– by Sophie Braganti

Anne Favret et Patrick Manez, de la série


Landscaping <br>- by Sophie Braganti

The photographic art of Favret and Manez is a writing. The language they use is based on what should be described as moments. From these moments time with space and then the body, are the actors. And memory gets involved.

Landscape,ad hoc neologism, would mean through what is understood, the country, the landscapes both urban and natural and sometimes hybrid. The image as popular imagery and its vintage communication form, with the new information to be red on the panels or the commercial posters and the road signs is to be seen as a real palimpseste. Whether you live in the north or south of a country, in the centre or in the suburbs of a city, tourist or not, we are given a flood of different information about the territory. A photograph wise as the peaceful chords that emerge from the points of view posed, recomposed slowly, patiently without noise, gesticulations or frills, or effects of spectacular lights. From farmland to industrial land, peasants and workers are witnessing their own transformation with city dwellers.

With these photographs, we approach in a different way what is defined as an elastic and protean concept: the landscaping. Favret and Manez create landscapes in the landscape. The urban landscape is vast, sprawling. It encompasses the peripheries, edges and industrial areas. No man’s lands, wastelands, surrounding areas, everything that would take into account the in-between: roads, neighborhoods, roundabouts, crossings, highways, penetrating, construction sites, bypass areas, shopping malls, plants, water points, rocades, split distances half-figue, half-raisin, half-fugue, half-reason.

They marched in Genoa, Alexandria, Montreuil, then Boulogne, Berlin, Brussels, Bologna, Birmingham for their Plan B project confined to Europe and in reaction to a certain Europe. But each place brings its share of experiments and imaginations. Each project is an open-air laboratory. Favret and Manez don’t lock themselves in. [1]. Although there is a great risk today that they will not be able to be identified and immediately recognizable, they confrunt constant reorientations of their work.

Despite this positioning, their alphabet writes a page of a current photography of their own. Their gaze, the one that has been drawing its furrow for more than thirty years, develops in our own retina and is printed there.

How to watch? How do the possibilities of the gaze evolve? How do they condition us and shape our thinking? It is we, with them, who draw what comes in or what comes out of the frame. In search of a little meaning, it is we who give meaning to lines, lights, buildings, cutouts, street furniture, plants that are proposed to us and sometimes opposed. If we notice local architecture, (buildings and houses built with certain materials such as stone or brick), it repeats itself, it connects with contemporaneity. It is reconsidered and revisited by the juxtaposition of snippets from different eras. Everything coexists, frys or agrees, swears or smoothes depending on whether we choose the day when our mind opens to another look.

Spotting a street corner that eluded us, a hidden perspective, seeing different verticals and heights of facades, seeing past colors and fresh ripolinages, that’s what the photographers are tracking. They measure and cut the beautiful part of a composition that will attract our attention and that we would be able to apprehend, that tells us about ourselves or our neighbors. In our world, which has been particularly transformed since the 1970s, they show the world being made, unraveling and rebuilding itself, the movement of the city and what affects us until we travel. Far from the postcard but not so far from the document and the archive, his views are of history taken under the arm of the great History. Architecture, sociology and ethnology of the urban or rural landscape weave with poetry links that allow us to project ourselves into our environment.

How to make liveable what so often resembles disorder, neglect and veneer of absurd plans and policies tending to minimize, to reduce the place of the human. Our eyes sort, agency, reorganizes. It invents or reinvents.

Time stretches with the seasons and necessities, with objects and lights that are not or more at the rendezvous, with endless spotting or that are obviously imposed. It gives the steps of the score being written. It articulates the proposals that one makes to the other. It gives the duo of photographers the space for reflection and desires or ideas. It is one of walking and travel.

The space around us is made with or without consciousness. Realism verges on hyperrealism. Similarly in the natural space they discover and brave despite the harsh latitudes and altitudes, they take some sort of scenes in which we write our play. Horizons open or clog. The past and the future play hard to get. We project ourselves among the characters of a fiction, science fiction, with anti-heroes as in the series of the Arpenteurs (Surveyors) made on the lunar plateau of Calern, in the Alpes-Maritimes (France). Space laboratories with scientists, between heaven and earth, also in search of absolutes and utopias like artists.

