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Bernard Chevalier


Oniric bestiary

A stone’s throw from the ultra-modern business district of La Défense, on the island of Levallois, I was surprised to come across an old-fashioned marquee under which an exhibition of prehistoric animals was held for children. Despite a few commercial billboards, the exhibition had nothing to do with technology. Under large plastic tarpaulins, life-size reconstructions of around thirty pterodactyls, triceratops, brachiosaurus, tyrannosaurus and other critters from before the flood were exhibited on sorts of rudimentary scenes crudely lit by spotlights in summary decorations of vegetation composed of wallpapers and some potted plants. Non-digital information panels delivered in a few lines the essentials of the beast represented. The highlight was all the same the staging of this bestiary in the frightening form of fights, huge mouths open on sharks’ teeth, all giving the idea that the state of nature in those distant times was that of a between permanent devouring. The struggle for life!

In its scenography, its materials and its approach, this small exhibition without great means and which could have been the attraction of a traveling circus, touched by its old-fashioned naivety. It prevents. The children were impressed. Some were even afraid. It is true that despite the realistic bias, the exhibition was based on the imagination of a wild and monstrous nature before man. And from this mechanical, static reconstruction, restrained by a tinkered photo studio device (we were a thousand miles from Spielberg’s Jurassic Park) there were born effects of magical realism that were quite surprising. It is this power of the imagination that I wanted to capture by photographing these cardboard artifacts like the artists of a show as unexpected as it is fantastic.

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