HOW SCULPTURE BECOMES IMAGERY, WHAT IMAGERY DOES TO SCULPTURE (Summary)
Among the different possibilities that spring to mind when we talk about imagery and images—photographs, films, drawing, etc--, sculpture does not have pride of place; it does not really have any place at all. We can readily see that a sculpture can be the representation of a thing, but it is rare, for all that, to call it an "image". The fact is that in a logic of media inherited from modernism, sculpture has more to do with the notions of volume and space. The arts of the image and the arts of space and volume thus seem to correspond to two quite distinct areas of artistic creation. Yet the art of these last few decades has considerably deconstructed these categories—or at least made their boundaries porous--, categories which, furthermore, are not contradictory. So it is in relation to the notion of image that we would here like to talk about sculpture, and this can be done in two ways: from now on, first and foremost, when a sculpture "becomes imagery"—an expression (faire image in French) calling for specification--, but also when a sculpture is permeated by processes, procedures and conceptions which have their origin in the media of the image (other than sculpture itself).
Any sculpture which is the image of something inevitably becomes an image. So it is as representation, and quite often by exploring the gap between the image and its source, that a sculpture can "become imagery" (Benedetto Bufalino, Pascal Rivet). But "becoming imagery" is a very specific lexical construct. If it is not only a matter of "being the image" of such and such a thing, but rather of "becoming imagery", this is because the circumstances of this "becoming" go beyond—even while including them—just those situations where the work is the reproduction of a thing, a person, a place or a specific situation. So what is "becoming imagery"? First off, it is functioning like an image, standing in for an image: not the image of one thing in particular, but the image as a category of our visual reality. Sculptures which open up a powerful space of visualization and projection (Emilie Perotto) are especially likely to "become imagery". A three-dimensional work can become an image in yet another way, when it overlaps with or is overlaid on an iconographic source and the sculptural form which is its vehicle, medium and at the same time structure (Rémi Bragard, Antoine Dorotte). Otherwise put, when a sculpture in fact becomes an arrangement of iconographic presentation (Samir Mougas).
Many of the works and approaches of the artists being considered here are heirs, in various degrees and in diverse aspects, to abstract and then minimal art, at the level of their visual and formal vocabulary. Now the distinctive feature of minimal art was to reject the possibility for sculpture of being the image of anything, except perhaps itself . We should thus take a look at the work of artists like Nicolas Momein, Eva Taulois and Sébastien Vonier, to grasp the challenges of this change of aesthetic programme, and understand what these artists owe to artists like Richard Serra and Donald Judd, and how they are also quite distinct from them.
Lastly, in this intermedial perspective consisting in broaching sculpture from the angle of the image, there also appears the possibility of studying the effects of the different iconic media on the praxis of sculpture, by considering it, for example, through the prism of photography—of the photographic—or film. Here it is the work of artists as different as Bettina Samson and Le Gentil Garçon which may be taken into consideration, among that of Richard Serra, Rachel Whiteread and Mark Manders.
Translated by Simon Pleasance