Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2014 part II

I have written about Richard Mosse’s work previously at The Photographers Gallery where they are mounting the Deutsche Börse work. Of the other three artists I didn’t expect to be drawn to Alberto Garcia-Alix’s work and I left it ‘till last, as it was closet to the exit from the fourth floor and knowing that coffee would be closer; but drawn to it I was. Russell Squires wrote about it here for the WeAreOCA site

I didn’t really feel any sense of the work from the images on the wall, certainly they were graphic, wonderfully printed and presented, but over the last few decades I have seen lots of very good prints, expertly made and created to draw the viewer to engage. These images weren’t any worse, nor perhaps any better at developing that discourse – but I felt it was (yet) another set of visually graphic images of an artist in torment, or perhaps an artist’s recording of his torment. What I hadn’t bargained for was the video.

The single images portrayed the said artist’s torment but I wasn’t ready to be engaged with it, I had purposefully walked right on by these mounted photographs to view the Lempert piece, that I had been looking forward to – the subject of another post – and had expected to walk right back after a cursory glance on my way to the coffee. There was though something about the audio (the soundtrack to the video) that perhaps triggered a purpose to linger longer than I had planned.

The deadpan, monotonic commentary that accompanied the video with, in the main, still images the sub-titled translation that worked extremely well. I wonder now whether there was a purpose in the English sub-titles given the need to focus on the image, then script, then image and maybe script again that forced a connection that a voice-over in English might not have achieved?

The language of this artist was very poetic and the complete experience of image/audio and text held me there on the viewing bench for the duration. I was transfixed.

“And time keeps moving backwards” the narrator is translated as saying, of course all photographs are memories – how could they be anything else? But the statement, in the context of the artist’s life, was all the more poignant for the story he narrated. Addiction is perhaps the single greatest act of selfishness that humans have devised for themselves and we saw those selfishnesses, heard them through the narration, how he continued to sacrifice, in the same way many addicts do, all those around him. And how those that travelled with him on that journey fell by the wayside. “My intentions are never honest” he says at one point, an addict slips and slides around the notion of veracity together with its implications. It is a prioritized life, that of an addict, and this video presented scenes of a life that slipped from lucidity to apparent lunacy.

What I took from this though was the power of the edit, over and above the visceral reaction to an artists depiction of himself in all his guises. As image crashed with text and it’s audio accompaniment presenting this viewer with a reaction that chimed with another of his sets of words, blandly expressed “they [the images] leave an echo in their wake”.