« A collecting process.
I make photomontages and volume-based works using a variety of materials: family photographs, fossils, stones, rubble, trinkets. I collect them in nature or I find them at recycling centres, rubbish tips, and in attics. Ten years ago, the process of collecting family photographs was still fairly complicated, as I faced some reticence from the owners of the pictures. Nowadays, as Sylvain Besson, the director of collections at the Nicéphore Niépce Museum, has noted, the advent of mobile phone photography has contributed to the transformation of our relation to family photographs and to their depreciation. Collecting them is now much easier and there are many more donors.
I also collect rocks, stones, minerals and fossils. Accumulating these materials in my studio has led me to include them in the composition of my works. These three-dimensional elements have hybridised with the two-dimensional photographic elements in my work. The resulting intersections bring different spaces and temporalities into play.
Rubble, trinkets, souvenirs or decorative objects have also made their way into my stock of raw materials. These are motifs that I had already used in photographs, but which now exist physically in my sculptures. This method is in some ways similar to a form of anthropology or sociology in which the collecting of artefacts would be the focal point. I select them for their plastic qualities, often without knowing how I will end up using them.
Then, through a process of instillation in the studio, they finally find a destination. These materials are imbued with powerful meaning: the rubble is the residue of our homes, they say as much about the fleetingness of our “permanently” constructed lives as they do about the environmental impact of our production methods. There is something both tragic and precious about using a piece of bathroom tile that has witnessed the everyday lives of one or several individuals. As for the trinkets, they tell the tale of a period, of a specific taste, and of the way we spend our holidays or decorate our homes. By piecing together narratives and bringing them to light, my assemblages function by contrast: plastic with fossils, industrial ceramics with stones and crystals, pieces of photographs with rubble, low-quality mouldings with the delicacy of fossilised imprints. Hybridisation acts as a detonator, as an impulse for new ideas to appear.
I also use scale variations and substitutions. A stone can become a mountain in the manner of the Chinese and Japanese art of suiseki, and fossilised belemnite rostrums stand in for trees. I combine and organise these elements in order to bring stories to life. I re-enact scenes from everyday life or childhood. I question our family cultures and their motifs: family meals, ceremonies, Sunday outings, stereotypical dreams, and habits. More broadly speaking, I comment on our relationship to nature, animals, eating, and the ways in which territorial, agricultural or touristic policies shape us. Like the Hauka people in Jean Rouch’s documentary Les maîtres fous [The Mad Masters], who re-enact their oppression by colonisers to better ward it off and tolerate it, I reconstruct miniature worlds to transcend the weights and constraints of our cultural habits. »
Statement of Gaëlle Foray, 2021
Translated by Lucy Pons, 2022