closer, like moths to the flame. What would Voltaire’s Candide see? Would we come to the same conclusions…we must cultivate our garden? These eyes draw us to them, some soft, others cold, some vague, others focused, but we ourselves lose focus as we gravitate towards their point of singularity where all coherence, all totality dissolves, disintegrates, and all these eyes become an amalgam of strange undefined digitalised objects floating in white static space. Is this not how it can be with other human beings? The closer we believe ourselves to be to them, the less sense they make, the less we understand them. The parts that once came to a logical sum are divided by an expanse we had not suspected, and the idea or nature of which we cannot grasp, let alone enter. Those eyes lead to emptiness, but not necessarily an emptiness of meaning or humanity; a void echoing the distance that separates us from one another.

In two large prints, a person reveals a fold of their character unexplained to the world… until now. It is really more. But we cannot fail to notice the binary principle at work, a principle we all fall prey to whether we accept it or not. In one of the sumptuous images, a man, unequivocally male is tending to his dressing toilette. He is looking away from us, as if unaware he is being watched or worse, fixed onto a film. But we suspect it is an act. He plays his part to the letter. Yet, as a man, we would expect him to look back. He however is caught in a state of passivity. Next to him, a woman stares at us from what we could almost assume is the throne of a queen. She is in control; she projects her persona fully clothed, fully armed and certain of her success. There is no doubt, this is a woman and she aims at men as the epitome of female seduction. She is dressed to kill, her gaze is powerful yet imperceptibly sexual. We learn, if we deign read, this is one and the same person. Should we know more about this individual without drifting into philosophising gossip? He calls himself he, and he calls this ‘he’ a “transformatist”.

We look again at the man. We hardly noticed it but now, it is clear. He wears tights and an article of lingerie. His face is still unhindered by the painterly layers that will transform him into his idea of a woman.

Even more striking and more controversial is the video piece. This may cause a certain unsettling in some viewers who did not expect to watch the transformation so closely. We are, as everyone knows from the age old photo-documentary discourse, voyeurs , uninvited into the personal drama of complete strangers. This video is the product of a five year partnership between the artist Chloé   Meunier and Marilyn. We are therefor evidently not on a level with the depth and complexity of the character or the creative relationship manifested in the film. One member of the audience appeared a little dismayed by it and preferred the detached images of eyes…safer in a way. The film opens with a pan shot that moves across wall paper, palm trees in garish colours, a Miami scenery, a utopic holiday photo, the fantasy grows darker and recedes to open onto a close up of a body, so close up it is more like a topographic analysis, a body de-moulded into a territory where armies from opposite nations battle for supremacy. Which will conquer, be victorious and overrule the past of the other?  We have from our earliest hour been the passive receptacle of a binary language and adopted subsequently certain behaviours which have been decreed natural, yet the product of relentless indoctrination. This indoctrination has passed into the collective unconscious, it carries with it the parasites of religious dogma.

We see a human being undressing and re-dressing ; he is naked before us, psychologically; a whole history of repression written in his demeanour, his gestures, his body language. There congregate his aspirations and contradictions. We may refuse to comply, but the morality upon which the building of civilisations is founded, this bedrock of the species’ survival impregnates even our desires, the perception of ourselves, and the way we relate to others. We see this individual shifting almost violently, mechanically from one pole to the other, caught in a vicious circle of two dualistic personas, neither of which truly fits.  Still, each has become a default support for his confused psychology, a reflection of ours, a psychology in search of an Eden, rendered inaccessible by the character he has chosen to impose on himself, merging with his identity, braking it in two equally caricatural halves and believable only because both correspond to the habitual model we all rely on to recognise one another.

The music is more of a melancholy refrain. It is a melting meeting of notes sliding sideways into a non descript melody. It stops at the very moment where suddenly, Marilyn’s face pushes outward, or is it inward?  Facing us in the fullness of its transformation, its unequivocal identity, the woman our society has fashioned to re-condition the psyche into forgetting its universal wholeness; to give it a manageable shape, and incorporate it into the ‘control-grid’ in order to manufacture a functional automaton fit for a world of hyper productivity, i.e. work and pro-creation. The model imposed is archaic but has been adapted to modern living, inserted into a language steeped in preconceptions, prejudice and false assumptions, yet the only one we know.  And in this sense, neither feminism nor machismo can lead to the solving of our ills. Humanism, that is, contemporary humanism, at a tangent with linear thinking, what I would call flatliner thinking, a humanism therefor encompassing male/female/other in equal measure, a wave band that will override the barcode of the institutional structure of society, is the only possible way of deconstructing the convention that will either wise continue to surpass our true nature. Marilyn could not stretch his imagination far enough, and henceforth became a mirror of our own distorted views of humanity, a mirror that will either shatter or enclose us entirely.

Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012