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Projection of images with synchronised audio narration
Dimensions: Slide installation 20' (approx.) Synchronised audio description Variable dimensions
Photograph: © courtesy James Coleman and the Marian Goodman Gallery. New York and Paris
Photograph is a work of "projected images" -a sequence of 35 mm slides accompanied by a synchronised audio narration-, typical of Coleman. The work is a joint production by the Société des Expositions du Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Fundació Antoni Tàpies and Fundació "la Caixa". In his work as a whole, Coleman investigates the plurality of readings that accompany an image; and not so much to emphasise the ambivalence of the images themselves as to show that the process of perception is forced to resolve many conflicts before deciding on an interpretation. In classic works of his (Fly, 1972; Playback of a Daydream, 1974), those problems are formulated through gestalt resources and stratagems. Like most of his mature work, Photograph turns that question into a problem much more densely. The linearity of perception is cut by a number of different mechanisms: it is a sequence of static images whose narrative quality requires invention. Moreover, far from providing an objective description that helps reach an objective understanding of the facts, the voice that accompanies the images overlaps rhyming poems of an extremely rich plasticity. In short, for nineteen minutes the spectator is attending a powerful recital of a long lyric poem that overlaps a series of images in which boys and girls from a school rehearse a dance. From those resources, different registers are clustered, making the spectator's perception very dense. In Photograph, poetic words -does that make them gratuitous or denser?- are combined with a graphic documentary that shows a real rehearsal for a stage performance. Image and word, reality and fiction, everything is superimposed so that the spectator experiences the dizziness of any reading. Moreover, Photograph also presents another recurrent theme in Coleman's work: the shaping of identity. Indeed, the situation documented is the rehearsals of the pupils of a local school in a depressed area of Dublin before taking part in an inter-school competition. Because they are young and because of the setting they are in (the fiction of representation and the horizon of training, which the school itself can represent), the characters are presented, on the one hand, as prototypes of subjectivity and identity in formation, and, on the other, the fact that they are a class makes us think -as we are reminded by the hammering rhyme of the voiceover- that their fate has already been written and sealed beforehand.