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Agnès ou le temps français

Agnès ou le temps français, 1985

Jochen Gerz
  • Artist (1940)

Born in 1940 in Berlin, the self-taught artist and photographer Jochen Gerz studied literature, sinology and prehistory before embarking on a pitiless critique of the mass media and the culture industry, whose language he dismantled.   Starting from the recognition that information had been rendered devoid of its meaning, he demonstrated the unsuitability of visual methods of broadcasting for transmitting reality and emotions.  From his first participations in exhibitions in 1967, the year in which he also set up home in Paris, the German artist displayed that impossibility of communication and language by producing texts, actions (Ce que l’on peut décrire peut arriver aussi (Wittgenstein, 1973), installations (Leben, 1974), and photographic works and editions.  Writing and imagery, initially overlaid in the 1970s, sought to deny the pseudo-objectivity of events claimed by television and the press.  In Gerz’s work, the text is very often a fiction, inviting the spectator to draw near a poeticized reality.   The theme of memory, recollection and the inaccessible are given material form in images that are duplicated, inverted and blurred.  In the manner of reportage, by presenting slightly confused clichés and offering a message without any real object, Jochen Gerz gets rid of the idea of an authentic testimony, preferring to it the invention of a story, that of Agnès.  Agnès ou le temps français, a series of 23 images resulting from a commission made by the FRAC Centre about the region’s landscape, shows us a property on the banks of the Loire in a broken up form.  Despite the number of views, the whole leaves us ignorant of the place:  blurs, gap and discrepancies, and truncated views are deliberately underpinned by a language on the edge of a veritable fiction.  The photographer draws us over the track of time passing, and over memories that we have not really known.  This questioning of memory also informs the works which Gerz installed in public places in many European cities in the 1990s, “anti-monuments” as he called them, which subvert the idea of commemoration.  He has won many prizes, is a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin, and has an honorary chair at the Braunschweig Art Academy.

Nadine Labedade