Or teleport in wild and radical geographical settings. Austere parties loyal to the topos. There are some decadent cowboys, as in the Hyperboréal series created as part of a residency in Iceland in 2015. Portraits shape the landscape when one would be tempted to think otherwise. More photo-trace than photo-memory. The banality of everyday life, even in the great outdoors, merges with a nature that is not shown in its best days. People blend into the environment, both being lost in an almost extra planetary vastness. This upside-down exoticism gives the series certain comical situations. Offbeat researchers and farmers in toil witness changes over which they have no control. Evolving between remnants of the past and imposing buildings, more or less twisted in the search for an aesthetic of functional modernity, they stand upright.

The body is moving or static, it holds its breath. The heavy and cumbersome room of the photographers is not worn like a cross, but reminds at all times of the weight of what is being played and which will not appear or will not appear in the image. As if we could foresee randomness and consider surprises, a certain passer-by. The light of the intimate sometimes progresses between dog and wolf that do not scream or perhaps at dawn. In the cities passers-by, the inhabitants seem to be stealth witnesses caught in their daily lives and give the scale or energize the scene, much like on the models of urban planners and architects. Recall of the living. Absences that reveal presences reveal everything that lies. They see each other because we can guess them by insinuating themselves into the imagination. More than the question of beauty, it is the question of the balance of strengths and weaknesses of volumes that is asked.

This is one of their last projects. In a territory they identify beforehand, the Eastside in this case, artists immerse themselves. For them, the city is a vector of language as in Bologna or Montreuil with the tags the signs and signs participating in the “urban renaissance” process of decline of a city, in relation to deindustrialization, and then its renewal through its tertiarization “.

What surprises them is captured and shared. Sometimes we look at where the humans are and wonder if there are, if there have been, if there will be. So we invent them, we write their history and sometimes ours. We delve back into the book of Paul Auster [2] for whom the city is the bed of strange encounters and telecoping. This long passage that I can not shorten: “Sometimes you feel like you’re walking aimlessly around a city. We walk down one street, we turn randomly in another, we stop to admire the ledge of a building, we lean to inspect on the sidewalk a tar stain that reminds us of certain paintings that we admired, we look at the faces of the people we meet trying to imagine the lives they carry around in them , we go to lunch in a small cheap restaurant, we go out, we continue towards the river (if this city has a river) to watch the big boats pass by, or the big ships docked in the port, we may sing while walking, or we whistle, or we try to remember something forgotten. Sometimes we feel, walking around the city like this, not going anywhere, just trying to pass the time, and that only fatigue will tell us where and when to stop. But just as a step inevitably takes the next step, a thought is the inevitable consequence of the previous one and in the event that one thought would generate more than one (say two or three, equivalent as to their implications), it will not only be necessary to follow the first until its conclusion but also to retrace its steps to its point of origin. , so as to take the second from end to end, then the third, and so on, and if we were to try to figure out the mental image of this process we would see the appearance of a network of paths, such as the representation of the human circulatory apparatus (heart, arteries, veins, capillaries), or such a map (the map of the streets of a city, a large city preferably , or even a road map, such as those of petrol stations, where roads lengthen, intersect and meander across an entire continent), so that in reality, what we do when we walk in a city is to think, and we think in such a way that our reflections make up a journey, a path that is no more or less than the steps accomplished , so that in the end you could safely claim to have travelled and, even if you don’t leave your room, it’s a journey, you could safely say you’ve been somewhere, even if you don’t know where.” Wouldn’t Favret and Manet’s series be the seasons of a staged trip?

Sophie Braganti


[1] With the exception of working Room with views, following an order from the Nice University Hospital in 2007

[2] Paul Auster, The Invention of Loneliness, Acts South 1988, p. 125 (pocket book)

Other texts on the work of Anne Favret and Patrick Manez:

Metroplex, urban landscape by Anne Favret and Patrick Manez

About Metroplex
– interview with Jean Christophe Nourisson

On the occasion of their exhibition “Metroplex #1” at Atelier Soardi in 2008, this interview with Jean-Christophe Nourisson evoked the main questions that his own work has in common with the research of Anne Favret and Patrick Manez: our urban condition.

The interview was published in “Exporevue” at the time of the exhibition.

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Metroplex - Anne Favret and Patrick Manez

Urban Prose – by Michel Poivert

The “big city” has been the heroine of modernity for more than a century, the man who travels through it as an anonymous adventurer. But adventure is no longer, by definition, a struggle against the dangers of virgin spaces. Adventure is an exploration of the theatre that man has built around himself. Watching is learned, it must be repeated (…)

read the text"

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