About the exhibition

François Michaud, museum curator

The artist, for whom photography and video are two ways of recording a situation – whether taken on the fly or in the short space of a distant landscape rolling by – also uses other artistic techniques (drawing, collage, cutting, folding and tucking). The website opens with shots of trains or, as Sylvie Bonnot prefers to say, with images from both inside and outside. A portrait of Andrei seems to invite us on this somewhat intriguing journey, and is followed by many others: “Forget the concepts of truth and reality, because it’s mainly about making these faces resonate with what was occurring: a shared, continuous, 7-day/6-night journey across the great plains of Siberia.” (S. B., notes, October 2014).

The photographs of the places traversed and videos (usually edited in diptych form) give this work the double mark of immensity and slowness – this compression of movement. The latter tends to disappear as the journey progresses – like a stopping of time, but only temporarily. We then discover the travel diaries, the sketchbooks created during the different stages and after her arrival in Tokyo (because drawing in the train quickly proves impossible, unless you’re willing to accept a shaky line, which Sylvie Bonnot is not). These travel diaries recount her journey and, at the same time, stand apart from it. They seem to be timeless. The video montage one sees on the website is the format in which the artist now intends to display them. Opening a notebook only shows an extract, whereas what is important here is the entire ensemble, developed but nonetheless open. A book that goes beyond the page numbering.

Her work is always the result of a series of hefty, ripened decisions, like the project itself, since the Mobile Lives Forum team first met with the artist. The journey, in two phases and at two specific times (in both Russia and Japan), was built and developed step by step with those who became, at one time or another, her travel companions. The Russians say “sputnik,” a word made famous by space travel. Sylvie Bonnot explains that the initial goal was Japan – a country she has visited several times before, but never for very long, and almost never in a single city. The Trans-Siberian portion came later, after a discussion with the Forum, though it then became the start of the actual project. For her, it was about slowing the trip down, delaying the start of shooting in Tokyo. However, it was in Japan that the photographic work was able to develop in the long term and with unrestricted, unhindered movement – by exploring the more or less marked streets, stations and intersections.

About Tokyo, Sylvie Bonnot writes: “In keeping with the initial project, I patiently observed the waltz, the downtimes and the marathons of the megacity’s inhabitants and users, attempting to slow down the frantic pace that reigns there, not only by isolating subjects but also by using slow-speed shooting to create images wherein rivers of moving people become ghostly mists. Here and there we see parts of their bodies, faces…a shoe.” (S. B., notes, October 2014).

In the end, like closing a book, the artist folds certain images to make them three dimensional, concrete vestiges of the moment.

NB: Riptides is linked to the Counter-current's research project

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