There is only photography to prevent the landscape from looking like the landscape.
There is only photography to give the immediate pleasure of images this ability to connect by some point our gaze and our body to a radical but elusive divergence, a warm and different way of apprehending reality. It is that a strange corporality, which is specific to the mist or streaks of the outside, makes the deep and intimate content of the images of Sébastien Arrighi. In his photographs there is that tension of a desire that unfolds between bodies, objects, pieces of landscapes, without the thought being able to express it. These are anonymous and opaque relations that occur without words, without a name; covered and masked relationships.
Like this roughly cubic stone, streaked with pink and around which small pebbles are lost in a kind of sand or cement (Death Valley, California, 2019). The opacity and secrecy of this stone makes a little darkness hold above it while the light of the stone appears with a vigorous and clear tone. And we are immediately caught in a swirl, in the rapid changes of perspectives and colors that is unique to the most sensual encounters, where intimacy is brushed against the skin within its changes, its elusive variations, its contrasting plans.
Or it’s an ochre that satisfies our desire for color of thought (Bullhead City, Arizona, 2019), but we lack an organ to see and feel this improvised arrangement of modest complexity that goes from green to pink to gray and blue, bringing together and scattering on the same plan so many sinuous lines that we find ourselves unwittingly instead of that bright spot in the sky above the ridge — when all the rest of the image would feel the velvet of a tongue because this landscape (which one would think Corsican, the artist’s native island) licks our wet eye, washes it with immense pleasure, grainy and sweet.
The photograph touches here all the discordance of the visible with thought. One is struck by the evidence and enigma of these species of scenes where no droll takes place, where the landscapes are mostly empty of humans (the images where the human figure appears probably approach something like blindness: as in this image that is not in the exhibition Silent Show, this amazing scene where two young women stare a little girl in a black bathing suit, long and curly hair: is it the one that holds all the improbable construction of the image, where Vasari recommended placing in the foreground a child to bring us into the picture, to guide us (see The funeral of the Count of Orgaz of Greco, or The Meninas of course), is it childhood that looks in us that we ourselves do not know?
And since we never manage to say what we desire to our loved one and we are constantly lost in foreign subjects, our one and only hope is this ‘silent show’ where we can dream infinitely of mixing our body with these warm and different materials whose parallel universes communicate and eventually intersect — because geological slides would have finally upset order or memory of the times.
There is no kind of classical stasis in the use of the photographic camera that Sébastien Arrighi makes for his images of landscapes, but rather a kind of slowness traversed by monstrous growths (one thinks of some Max Ernst), the simultaneous of muddy swamps and a disjunctive geometry. The entire surface of the landscape – cracks, grasses or groves, pebbles or stones, remnants of piping – breathes with a kind of breath a distant light that has come to touch the meanderings of a motley machinery that has stopped working, but whose debris would still slide on mineral slopes, isolated like mysterious and meaningless old organs. The fragments of landscapes condense the mute articulation of several planes that respond, overlap, intertwine. They add to the carnal desire that they feed a immaterial reality completely fantastic.
Life subconsciously throws itself on an unusual almost imperceptible, light, discreet, sweet. The workings of heterogeneous differences make all the contrast and continuity of sensations whose flows separate or mingle. Perception, as these images approach, immediately detaches itself from real references. The landscape is caught in piping, arcana, the little bits of coal greet us from afar to the metal hat while yawns or laughs a giant shell. The imagination, however, is without a narrative, without a dicible cause. The text of the graffiti on the wall of the concrete building is erased, illegible. The alveoli of the imagination are holes in the walls of an unfinished building that has already been stained by time, or whitish flats like a striped amoeba. In the time we look at these photographs we feel the kind of desolation of these places that would have been leaked by human action.
The inhuman emptiness is charged with our human emotion that seeks to return to the present. Something steep in the reliefs, cracked or disordered, creates like so many tonal variations that would hold the only hope that we have to juxtapose the hues and fragments of desires that we could never fully possess, and if the facets of desires have paraded successively in the time of our life without fitting, for these improbable montages, this mysterious and cavernous exterior where we still project, Sébastien Arrighi’s photography has therefore ceased to show and reveal the intimate through the landscape: it generates rather an opacity, a covering, its density is as light as ghosts, it masks and hides through the thickness of a gnarled and spectral imagination.
Paul Emmanuel Odin,
April 26, 2019