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After Dark Lens and Zone de repli, Cédric Delsaux is presenting a new series entitled Underground Society at the Wild Project Gallery in Luxembourg. We have interviewed the photographer whose selected images from Dark Lens are currently on view in the exhibition Space Oddity at the Maison des Arts de Créteil, as part of the Month of Photography Grand Paris.

Your series, Underground Society, seems to break away, or at least mark a turning point, from your earlier work in Dark Lens and Zone de repli. It no longer negotiates “with reality” but stages everything anew. Are you aware that this shift can be disruptive?

Indeed, for me, too, this series is singular. I too felt lost within it, to the point that I waited three years before agreeing to show it to the public. I needed this stretch of time to sufficiently distance myself from the series, so that it no longer really belonged to me; I also needed time to fully understand what it was about, what it was telling me. But I can see that it’s a sort of missing link between my other works.

You hadn’t realized that before you started?

No. I always need to intellectualize the series I am developing, but this passage “through the intellect” follows rather than precedes the process, . At first, things were very scattered and imprecise. It was more about sensations. In other words, it’s something that takes over me, a vague idea, an impression, an intuition… “We already live in a fantasy world” — and you get Dark Lens; “Behind each destiny is a fiction” — and you get Zone de repli. Underground Society originated with such an intuition, which could be summed up as follows: “We are all nothing but castaways.” And yet this intuition, imprecise as it may be, is the only thing that really matters to me. It is that intuition, and nothing else, that decides what artistic device I am going to adopt. It’s the foundation, the essence…

And who are these castaways?

Well, it’s all of us! We have spent thousands of years separating ourselves from nature, then hundreds of years inventing religions and two or three centuries separating ourselves from those, and now we are getting further and further away from the paradigm of Enlightenment, from the idea of progress and its corollary, reason. So what’s left? What is there to hold on to? Well … Nothing … except fables. Could we have avoided this disaster? I’m not sure… (Unless we believe that there is some sense to all this … that it corresponds to some divine plan hovering over us…). In that sense, we are castaways from everything we have abandoned. We are spiritless; our former resources have been eroded. All that’s left for us to do is to fill this “Nothing” with a few added lies, pious hopes, unlikely reversals, and illusory good consciences: that is, ever more grotesque fictions.

Your characters are always very warlike, and many of them are even armed. While it is never shown explicitly, there is an acute sense of violence emanating from these images.

This goes to the very heart of my message. We can never escape violence. We think we can ward it off, but it only resurfaces with time. It is never far away. It may hide, it may cower behind the screen of History, but it comes out at the slightest tremor. Our epoch, which gets mired in its petty collective fictions and bursts with empty pride, has opened the floodgates to all sort of violent actions. Before imagining the US characters, I compiled an iconography of violence: news photos, film posters, paintings, videos, anything caught my eye… It was on this basis that I imagined my mises-en-scène. I realized to what extent violence, brutality, ferocity — even while rarely designated as such — were being celebrated in our seemingly pacified society. I had to do something with it.

The abundance of your initial iconography seems to be reflected in the heterogeneity of references evoked by your characters. This is also true of the way you pose them: full-length portraits, facing the camera (or not), spontaneous shots, defining moments, staged situations, etc.

Viewers immediately think of painting and cinema as the obvious references, but they hesitate to mention genres considered less noble, even while I draw on them just as much: comics, video games, disaster and horror films, as well as theater, carnival, and even statues, like the wax figures in the Musée Grévin… All these modes of expression have been used to explore the theme of collapse and chaos, and all offer overlapping interpretations. Together, they form a sort of collective unconscious of horror, where everyone can find their own particular demons. My characters are therefore only simulacra; I had no intention of constructing a pseudo-world with predetermined visual coherence… even if, as a result, this doesn’t make the work any more accessible.

Interview by Sophie Bernard

Cédric Delsaux, Dark Celebration
Wild Project Gallery
Marh 24 to May 13, 2017
22, rue Louvigny
L-1946 Luxembourg

Space Oddity
As part of the Month of Photography Grand Paris 2017

April 7 to May 13, 2017
Module 1: Thierry Cohen, Cédric Delsaux, Vincent Fournier, Marina Gadonneix, Noémie Goudal, Nicolas Moulin, François Ronsiaux
Maison des Arts de Créteil
Place Salvador Allende
94000 Créteil

See more

Wild Project Gallery

Maison des Arts de Créteil

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