Published on December 22nd, 2014 | by Pascal Ordonneau0
Alexia Monduit at Gallery Vu
Alexia Monduit is on exhibition at « Gallery Vu », rue Saint-Lazare à Paris 75009, until January 10th, 2015. Alexia Monduit lives and works in Paris. She is primarily an actress who performs in the theatre and movies. As far as photography is concerned, this is her first exhibition. The Galerie Vu artistic director is often taking risks on young photographers. This gallery is very much involved in Northern European and anglo-saxon artistic production.
My view of this exhibit, my feelings when looking at Alexia’s work, drove me to this thought : Alexia was showing her artwork at the viewer’s own risk! What I mean is that : it is not often said that not only artists are at risk. Both when they are pushing on their camera button, and when they are agreeing on exhibitions for their photos. The public, «les regardeurs ou spectateurs», are also involved in this risk taking. Of course, one never sees a spectator being transformed into a statue, nor vaporised, or changed into a mummy because of an incoercible artistic emotion. What is called « Firenze Syndrome» is not frequent : the onlooker, usually in Firenze «Office Gallery», or inside a small, beautiful church in the midst of Tuscan vineyards, is facing a piece of primitive, Italian work. All of a sudden, he is so moved by the beauty of the painting that he becomes stunned, fascinated, and then bursts into flowing tears. Eventually, he falls down on the ground, crying and shouting out as if caught in an epileptic fit. Too much beauty, too much emotion can do harm to sensitive people and can cause some mental and esthetic disorders !
What have these « diseases » got to do with Alexia Monduit’s photos? Which kinds of risks do viewers have to be aware of ? To what extent do they have to come to share the artist’s standpoint ?
So many questions vis à vis Alexia Monduit’s photos. Nothing surprising : the way she acts as a photographer is nothing less than easy. Alexia’s photos neither show nice singing little birds, nor small kids walking along a street in Montmartre carrying two or three bottles of wine. Her photos are telling us the story of having hand to hand combat with herself. This is an intimate fight during which she has been taking all the risks. A fight with a camera, a fight to get an image out of her brain, out of her body, out of her pain, as if she were struggling for her very personality and for the dramas that are surging within her. In this fight, taking a photo is but stripping off clothing, undressing herself, forcing herself to the wall of morality, decency or aesthetic constraints.
Can we dare to say that a camera is scalpel like ? Or like scissors or like a chainsaw? Whichever tools do not matter. What is meaningful is that they are designed to open up a body and slash the skin so that you can see inside. They help to make it clear that images do not uniquely show inner pieces that come to light. It is also intimacy that has been sought out and revealed : what is «inside» both mentally and physically? This is the insides dragged out from the deepest part. The insides you have to go through even though you would have to move «à l’aveugle»; this would be the sole means of getting the image out of both the artist’s mind and body, and making it emerge from the apparatus. At this stage, before the picture is printed, the artist is left with the chemistry of photography. Alexia’s work then relies on manipulations, as if the film was nothing more than a sort of raw material; it is changed through optical and chemical interferences which result in doubling certains parts of the pictures and even trippling them just for the artist to be assured that everything has been adressed. As far as she is so closely concerned, she then behaves as if she were in front of a weird looking-glass, as if she would be convinced that the picture has definitely become « herself ». At the end of this process viewers can finally be entitled to look at « her » pictures.
The model of the models that Alexia’s photos show, it is a picture that has been taken out of the very depth of her body, out of the very length of the years that physically and mentally mold her, out of injures : the photo of an animal carcass, red with bloody muscles, a picture with red colours that are not typical to her work. Too easy as an image, you would think. We would then have to go along the path of her conscience at the moment when it is making its way up to the surface of her skin and of her sight. This would be nudity, plainly offered and shouted out; figures much too colourful, both hesitating between pain and caricature ; faces that have not made up their mind about whether they have to look or they have to stand up like an image waiting to be looked at. All of them would be comprised in her own gazing at herself, coloured visage grimmed with smiling traits, with red lips and white teeth. Also the truth about Alexia might come out from a photo of her visage which show a greenish face.
In front of all these slices of life, in front of this life displayed piece by piece, as if it were but fresh flesh, the viewer’s choice is twofold : whether he quits or keeps on staring at Alexia’s pictures. Whether he stands in front of them, or whether he comes back again. In both cases this is just because he has become convinced that what he is looking at is nothing else but true life. Alexia’s exhibit is not about beauty, nor about the « good ». What is played out does not make our senses flattered, nor our eyes enchanted. Here photos are about life. Life with its dangers and risks. This one life that spectators must take a risk to see.
Are things that we cannot say – unspeakable – the same as things we cannot see? Does « indicible/unspeakable» takes us toward « invisible ». Are these identical words meant to tell us about the same thing from different points of view ?
Alexia Monduit’s art of photography is in very close interelationship with some other artists. She belongs to the same universe as Geoffrey Silverthorne, Christopher Stromhôlm, Anders Petersen, Antoine D’Agata, and Diana Michener. In this world, she is building up her personal viewpoint. A world where there is nothing that cannot be said, nothing that cannot be shown.