Opening: Thursday, March 10, 2016, 19h
Exhibition: March 11 – April 22, 2016
Opening hours: Thu-Sat 12-18h, and by appointment
There’s a short film on the Internet: a five-year-old, twenty-minute documentary produced by the television channel Arte showing the Parisian photographer Camille Vivier at work. You see her in her studio, a look of concentration on her face as she peers through the viewfinder of her analog camera. She clicks the shutter release, advances the film, looks again, clicks again. Seated in front of her is a naked young woman, brightly illuminated with her arm on a vase. You see her roaming the streets of Paris, always on the look out for places, for objects, for the unusual, the bizarre, the surreal in the everyday. And you hear her talking about her work, what shapes her vision:
My pictures are always fictional, never documentary. My models become actors. I like the theatrical.”
She says the same things even today and her subject matter has hardly changed. You still come across them: naked female bodies in barren spaces, the curious objects, the strange places with even stranger sculptures that she often discovers by chance. And you still come across the same dreamy world that isn’t so interested in fully belonging to the one of today. When leafing through the portfolio of French photographer Camille Vivier it is easy to be tempted to do what so many often do: compare her art to that of famous men. To David Lynch, for example, and his popesque, morbid atmospheres. To Guy Bourdin and his overly artificial presentations of women. To Man Ray and his deliberate confusing of animate and inanimate bodies. Or even to Michelangelo Antonioni and his hard-edged details, or the melancholic slowness of his camera movements. And in rare cases you also think of Helmut Newton. The tendency is to ascribe all kinds of male influences to her work. But this is exactly what Camille Vivier is not: a man who looks at women. Vivier is a young woman who looks at other young women.
If I had to pick my ideal phase in life, it would probably be that of the teenager,” she says, “with everything that implies: the melancholy, the difficulty and pain of becoming a woman.”
This latent, gleaming gloominess in a world that is actually cheerful and playful is a characteristic typical of many of Vivier’s images. This is exactly what makes it so appealing. They are like memories, like an excerpt from a story, or a film of which you have only caught a brief moment. The same also holds true for her newest series titled Olympic, which she presents as part of her exhibition Simili at the Galerie für Moderne Fotografie starting March 10. The name of the series is taken from fabric swatches from an American catalog from the 1970s, each of which is stamped with “2149 Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles.” She discovered the catalog by accident at home and then affixed to the swatches her Polaroids of naked women she had accumulated over the years as studies. In combination, the elements act like clues to a riddle whose question we do not know. “For me the swatches evoke the myth of Hollywood, the glamor, the decadence,” says the photographer.
Vivier enjoys looking around Paris for exactly this kind of decadence in places where you least expect it: in the banlieues or suburbs, an “exotic” location for the artist who was born in the city. Armed with her camera, she roams around the suburbs, photographing bizarre, commissioned sculptures and architectural details. Her gaze transforms the factual into the abstract, sadness into something poetic. Vivier calls this estrangement, the poetic exaggeration of her subject matter simili, French for “fake”: something that masquerades as something else. A staircase becomes a women’s breast, a cave entrance the mouth of a monster, banal materials are disguised as highly prized. For Sample, another series presented in the exhibition, she combines these images taken on walks and trips with Polaroids of constructivist marionettes created by the Italian artist Luigi di Veronesi. This time she affixes them to monochrome pieces of cardboard, the surface that watercolorists like to use as framing for their images. “It might have the quality of a children’s book,” she says, “but then again not at all because Veronesi’s marionettes also have something unsettling about them. I like this ambiguity.” The bizarre, the theatrical, the feminine presented in a way that perhaps only a woman can—this is what makes Vivier’s world so special. To become immersed in it is a true pleasure.
Text: Annabelle Hirsch
Upcoming exhibition: Ingar Krauss »JENA PARADIES«
Opening: Thursday, April 28, 2016, 19-21h