A crossing—a term that means the “passage” as much as the action of “passing through”—rarely involves choosing an easy or conventional path. In Mathieu Pernot’s work, this crossing takes the form of an adventure made up of meetings with people, situations, and objects, which lead him to a permanent questioning of our relation to the world and its representations.
Mathieu Pernot’s “crossing” is embodied as much in the nomadic and fragile nature of the individuals photographed—Gypsies and migrants, in particular—as in their presence at the heart of different corpuses of images. In this way they become like characters crossed by these histories with the passing of time.
The exhibition at the Jeu de Paume presents a selection of series created over the past twenty years. It features new montages that place these corpuses in dialogue with one another, like Giovanni and Le Feu (Fire)—the latter piece having been produced specially for the occasion.
In Le Feu we encounter the same people who have been inhabiting Mathieu Pernot’s work since the beginning. Members of a family are photographed at nightfall, illuminated by the light of a fire around which they are gathered. Absorbed in their thoughts, silent, they are looking down, as though they do not want to see what is before them. The Hurleurs (Shouters) have gone silent; the children of the Photomatons (Photo Booths) have grown into adults. In counterpoint to these photographs, a caravan is consumed by the flames of a fire. Is it an accident? Or the consequences of a violent act committed against this community? Or a ritual linked to the specific practices of the
group that is photographed?Once again, Mathieu Pernot’s work addresses contemporary issues while simultaneously referencing a long history of
iconographic representations. Although the caravan going up in smoke in this tragic yet magnificent image may mark the end of the crossing and the coming of darkness, the artist, in a final act of resistance, decides to capture one last flash of light.
—Marta Gili, Curator