“For a long while the indexed nature of photography laid at the heart of theoretical discourse on this medium. For Rosalind Krauss as for Roland Barthes, Henri Van Lier, Philippe Dubois and others, the contiguous relationship between the image and its referent was one of the ontological foundations of photography. Today, a photographic image is not necessarily a trace of “that which was” in front of the camera. For digital revolution has come along, upsetting the situation by freeing the medium from its assignment to represent reality.
To afford “the humble servant of the arts” (and of many other things besides) to finally stand for itself, there was only a short step. Artists of the exhibition “One Step Beyond” have taken it. From different backgrounds, they have turned their back to the dogma of the indexability, they aknowledge other qualities to a photograph and – even if they sometimes push it around as to better understand its essence -they take it for what it is: a material to work on, an autonomous object that unfolds in space, is freed from its frame and offers a surface with depth. Therefore, if Hannah Whitaker still works with film photography, she establishes a critical distance towards the represented object by placing hand-cut paper screens in front of the film at the shooting stage. The photograph made through this method seems to acquire a third dimension which disrupts our perception and makes us aware that any image capture results from a more or less elaborate device. Jordan Tate seems to operate with the same type of reversal since his works tend to point to the processes involved in the workflow that makes them emerge: exploring different aspects of the “making of” a digitally reworked photograph , he highlights what does not usually appear. In his photographic installation New Work # 169, the image becomes a sculpture – a tautological one, furthermore – but preserves its integrity as it keeps its materiality, that of lightweight paper. This shift to a spatiality of the image is also at work by other artists such as Letha Wilson whose photographs of American landscapes are transformed into a material she recasts, kneads, experiences to create meaning. Similarly, pieces of Constance Nouvel, Décor XIII and Persistants, silver prints on plaster, seem to defy different spaces, those of reality, of the pictorial representation, of the three-dimensional support in which the image is inserted in a dialectic and poetical manner. Away from this elegant simplicity, Kate Steciw ‘s pieces appear at first sight more complex, not to say crazy! The artist works with commercial photographs from image banks and online shopping sites that she collects using the metadata tags. These images are then fragmented, distorted by softwares, and then cut again and gathered in large abstract compositions close to collage or painting. Nothing breaks through these buryings of crushed photographs accompanied by their keywords, except shapes, textures and vibrant colors, attractive and trivial, as if the artist had striven, by digital alchemy, to extract the pith and substance of advertising imagery. Finally, the German Christiane Seiffert adopts a very different approach, off the wall and closer to performance: she photographs herself “like a postcard ” becoming either a cityscape, an armchair, an orchid or an electrical outlet, suggesting that it is not the image but the body of the artist that bears the mimetic function of photography. By this absurd shift and the choice of “trash” aesthetic close to amateurism, she’s teasing the “beautiful picture” and the ability of photography to be faithful to reality. No, it’s not a representation of reality that the artists gathered in this exhibition invite us to look at, but it is photography itself; “Hey you, don’t watch that, watch this! ” they seem to say, as in the injunction that opens the famous – though a little forgotten – piece of the “Madness” group, One Step Beyond.” – Isabelle Le Minh