Do not ask your way, you may not get lost.
Rabbi Nahman from Bratslav
The Bergen Kjott presents a tension between two spaces of expression of the works that I lead in Sudan for twenty years. An invitation to explore a territory, Sudan, the way a stranger (myself) wanders without landmarks. An invitation to understand by oneself and thus can be undone or thwart the semantic traps to which the flood of images accustom us.
A correspondance between the space of the walls and the publishing works.
The architectural space presents a series of 171 digital work prints, unframed, nailed and glued to large painted walls erected in a raw space on two floors.
On the ground floor, a soundtrack welcomes the public at the threshold of the place.
A group of children answers in chorus to a young and feminine voice. At the same time, in front of the visitor, a panoramic montage of three prints represents an overhead view of a very dense urban space and its surroundings, whose barely identifiable dwellings are covered with the same white spot. On the right is the image of a blackboard on which are written additions in Arabic numerals and alphabet. In this chamber of preamble as throughout the course, no legend or indication of reading comes to guide the explorer, prompting in first reading to free interpretation. QR codes, which lead to written descriptions, legends and add-ons, allow the public at any time to re-contextualize the images a posteriori of an intuitive reception.
The second room confronts on three white walls two different types of images: on two walls: tightly framed faces of young men on a blue plain fog, views of passages (a tarpaulin on rocks, a mountain trail) and a bust black skin on the neck of which hangs a small leather case carved.
Their straight and direct looks face, on the third wall, to a huge line queue also reproduced life size (scale 1) of women and very young boys. The bright colors of the loosely waisted women’s outfits and the light mood contrast with the chromatic restraint of the dark portraits of men who seem to be eyeing the scene.
In the center of the space, on a very low table, are mixed together boards of prints and macules from Volume 5 of the SudanPhotoGraphs collection, published for this exhibition.
This volume 5 deploys a geographic wandering in Darfur between humanitarian spaces, conducive to development and deserted expanses, even deserted, where custom is stretched between customary law and contemporary opportunism. The constant perspective mirroring development by the crisis, developed in this volume is woven on a colonial background. Extracts of correspondence of officers reproduced by the historian A.D Theobald retrace the Franco-British conivence to eliminate Ali Dinar, the last sultan of Darfur and the last rampart to Africa’s sharing of entente cordiale.
The print, consisting here of the 5 volumes of SudanPhotoGraphs presents a catalog of things that can be easily found in Sudan for little attention. Mundane views, close to the vision of the human eye, sorted by type, sometimes geographically represent ordinary scenes. The images, the texts and their combinations that make up these documents may themselves constitute documents. A description, however, remains a fable, and Sudan is too big a land, to be reduced to a few pages and images.
Many authors contribute in the 5 volumes to the spirit of this collection: “aLandTypologyEssay”. The descriptive field is enriched with lyrical and scientific contributions, free representations of the territory.
The ambition of this new draft, of this new proposition, continues the assumed use of this subjectivity as a tool of description. Is not an intimate thought worth history since it is serious and shared?
Especially since it is a matter of soliciting the intuition and the senses of the reader more than his knowledge.
Upstairs, a geographical stroll on six large blue walls retraces certain routes: The Nuba Mountains in resistance, sedentary pastoralists versus nomadic pastoralists in South and North Kordofan, Nubia or merge meroitic archeology and contemporary ecology blooming with silt. The Nile, fertilizing a seemingly motionless landscape. The city, Tentacular Khartoum (the horn of Elephant in Arabic language) which concentrates all the wealth and whose architecture signs the stigmas of the history: Victorian, otoman, modern then Saudi if it is of it.
The description is a thread, which allows by lyrical wandering to compare, understand, to get into space, beyond the frame.
A space dedicated to Darfur – a territory as big as France – proposes a relation between humanitarian space, unique and paradoxical basis of development and semi-desert steppe, whose violence resides more in the silent immobility than in the cries of children of the camps.
A large table hosts the 5 volumes SudanPhotoGraphs collection, open and ready to use.
The public can take advantage of it as a guide to survey the space, build new volumes, personal interpretations and travel the territory from multiple angles.
Finally, seven films are projected on two screens in a fourth dirty: A man tries in vain to disassemble-up a Winchester M14 assault American repetition. Women sort the wheat from the chaff, collect and transport water from the bottom of a dry stream. Dawn on the mighty Nile.
Notes on SudanPhotoGraphs Collection:
The observer, the passer-by, influences the context of his passage. I am a “khawaja”, a white stranger, visible. Sometimes children run away on my approach. I pass. Immersed in the territory, with any idea of dissolving myself in it. Language and my slowness sometimes helps, without illusions. I live like a pet, unusual but close, almost domestic. A tame fox, an androgynous dromadary in a herd of camels. The images and words come down tinged with my difference.
The memory seems to me to produce multiple distortions. The accumulation of furtive visions of a territory shapes its identity, their agglomeration draws its outlines. The eye itself accumulates views, memory amalgamates them. Photography does not have an objective character, but a combination of subjective choices, able to reveal as the author as the subject of the photograph. Choice of shooting location, moment (light) and frame, technical choices, optics, shutter speed, depth of field, exposure, chemistry, all oriented towards their ethical and aesthetical consequences .
I turn these important details towards a restitution of the slow perception of the human eye. I like that an image does not open itself at first sight. I like it to reveal itself veil after veil, as the reader’s mind gets lost in investing it.
This collection does not respond to any order. The experience took place without major constraint. The reader will explore the spaces of exhibitions and publications following or not the indices sown among his reading. Each plate of each volume finds its place freely according to the intention of the reader.. These plates are randomly marked, without linear numbering, the set has no order. The reader is free to change it. Its purpose will thus answer that of the authors. An invitation to follow a treasure hunt, to tread the territory, to explore it himself on the footprints of the authors.
Each volume completes the others or answers them, in the way puzzle. Boards by typologies, free trials. The purpose varies with the random order of the boards. A sign language, a path, a treasure hunt, a little arrow course. A game of matches. The game works well. Readers choose to follow the guide or on the contrary, to go astray.
Do not ask your way …
Claude Iverné, photographer, and co-curator of the exhibition
Claude Iverné – About Description