James Casebere

Portuguese Beach Front, 1990

With Subdivision Close-up and Portuguese Beach Front, James Casebere broached various aspects of the history of architecture of cities: on the one hand the architecture of suburban dwellings which saturate space through over repetition of one and the same “box” structure; on the other hand, that of a tragic event forgotten by everyone today, the tidal wave which destroyed a small Portuguese village in the 16th century. The artist tries to disturb our relations to culture through the recurrent image of destruction and absence. The large format of the photographs, monumentalizing the model, casts confusion about the truthfulness of these reproduced spaces. The modest materials used to make the three-dimensional “doubles” do not however lie about their nature: foam rubber and paper are presented in all their precariousness and their suggestive power, as in theatre or film. What is more, Casebere often combines several places in just one, removing the maquette from its original model once and for all. The slow and painstaking work of manufacture and presentation culminates in such an obviousness about the spaces that these latter clearly display the signs with which the institution has entrusted them. “I was thinking about the different ways of using photography to manipulate our understanding of history and reality—what is true and what is false, the subjective confronted with objective truth… and the way people learn social history… I tried to create images which illustrated, as broadly as possible, the social institutions which represent our culture”, explains the artist.
Nadine Labedade

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