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The Bimont Desert – by Jean Cristofol

Much of Sébastien Arrighi’s work is devoted to landscape. From this point of view, his art is part of a long tradition of photography and accepts its classification and genres. But this manifest inscription in a tradition is not an end in itself, nor a way to remain on the convention without questioning or working it. On the contrary, the idea of the landscape is taken here as the vector, or the operator who comes to articulate an investigative approach. The landscape is taken as a body that it is a matter of disturbing, transforming, reinventing perhaps, at least to test and rediscover. 

The first gesture of inscription in the categories of classicism, and the immense pleasure that one guesses in these photographs to hold and magnify its forms, codes, arrangements, covers a second activity, discreet, bordering on visible. It is as if there are two directions that are opened simultaneously, or one cross with the other.

The first direction is given to us, first as an evidence, is the slow grasping, without spectacle or sensationalism, in an aesthetic of rigor and discretion, of the landscape discovered by the one who frequents it, surveys it, tames it and never ceases to examine it carefully. The one who inhabits it and who builds a knowledge of it in the daily exercise of walking, in the regular practice of attendance. This gives a precise photograph, long thought, adjusted, which is held by the attention it reveals and asks for. A photograph that never offers us a global point of view, an overview, a collection of characteristics, but which will instead seek to make the element live in its context, the detail in the relationship that inserts it into an indefinite continuity, the play of echoes and similarities that make the world live and replace the idea of its unity.

The Bimont Desert - by Jean Cristofol 1
Sebastien Arrighi: Saint-Marc-Jaumegarde (Bimont Dam Retention Basin), Bouches-du-Rhône, 2018
Copyright of the artist, courtesy gallery Sintitulo

This is where the second direction comes to articulate he first one. In a way, it works sideways, by a moving and disjunction effects. It consists first of all in a kind of disorder, a slight spatial and temporal confusion. What we are given to see is both very precisely located and curiously similar to another place, another space, another way of existing. There is the appearance of witnesses from another time or elsewhere, very perfectly dressed in the clothes of the here and the usual. This is what gives Sébastien Arrighi’s photographs this dreamy flavour, this little shake of the feeling of reality. From this point of view, the series devoted to the basin emptied of its waters of the Bimont dam is perfectly significant. Of course, the bare dam is not far, probably erected from all its height of concrete, and there must also be the mountain Sainte Victoire that rises, very close. But we won’t see either. The emptied basin discovers another world, a kind of fragile and closed desert. An immensity retained to the extent of its excavation. There are unknown perspectives, rivers of which it is no longer known whether they are very old or if they are the temporary result of residual flows. There are discreet remains, the memory of buildings without ages. There are traces of the passage of some visitors, tire marks, enigmatic figures half erased, silent geometries. These are narrative snippets that remain suspended, but which are in some way on the skin of the landscape, as if the landscape carried within it the echoes and clues of brief expenditure of energies, shocks, movements and sounds that disturbed its texture, which integrated its memory. Between what is a curious lecture of potential signs and what is constructed of a kind of exoticism nestled in the immediate vicinity, appears something that is of the order of fiction.

The Bimont Desert - by Jean Cristofol 2
Sebastien Arrighi: Saint-Marc-Jaumegarde (Bimont Dam Retention Basin), Bouches-du-Rhône, 2018
Copyright of the artist, courtesy gallery Sintitulo

But we have to go a little further. What is at stake in the intersection of these two perspectives is a position, the place of the gaze, the choice of a point of view. We’ve always thought of the landscape as what’s standing in front of us, at a distance. Here, the landscape is built in a relationship of belonging or interiority. Sébastien Arrighi advances into the space discovered by the withdrawal of the waters of the Bimont dam as he advances into the virtual world of a video game. 

The Bimont Desert - by Jean Cristofol 3
Sebastien Arrighi: Saint-Marc-Jaumegarde (Bimont Dam Retention Basin), Bouches-du-Rhône, 2018
Copyright of the artist, courtesy gallery Sintitulo

The video game offers a setting for an adventure and a role-playing game. In Simile, Sébastien stops the image, freezes the scenery, transforms it into a landscape that he fixes and proposes to the eye, far from any action and competition, as a silent presence. All that remains of the interaction device that ensured the gameplay was a kind of quivering, a breath, an enigmatic anchorage in an imprecise but surprisingly present corporality. The landscape is then invented by the “photographic” operation which consists of choosing the place and the moment and freezing the movement in the video game. It is projected by this only in a “before us” that is not enough to evacuate the place of the “take”, which is well “in”, in the game, if not in the action. The analogy can be drawn with what is being played at the Bimont Dam. Here too the landscape is invented by the shooting, by the time of the pose, by the play of the gaze. And the closed horizon of the Bimont Basin opens up to other dimensions, to other presences and other memories, something that evokes, far away – very close, an American West populated by forgotten dreams.

Jean Cristofol

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Find out more Sebastien Arrighi // See a selection of the artist’s works (the works of the exhibition  // “Silent Show” press kit

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