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28 August 2012

Grégoire Alexandre, Uchronies*

The Earth is neither round nor blue: it’s a cube, white, pierced through by a double door. In this cube, there are grottos of an immaculate whiteness and paper unicorns that wander across the valleys, steep flour mountains and women carrying, with the same momentum, a god-armchair; and then there are barren expanses, deserts of an absolute whiteness, punctuated by a few umbrellas and tripods in distress. No sun, no moon, no skies. Just a few lights, which come and go.

It is here, in this white cube, in this place outside of everything and with nothing, that the photographer Grégoire Alexandre fabricates his parallel worlds almost every day. The creator’s hubris is generally expressed with strips of Sellotape, scraps of paper and often studio accessories: polyboards, booms, umbrellas and reflectors. The mechanics of doing are usually hidden with care behind illusionist staging, but in Grégoire Alexandre’s work they play the main role. His parallel worlds don’t have the sugary flavour of languid, faraway dreams; they are here and now, in the studio, in the materiality of his four white walls and amongst all this aluminium and polystyrene paraphernalia. Artifice is exposed and it constantly reminds us that it is an image; yes, all of this is indeed cardboard, a playground for a photographer who constructs, assembles and stacks to a critical point of balance and sometimes breaks everything, stripping the studio bare until exposing its skeleton. Construct, undo, reconstruct. The studio, a perpetual system of constant renewal, is a living organism. Grégoire Alexandre observes these life cycles and confines the ‘after’ and the ‘asides’ to the shot, when the objects to be photographed have left the stage, or when the extras, while waiting, group together in a corner, a small human cell taking shape in this large, white and empty body.

The photographer puts to work constraint, place – these four white walls – and time – that of the commission, be it a publishing or advertising assignment – and his shots timed to the minute. It’s his Oulipo game, he who works, rather, he who does not restrain, the field of possibility. And then, we cannot omit the object at the centre of all this attention, the one that motivates these commissions: it is sometimes an article of designer clothing, sometimes a watch or a bag, by the occasion a bearer of artistic expression, and often asking to be carried and transcended by the image. A few strings, a little light, one or two accessories outside the frame that surreptitiously enter it, and here there is a parallel world that takes shape. Nothing spectacular in the photographer’s mises en scènes, everything is in the gesture, delicate. Like the simple white sheet that, through expert Origami folding, suddenly becomes a fantastic animal, the white cube explored by Grégoire Alexandre reveals territories where fable and poetry unfold.


Raphaëlle Stopin

* Uchronies : Alternate Histories



Exhibition venue: Église des Trinitaires, Rencontres d’Arles 2012.