Carte blanche to Emmanuel d'Autreppe

Paysages involontaires | Involuntary Landscapes
6/11/19 - 12/01/20

Closed from 23/12/19 to 2/01/20

Fr | NL


© Edouard Decam, Hoover, 2016

Stroller, hiker, climber, lookout, surveyor, topographer, but, above all, photographer, Edouard Decam tirelessly works his way over immense mountain landscapes (including the Pyrenees, where he has settled) recording the architectural and sometimes violent traces of human presence, and their relationship with the landscape. After completing his studies in 2003, Decam has pursued a career that has combined the plastic arts with documentary photography and film-making, feeding as much off the built environment as the landscapes he has chosen - what he calls “areas of contact between space and time” - or the marks left on the landscape by humans, or the experimental thicknesses of the variable media he uses, or the unusual art installation spaces he fills.

His exhibition this autumn at Contretype follows a distinctive, novel, diagonal path through the various portfolios he created in twelve years, from “Landscape Scale” (his project on dams that started in 2006) to his recent animated works in 2018. They expose the telluric, undulatory and aerial ramifications of his work, that sits almost precisely at the point where the rich aesthetic vocabulary of a sculptor meets the distanced rigour of a documentary photographer: his images use tight, frontal framing, a minimised sky and an out-of-reach horizon.

In short, to rather over-simplify things: is this an exhibition of photos of landscapes (given that there is no landscape any more that remains untouched by humans) or of architecture? Is it about implication or contemplation? These questions are raised at the outset by the contradiction in the exhibition’s title. Whatever we may think, the photographer neither makes judgments nor takes sides: he seeks, observes, records, depicts and imagines connections. Decam hasn’t waited for the wave of ecological threats and climate changes, which, alas, only became apparent when it could no longer be avoided, to depict in a critical manner the ironic beauty or the absurdity of the large-scale communication strategies used by humans to dominate their environment: his research into hydraulic, spatial and glacial systems feeds his incessant questioning of our origins and the direction in which we are going. By doing this parsimoniously with a studied slowness and by opting for traditional medium-format film instead of choosing digital, which is much easier to use and change, Decam also - deliberately or involuntarily? - places himself in the already developed framework of the economy-ecology of looking.

The title “Involuntary Landscapes” in its own way is already questioning our scale of values and recognition with regard to the exhibition. Is it high art or low art? Are they works of art or not?
Are they complete or incomplete or will they never be finished? Are they a cause for concern or worthy of admiration? In Decam’s works, these values can sometimes swing wildly, between earth and heaven, close or far away, or between what nature has made and what humans have built: it is often difficult to decide what supports what, who undermines the land or who maintains it in a fragile equilibrium. What remains of the architectural gesture and what were the photographer’s intentions? What about the goodwill of the - inanimate - subjects of the photographs? What has become of the “compassionate protocol” (to hijack this strange idea of writer-photographer Hervé Guibert) which presumes our attention to, or our complicity - or even empathy - with the world that surrounds us?
By allowing us to rebaptise “landscape”, nature always gives the slight impression of having let us stab it in the back; the adjective “involuntary” should not imply victimisation: on the contrary it should stress soberly, but clearly, the end of a frank exchange on the same level, the breaking of a contract or the end of innocence. Perhaps that is what gives it an almost poignant sense of what is hidden and plays there, in the dense, mute, multiple strata of the images, as much as in those of the landscapes.

Emmanuel d’Autreppe, Curator, September 2019.

Translation: Chris Bourne.



© Edouard Decam, Langmusi, 2017


Edouard Decam,
Paysages involontaires


L’image sans nom Publisher, Liège, 2019.
With the collaboration of Contretype and la Casa de Velàzquez, Madrid.
Size: 28 x 21 cm, 48 pages, 4-colour printing. Soft-cover.
Words: Emmanuel d’Autreppe.
Conception: Edouard Decam, Emmanuel d’Autreppe, Matthieu Litt.
Graphic Design and pre-press: Matthieu Litt.
Limited to 100 specimen.
Price: 15 euros.