For this work, I systematically photographed the altars of Baroque churches in Germany, Spain and Austria. I selected these churches not only for their pure exuberance, but also for the saturation level of their ornamentation, composed of decorative, figurative and symbolic elements.
This profligacy of splendor stuns the senses and, at first glance, produces an effect tending towards abstraction. The observer loses his references and only after is he able to begin differentiating the concrete elements composing the whole. The optical flatness produced by the camera looks like and references the “trompe l’oeil” technique often used in this type of architecture.
The goal of this approach is to show how the extravagance of the Baroque is a critical shortcut for looking at the dramatic character of our current society. As Guy Debord conceptualizes in his major work “La Société Spectacle”, the world is a permanent show. Today, our wishes are embodied in pictures, rather than cathedrals, but the effect is the same: reality becomes falsified and consequently the false seems true and the true seems false.
Historians have put forward the idea that the Baroque style developed at a time when the Catholic Church was reacting against science and new forms of religion. It has been said that the monumental Baroque style was used so that the papacy could awe like the absolute monarchies. The Baroque would therefore have served a Catholic will to reconquer souls.
Thus, by choosing Baroque churches as a metaphor of spectacle, my pictures also work as a historical reminder of the function of pictures: a very powerful tool for communication, manipulation and, indeed, propaganda.
“Meeting” serves as a continuation of the work that I began in the “Seduction” series. Here, I wanted to deepen my approach by tackling the contemporary tools linked directly to power, namely the structures built for general shareholders’ meetings of large corporations. My choices were made according to their economic influence and the formal structures involved during their meetings.
The saturated opulence of the Baroque is replaced by smooth and clean surfaces. This new design conveys the idea of seriousness and transparency. But these architectural structures recall much older ways of controlling bodies. The palaces of absolute monarchs with their royal walkways. The political conventions of dictatorial regimes, taking place in stadiums or large showrooms, where the participants were organized in “legion formation”.
In photographing these structures, I over-exposed the main elements in order to highlight their structural and contextual data. This brings the environmental aspects of these manifestations to light: stadiums or showrooms, filled with a military-like organization of chairs. The over-exposure also creates a visual effect of “abstraction”, which gives these same structures luminous sculptural forms, completely separate from the profane structures below. These ephemeral presentations become iconic, spectacular prisms of their power in the capitalistic system.
My work tries to show some sort of connection between the tools of ideological control produced by contemporary corporate economic power and the tools designed to control bodies in the era of spectacular historical power. This hypothesis seems to find particular resonance in the political and economic events of the last three to four years.
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Editor's note: We discovered and met Cyril Porchet at the excellent Biel-Bienne Festival of Photography in Switzerland.