Ronan Guillou — Truth or Consequences
Truth or Consequences
Past: November 13, 2014 → January 17, 2015
For his second solo exhibition at NextLevel Galerie, French photographer Ronan Guillou will present his latest and previously unseen work, Truth or Consequences, in an exhibition coordinated by Lily Matras, and in collaboration with Swiss composer and sound artist Robin Meier.
The year is 1950, and the American radio-show “Truth or Consequences” is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary. To mark the occasion, host Ralph Edwards announces that he will arrange a special recording from whichever American town agrees to rename itself after his popular quiz show. The contest is won by Hot Springs, New Mexico. Built on ancient Apache land, the small town is located on the banks of the Rio Grande. From this moment on, Hot Springs will be known as Truth or Consequences.
As Ronan Guillou prepares in 2012 for his next photographic project in the United States, this small town jumps out at him from the map. The metaphoric power of such a title as “Truth or Consequences” is gripping. Since the start of his work in the States, never has Guillou encountered a town so curiously named, nor with such a quirky history. To him this name could suggest a religious injunction, or could even double as a comedy film of classic Hollywood, perhaps directed by Howard Hawks. At once serious, Manichean, even menacing, the name also carries a facetiously light, even childish connotation. A free-spirited singularity such as this stimulates the imagination, and proves irresistibly tempting. The town of Truth or Consequences presents the artist with a riddle to unravel, thus granting his whimsical odyssey an unexpected legitimacy. This rocky enclave, located just two hours north of the Mexican border will henceforth figure prominently in his next journey.
Ronan Guillou unsparingly unveils his experience in Truth or Consequences, a town whose temporal references depend just as much upon vestiges of the Old West as they do modern Americana. In this travail Guillou seeks human encounters, aligning himself with the youth as he walks their streets. He searches for landmarks, clues of his environs, and evidence of their occupation. Colours and moods work in tandem to create a visual lexicon for the town and surrounding desert. The photograph of a Bible instantly communicates the weight of faith; just as the patriotic image of streamers fluttering in the breeze at dusk elicit the simplest emotion. Although much of the gaze reflected is touching, human, and at times poetic, it is not intended to cast the town in a sentimental light. The austerity of daily life, and the challenges that face the town are equally palpable. It can be seen in a photograph that showcases the declining water level of the artificial reservoir: a bad omen for farmers, and a threat to the needs of the community.
With photography at the heart of his observations, Ronan Guillou also employs a mixture of sound and writing to achieve an acute perception of Truth or Consequences. Excerpts from correspondence, graffiti tags, interviews and sound captures exist independently, and serve to enhance the visual experience. We can hear the storytellers, the singing wind, and joyous shouts at the alley when someone bowls a strike. All of this serves as tangible evidence of the photographer’s immersion in his subject. As viewers, these additional elements are key to our understanding of his process and approach.
Ronan Guillou’s photographs are just and true. In regards to his work, filmmaker and photographer Wim Wenders writes, “Ronan Guillou discovered (and searched) in America, and that is why his collection of precious gifts means even more to me.” As a natural response to his prior works in the USA, (Angel, Country Limit, Las Vegas) Truth or Consequences presents the sensitive universe of Ronan Guillou, reaffirming the photographic and human connection that he has forged with America for the last fifteen years, and granting him an indisputable place amongst contemporary auteurs of the territory.
The exhibition of Truth or Consequences will be accompanied by the publication of a limited-edition catalogue. In addition to the exhibition, there will be a screening of the filmed version of Truth or Consequences followed by a conference in honor of «Mois de la Photo» on Friday, November 14, from 7 to 9pm at La Gaîté Lyrique, Paris, produced by La Parenthèse FreeLens. From February 13th to April 5th 2015, Truth or Consequences will be shown at La Chambre in Strasbourg.
Opening Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 6 PM
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