I designed the exhibition "Le Diaphane & l'Obscur", presented at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, as a history of the slide in contemporary art. This is apparently the first time a photography museum has treated slides as original photographic works.
The exhibition presents some twenty historic and contemporary installations including pioneering works which have influenced the history of projected photography by Man Ray, Marcel Broodthaers, Michael Snow, Giovanni Anselmo and Maurizio Nannucci. It also includes installations which have become contemporary references, by Bertrand Gadenne, Jonas Mekas, Sarkis, Giuseppe Penone, Ger van Elk, Alain Fleischer, Gérard Collin-Thiébaut, Claude Closky, Luciano Castelli and Kimiko Yoshida.
The idea was to present a kind of archaeological account of the artistic appropriation of this photographic technique in which everything depends upon light, from the moment the photo is taken (where, as with all photography, light is necessary for the recording of the image), to the projection (where light is necessary for the image to appear).
The first original slides I discovered are two colour portraits of Hanina Bellegarde by Man Ray, dating from 1956. The first slide installation is a carrousel of Views of clouds by Marcel Broodthaers, dating from 1967. Maurizio Nannucci, who has made thousands of slides working continuously since the late sixties, is undoubtedly a pioneer for whom the transparent projected image constitutes a powerful artistic medium and one of the most pertinent aspects of his experiments with light. Bertrand Gadenne has made the intangibility of the transparent image the sole object of his work over the past twenty years. Today, he is undoubtedly the artist who has achieved the greatest and most pertinent mastery of the projection process. He designed the small fish swimming along inside the streetside window of the MEP, transforming the gallery into a giant aquarium for people passing by at night.
This exhibition is thus an opportunity to celebrate the specificity of the transparency, whose almost immaterial and virtual image only comes into existence thanks to light. The fragility of the almost intangible medium of the slide gives the projected image its characteristic simplicity and potential for enchantment.
The entire art of the slide hinges on the modesty of this technology which depends merely upon the presence of light. Beyond its technological sobriety, the slide exists in obvious continuity with the new media, where images are also made by light. Digital images are calculated at the speed of light, whereas projected images, whose diaphanous quality contrasts starkly with blind, matte surfaces, allow light to pass through them.
Ultimately, the true medium of the transparency is light, which renders the image visible by materialising it in an immaterial way. Without projection, the diaphanous transparent image remains intangible. Without light, it cannot exist: it remains shut away in invisible darkness. In this sense, the projected image lies somewhere between the immaterial and the virtual, between the intangible and the invisible, between appearance and disappearance.
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