To see, at last
At first one might feel a little disappointed. Everything one expected to see, everything one wanted to find — in Belgrade in 2006 — is absent.
But this disappointment, everyone makes mistakes, is in no way because something is missing. It is the result and moreover positive result of an intentional act. It is as if it were precisely this act, this disappointment awakened in the spectator, which presides over everything that lends these photographs their artistic nature. The artistic or philosophical relationship maintained by the spectator.
Philippe Durand’s photographs try resolutely to get away from any form of cliché. This ambition is admittedly extremely difficult to fulfil. Today, more than at any other time, we live in a society where cliché is omnipresent and that is overloaded with images: images which have become discursive in nature, that are used to tell a story, those used to demonstrate something, images which come together as the bible of the illiterate and more than any other, images used in advertising. We live in a society, where entertainment rules, the screen is everything, a world of organised passivity, where everything is staged, where even the slightest activity is carried out under watchful eyes. We live a reality that is prepared in advance, reality that we can recognise before we even see it, one that is foreseen long before it is seen. Our society is one of mindless thoughts, thoughts that have already been thought, confirmation of what has already been confirmed.
From this point of view we can begin to understand the radicalism of Philippe Durand’s work. His photographs have nothing spectacular about them, they are as far from ‘images’ as one can get. They border on the ‘nothing to be seen round here’ set here and there in the midst of nothing, trying with all their might to remain silent, at least until we endeavour to hear them for ourselves, or until we try our own hands at silence.
This radicalism, it has to be said, is the basis of Durand’s work’s fragility. Amidst the contemporary bustle — the rustle of magazine pages, the piercing hum of the television, the insidious and contented purring of computers, calculators, who-knows-what generation telephones, the ubiquitous haughtiness of the advertising posters that litter our streets, which have become so much a part of the décor we have forgotten to ignore them — amidst the clatter of images, I have to admit that Durand’s photographs risk not being noticed. There is no doubt about it; you could walk past without even noticing them.