16.02.2018

Michel Lamoller and the Flatness that Attracts

Berlin-based artist Michel Lamoller has a very special bond with Greece, and Athens in particular. In recent years, the seemingly endless cityscape of Athens has inspired many of his signature layered cutouts, where he cuts through a stack of identical images to create illusions of depth and disorientation. In his solo exhibition at Nitra Gallery in Athens Lamoller presents new works that continue his exploration into flatness, but also play with the perspective and distorted volume of banal objects. In the following essay, the exhibition's curator expands on Lamoller's practice and the background of the new works seen at the gallery.

Text by Alexandra Athanasiadou

What do we see when we encounter Μichel Lamoller’s work? Does one consider his artifacts as fragments of a world where the finite is turned into infinite, or does the viewer perceive them as an act of deconstruction?

Michel Lamoller states that he has had a love/hate relationship with photography. This oppositional, yet all-encompassing statement can be reflected on the works. By using photography as a material, thus twisting its original use in a way, (probably reflecting the ‘hate’ part of his disposition) Lamoller revisits representation (what one could interpret as the ‘love’ take on the medium) mainly because in this manner he succeeds in revealing its capacity of expanding the boundaries of the image. And he does that by being playful, conceptual and at the same time bringing about a sense of surprise and bewilderment—going back to the basics of aesthetic experience. This is achieved by three different types of works revolving around this idea.

All the works are created by placing multiple photographic prints the one on top of the other. Some of them follow a repetitive pattern in order to reach the point where the image transfigures into an object, thus functioning as a material awaiting to be crafted. Others serve a different purpose, as the artist’s intention to intervene does not revolve around resemblance but aims at redefining the terms of a familiar experience; in every layer there are different elements which are emphasized, cut out, altered. The image here invites the viewer to enter into it or reveals a fragmentary nature, where all gaps, connections and combinations are exposed. And finally there are others where apart from the identical prints included there are layers with a different content making the image dynamic and alive, as different time frames are blended into one. The works resonate what Crimp in his seminal essay Pictures described as a means of ‘re-presentation’ in the sense that the photograph can manifest presence also as an object in present time. This is the power of using photography as a material, which already enfolds the representational element into it.

As for the levels of the artist’s intervention, they go hand in hand with the imaginary act that is anticipated from the viewer. The boundaries of the image are stretched into different directions alluding to the aesthetic effect the viewer may experience from other media, like for example when encountering a sculpture, or even when engaged in a piece of moving image.

This approach of using the photographic medium as a material is not of course new. It can be traced back to the seventies, in Peter Bunnell’s seminal exhibition at the MOMA Photography into Sculpture. It was that early that the discussion regarding visual duality was introduced, in a period when the medium was widely linked to record making. This experimental view was received back then by the press as a “violation of the integrity of photographic process”.

Today, almost fifty years later there seems to be a revival of this trend, especially after 2000. Only this time the context is different. In the digital world, the tangible dimension of the photographic medium and the craftsmanship it incorporates has new meanings, while maintaining the interest entailed in the use of this raw material which can respond to the intricacy of the senses. By overturning the photographer’s seat and by focusing on the continuum created, Lamoller invents, so to speak, a grey zone which even though is permeated by paradox still manages to be incredibly familiar to the viewer. One can discern depth, while at the same time absolute surface, real and imaginary, weak and strong artist’s intentionality, present and past in the same frame. So in what light should one interpret them? Lamoller himself states that what interests him is the depiction of a situation and not its narrative element. He focuses on this instance, where the image of the commonplace is presented with significance, where the particular is seen as part of a never-ending becoming. On the other hand the works stimulate the discussion on the process of production, not in the sense of its deconstruction but rather in performing an anatomy of its poetics. In every layer of photographic print one can discern the way perception and representation intertwine and fuel the imagination. And that alone may be enough. In that light Lamoller’s world could be depthless—exactly because through his constructions he highlights the merit of process; and of course that is depthless.

The exhibition A Depthless World with new works by Michel Lamoller continues at Nitra Gallery through 17 March 2018. Nitra Gallery is listed in the und. Athens directory at no. 100 and on our map route 6.

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