Souvenirs [Montpellier]. Quels sont les vôtres?

About the artwork
This work in progress consists of 8 postcards. Each postcard contains a photograph taken by me of tourist attractions of Montpellier. In each image, I hide the highlight of the attraction (monuments, statues, fountains or buildings) with a sheet of white paper.

In the tourism industry, the postcard is traditionally used as a souvenir piece. The souvenir is a generally low-value, mass-produced object that portrays and represents the characteristics of a place. These qualities are generally considered as a representative iconography of a place. This process of representation is a consequence (and at the same time it nurtures) of the fetishization and transformation of these places into merchandise, in the form of an image.

The choice of these attractions also alters the economic, social and affective relations of the city. On the other hand, the inevitable exclusion of other points reduces the perception and appreciation of other aspects and realities present in the city. The latter acquires a certain air of invisibility.

The souvenir is usually acquired in a trip to remember the visit (it acts as an affective memory of a place; for narcissists, it works as the trophy of an achievement; for avid consumers, it is an integral part of the culture of accumulation) or to serve as a gift for loved ones, friends and family. In the case of the postcard, the text written on the back adds personal memories and narratives to the object; the person tells a little about their stay in that place or shares memories of someone who came to mind in the place visited. In this sense, the postcard also becomes an element for the activation and maintenance of a relationship network.

The message sent on the postcard is not instantaneous. It can take from days to weeks to be received by the other party. This temporal aspect suggests a different relationship with writing, which can be understood as an invitation to reflection.

This personal message mixes with an image that has been produced in series and transformed into an object. In this process, what was produced in a serial, mechanical way is contaminated by this intimate universe. The object also becomes a vehicle, a keeper of traces of personal experience. This intimacy and the use of an object of mass production as an artistic artifact restore a certain aura to this object. The short and ephemeral life of the printed material gains survival and the future marks of the action of time increase the nostalgic aspect of the object, which is also reinforced by the use of black and white photography.

By hiding the main element of attention of the attraction, I invite the spectator to use his memory to reconstruct the image in his mind. Or simply to create a story based on what one does not see, on what is hidden, kept, invisible.

With this simple gesture, the iconographic representation of the tourist point is subverted, and the postcard becomes a reminder of memory to be completed by the spectator (mentally, or by the message to be written on the back) and the recipient of the message.

The environment that surrounds this element also becomes prominent, symbolizing in some of the images the conflicts between other realities present in the city.

Because of their printing characteristics, postcards in general present small chromatic variations. The object, when received by its addressee, also carries in itself the marks of its distribution process. The work is thus contaminated not only by the message to be written, but also by its dissemination process.

This aspect is explored in the work. The spectator is invited to become an active part of the work, by writing a message; and also by choosing the destination of this message. This message can be sent to the artist or someone of the viewer’s choice. In this case, it may in the future be part of a second act of the work, where the postcard will be presented with the written message and the marks of the dissemination process.

The spectator can also write a message and leave the “factrice / facteur” (postman) free to choose an address. In this case, the process of dissemination takes other forms: the unpredictable start to act in an evident way in the work.

Finally, the spectator can still keep the work, rejecting the character of sharing, dissemination, and participation of the work, and reinforcing the aspects of accumulation and art collecting.

The work also seeks to reduce the border between art and everyday life, in the use of art as a form of communication and integration of the processes of collaboration, production, and dissemination of the work.
 

2019, 18.9 x 14.1 cm. each, inkjet print on double faced matte photo paper 250 gr. Schwarzwald Mülhe

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