Helene Schmitz — Kudzu Project
Past: November 7 → December 7, 2013
Nature is not sentimental. It evolves according to its own agenda: to move forward or backward, to dominate or be dominated, to survive or perish… Despite this reality, humanity has always attributed its own qualities, such as kindness or cruelty. And art reflects that. In the Kudzu project, the eye of Swedish photographer Helene Schmitz observes and records the phenomena of nature with a heightened consciousness of the ephemeral. To preserve through photography is her main motivation.
Originating from Japan, the Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) was introduced to the United States at the end of the 19th century, for its decorative virtues as a floor-covering plant; it was then massively planted from the 1930s onwards to fix the eroded floors in the South — in Alabama, in Georgia and in the Mississippi. Very fast and very strong, these leaves of three large leaflets mounted on thin stems spread: in the right environment, the Kudzu can grow up to 30 cm in a day! Thus, within twenty years, this imported plant deemed pretty and useful at first became a harmful plant, "the wine that devoured the South”. The Kudzu spreads, covers, surrounds with its tendrils, smothers almost everything it meets that is inanimate — trees, bushes, flowers, roads, houses — transforming the landscape into a giant Kudzu plantation, horrifying and fascinating. Which land art artist would have dared to conceive a project of such scale? The plants form a uniform cover, creating the illusion of an ensemble, a big ocean fixed in its movements and made of a single matter: an abstract, infinite sculpture.
In a totally apocalyptic manner, the voracious plant takes possession of man’s space, dominates it beyond control. This is what fascinated Helene Schmitz. She had already explored the struggle between man and nature in her last project Sunken Gardens (Jardins engloutis) set in the Surinam jungle (Galerie Maria Lund, 2010 and Festival de Chaumont sur Loire, 2011). For the Kudzu project, she went to Georgia and Alabama several times in 2012, where she created a series of images taken under quite difficult circumstances: the summer weather in the Kudzu kingdom reaches 45 degrees whereas the camera shots demand several hours. Helene Schmitz made the choice to go back to argentic film to get large-framed negatives (24 × 30 cm), in her desire to work with the slowness of a painter, in the mindset that time spent to make a particularly dense matter exist is a necessary time, it’s the time of the advent of the image. If the photographed object is the Kudzu, Helene Schmitz’s interest for this phenomenon is not so much to document it than to place us in front of the power of nature, and this in a plastic form that has its own reasons.
She translates this in the ink jet prints on mat paper (digigraphies) made for the most part in black and white, but in a black that possesses such nuances, that it puts forward the impenetrable and abstract dimension of the subject. Thus, one can only see organic forms that detach themselves from the environment, “monumental sculptures” covered in Kudzu. Some images let appear buildings — houses, factories — still recognizable, partially enveloped by the plant. One can foresee their destiny that will lead them to disappear under omnipotent vegetation and one wonders what these landscapes are hiding. What bodies, what constructions, what stories has nature taken hold of? Through a subtle language and a wise combination of the analogical and the digital, Helene Schmitz brings life to images, which immediate beauty grabs the spectator to better confront him with a nature that is beyond our grasp.
Helene Schmitz was born in 1960 in Sweden; she is currently living and working in Stockholm. Having graduated in art history and cinema, she taught photography and then devoted herself to her own creations in the 1990s. Since then, she regularly exhibits her work, mostly in Scandinavia, where the institution has shown a growing interest for her work: Fotografiska, Stockholm (2011), Kristinehamns Konstmuseum (2012), Abecita konstmuseum, Borås (2013) and in 2015 Dunkers Kulturhus (Cultural Center in Helsingborg, Sweden) will show a monographic exhibition of her work. In France, her photographs have already been featured in many exhibitions: Livingrooms at the Centre Culturel Suédois in the context of the Mois de la Photo (1996), an open-air exhibition in 2007 at the Jardin des Plantes, Blow Up at the Palais Rameau in Lille for Transphotographiques (2010), Jardins engloutis and Carnivores at the Galerie Maria Lund for the Mois de la Photo OFF in 2010, and then at the Centre d’Art et de Nature du Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire during the summer 2011. Her work has also been shown in the United States, in South America and in Japan. Most recently, she was commissioned a series of photographs that will be exhibited in the Stockholm metro at the station Mariatorget during the year 2013.
p(info).Part of her activity is dedicated to the publication of books: A passion for Systems (System och passion — Linné och drömmen om Naturens Ordning, 2007) was rewarded in Sweden by the Royal Library and the Publishing Prize. Her last book Ur Regnskogens Skugga (Le projet Rolander, 2011) was also awarded by the Publishing Prize of Sweden. She has twice been nominated for Swedens most prestigious literary prize, the Augustprize. Helene Schmitz has been selected as a finalist of le Prix de la Photo Camera Clara 2013.
Opening Thursday, November 7, 2013 9 PM → 6 PM
With the artist.
Event Saturday, November 16, 2013 9 PM → 7 PM
Meeting Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 7:30 PM
Artist talk with Helene Schmitz, photographer & Gabriel Bauret, author, curator and professor specialized in photography. It addresses “ the time of the image”, as well as the technical choices in this all-digital age and the conflictual relationship between man and nature- far from the idyllic vision inherited from our european civilization.
48, rue de Turenne
T. 01 42 76 00 33 — F. 01 42 76 00 10
Tuesday – Saturday, noon – 7 PM
Other times by appointment