Coming up

Coming Up:


Monday, 2 April 2018

Spotlight: Flying houses

Laurent Chéhère photographs houses, and transforms the images so that each building is lifted from the street, and placed in the sky.  The houses fly.
  They have freedom, and we look at them differently when separate from their usual static placement. We see them as individuals with distinct characters and personalities. When we feel that they can fly, instead of taking them for granted as blocks that will always be there for us to view or ignore at our leisure, we are urged to look at them while we have the chance. They tell stories.
In most of the pictures Laurent Chéhère imbues each building with extra details: a fire is added,, or a different window, or lines of laundry. These additions may look like fanciful embellishments that are not really there, however such features and events are real within a building’s life span. Most dwellings have had active washing lines at some point. Over the years, window frames have been changed, and they have had a variety of decorations and colours beyond those we see now. Many have suffered disasters such as floods and fires.
Real city buildings in situ, in their modernly-influenced décor, and with a typical level of activity, are so plentiful that we pay them little attention. We find them bland, if we notice them at all.
  There is a metaphor here for how we view people, and how others view us.
  A painting in a catalogue may be described as “180cm x 120cm, 1962, oil on canvas, Modernist landscape.” A building may be described as “Spacious 3 bedroom Victorian town house with parking”, however these descriptions do not get into their character, just as “42 year-old female Australian insurance broker” does not tell you whether you will be friends. Laurent Chéhère uses buildings to convey the notion of appreciating the individual.
Laurent Chéhère works in the advertising industry, on campaigns for fashion and perfume brands such as Dior and Chanel. He feels that this has informed his photographic skills, illustration, and storyboarding: how to tell a story with manipulated photography and design. One might also say that it plays into individuality. In advertising, while each brand aims to have mass-market appeal - or at least to appeal to a section of society - the brand itself needs to appear rather unique. Each advertising concept must convey a personality-like identity, if the viewer is to establish a relationship with that specific brand or product. In advertising this is called “brand identity”. Within an increasingly hectic, consumerist world, which deliberately re-frames our identity and its importance (in ways that advertising depends upon and exacerbates) few of us admire advertising. It is thus rather gratifying to find, in these images, advertising concepts applied artistically to honouring social and emotional identity.
Laurent Chéhère’s images are deliberately designed to be seen from two perspectives. Viewed from a distance they capture our attention with a bold and incongruous vision of adventure, independence, and escape. Observed closely we find many small details: wallpapers bearing marks of now-absent wall hangings and a cross ; a clown who has fallen in love with a trapeze artist ; and an echo of the first time a mime spoke. The pictures encourage closer viewing, and make it rewarding.
Chéhère’s works are not simply metaphors of people. They are also literally about how we view buildings. The pictures suggest that the architecture which supports and influences us is worthy of our attention and appreciation. The flying houses remind us that most of our town and city buildings are dressed in today’s décor styles, and their features meet whatever safety regulations they currently have to comply with – or sneakily resist compliance. The buildings themselves are far more interesting than that, if we wish to explore their details. The manipulated photographs call into stark view just how much we ignore and take for granted, and what may lie within the spirit and history of people, places, and our surroundings.
  We are all timely, and all have history that may not be readily apparent.
  We are all worth paying attention to.

Recognising individuality within communities means celebrating diversity in a broad sense. Individuals have a panoply of varying attributes and wishes in addition to the contemporarily emphasised categories of gender, race, age, religious labels or cultural heritage, etc. We all have aspirations and thought, physique, generosity and neediness, and thousands more characteristics. Like a painting, the full picture of a person is more than what the catalogue describes.
  It is telling that social categorisation of individuals, through a few specific attributes, is termed “diversity”. “Diversity” is literally about separation: divergence. It could be better expressed and appreciated that individual characteristics are not there for the purpose of separation. They are also about convergence, if we wish. Almost all of Chéhère’s images show the flying houses still connected to their neighbourhood by power cables and communication lines. The two exceptions are the house on fire (where the connecting cables are severed), and the caravan of travellers (which has no cables) in which he deliberately makes the point that travellers are disconnected at both ends.

Communities are richer, stronger, and more honest, if they encompass and embrace a full gamut of emotions. Yet social cohesion is often practised by encouraging mainly those behaviours and emotions which are safe as a mild summer’s day, with the occasional light shower to help the plants grow a bit. Nice, and un-dramatic. Social constructs find embarrassment when people or groups exhibit emotions that hurt and crack like an icy dark winter, and those which are so bright and hot that they can burn, and the default response is to chastise and recommend some Factor 50. “Don’t do that, we can’t cope with it.”
A lot of art explores and celebrates what we find unusual or captivating – such as the tones of a petal on a tulip, or the essence of someone’s face conveyed through a sketched line.
  Art is fascinated with individuality in ways that social constructs and politics are not. So there is a tension between the artistic and governance. This is one of the many reasons why we need art: to explore the relationships between individuals and collectives, such as towns and cities and nature’s complex web of life.  As well as to encourage us, as individuals.


No comments:

Post a Comment