Photography can often be described as a 2D representation of real-world objects. Traditionally, we have viewed photographs as prints on paper, while increasingly images are being consumed electronically, either through apps like Instagram or even through this blog. A friend of mine, in his artist talk, recently questioned whether or not photographs need be printed at all?
In the midst of these questions about our current relationship to the photographic image, and in the frenzy of “Berlin Art Week”, I had the opportunity to view a group exhibition entitled Augmented Dreams.
According to the show’s own write-up, “The term augmented dream is the de- scription of a paradigm change. It describes a new conditio humana in which the digital world will become a more significant reference point for the construction of personal reality than the physical world.”
Enter Michel Lamoller.
It was in this show, Augmented Dreams, that I first encountered Lamoller’s work in person. In his cut-photo and installations, Lamoller manages to toe the line beautifully between the depths and non-depths of digital reality and the physicality of everyday tangible forms. In the image below taken from his landscape series, the tiled structures of an underground subway are stripped away, byte for byte, translating real spaces into a pixelated forms. These layers of visual information locked away in the physicality of a known structure are revealed through these images.
Pixels allow for easy image manipulation, and this revelation of inner spaces not only offers the keys to discovering new levels of meaning in a mundane architecture, but presents the viewer with a flexibility of experience in how we navigate the space and in how we may alter our own experience of it.
In his video portrait, Lamoller describes his frustration with the reproductive nature of the medium of photography, but ironically, he ends up using exactly this aspect in the creation of his work. He produces multiple identical prints, using usually between 10 and 15, to ultimately unearth one original, and considerably less-replicable, work.
His process is painstaking, and his technique is visibly mature, and this creates a seamlessness which allows the viewer to interact with the hyperdimensional spaces Lamoller creates.
Another one of Lamoller’s frustrations which he successfully maneuvers into the theme of his work is the representational nature of photography and how the artwork often takes back seat to the subject which is being represented, ultimately leading viewers to define a work by it’s subject and not as a stand-alone image.
This points to our innate habit of immediately labeling a thing before we process its context. For instance, if you were to see a photo of a plant, would your immediate reaction be to label it as a photographic work first or as a representation of a plant? When we see the representation first, it becomes almost irrelevant whether or not that plant is presented to us in print form or on a monitor.
To challenge the representational limitations of the medium of photography and to allow the work itself to come forward and to make the subject the background, Lamoller does a few things. On the one hand, he creates objects out of his photos and on the other hand he transforms the image into a 3D space, but where he really turns his subject on its head is when he takes his photos out of the box completely, as in his series of perspective objects.
Here, he reverses representation, making his technique and the experience of the perspective shift the subject of the work, while the labeling of the objects themselves becomes almost secondary.
Lamoller’s out of the box experimentation and play on perception goes even a step further in his life-size collages which invite viewers to literally step into the frame.
In his installations, the interaction of the viewer into space is quite literal and central to the work.
An augmented reality is defined as a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view. Through transforming the 2D into 3D, photography, in Lamoller’s work, becomes the technology for shaping our perception, and the viewer’s involvement in the work is the variable element which lifts the medium into unimagined territory.