Edouard Taufenbach & Bastien Pourtout: taking photography beyond the possible, the desirable or the beautiful
TWS –Please tell us about your backgrounds and how you ended up working together?
ET&BP –We met 5 years ago at a vernissage and quickly became friends. We shared a common curiosity for many of the subjects we are passionate about: cinema, books, art and photography. Soon after, we started working together on different projects on an episodic basis. Last year in the spring we went to the Villa Medici for a residency for our project The Blue of the Sky about the flight of the swallows. We spent the residency together which transformed our relationship and was a moment of joint invention during which new projects began. On our return to France we decided to become an artist duo.
TWS –How you approach creative process as a duo?
ET&BP –The creative process for two was built around exchange and learning. The basis is to be interested in the other’s point of view, to try to take their place and to adopt and understand their point of view. We like the idea of being able to play all the roles, and to be able to exchange our positions both in theoretical and practical creation.
TWS –Photography is about selecting a moment and freezing it. You avoid choosing a moment, but want to portrait the complexity of time and perception. Can you please expand on this subject?
ET&BP –In our practice we do not consider ourselves photographers but rather artists working with photography. We are not interested in the quality of the photographs but in their organisation and the image they make together. We are very interested in the space between two photographs, how the brain activates them, associates them, reassembles them or makes an intermediate image.
TWS –I see traces of artists such as Edward Muybridge and Kolar Jiri in your work. But also I can see a personal artistic identity that goes far beyond your influences. Can you walk us through the path of finding your voice and approach to art and photography?
ET&BP –Muybridge, Marais and later Kolar are obviously strong references, as we are very sensitive to structure, organisation and protocol in creation.
The concept of modernity is at the heart of our references, in Art as well as in Design and Architecture. Our references range from Bauhaus to Memphis, from Debussy to Boulez or from Perret to Parent. We love the avant-garde for their qualities of trial and experimentation that dare to go beyond the possible, the desirable or the beautiful.
TWS –I see your work based on opposites that create a conceptual tension that adds depth to your approach. Can you expand on your thoughts about these different pairs of concepts:
* Accumulation – Edition : We like both * Still photography – Motion. : We try to put movement in still images * Order – Chaos : It’s just a question of perspective * Geometry – Organic : These two are not opposed, the organic world is very geometric and vice versa * Observation – Imagination : Subjectivity
TWS –You work with your own images and with appropiation of found imagery. Where do you feel the DNA of your work is located?
ET&BP –The DNA of our work does not lie in the origin of the images, but in their presentation. First in the way we look at them and then in the way we organise them to direct our gaze on them: in what order or in what succession.
TWS –Which is the role of collecting in your work? Are you a flea market digger?
ET&BP –Collecting is a permanent work in flea markets, in auction rooms or on the internet. We also collect in our imagination as references and sources of inspiration. For example, Instagram serves as a catalogue of images and a creative tool.
TWS –What did the pandemics and lockdown made to your collaborative workdynamic?
ET&BP –We are working on a project called CAPTURE D’ECRAN (ScreenShot) which is a visual conversation made by sending images to each other (see text below).
During the lockdown caused by the health crisis, our artist duo was separated. In order to communicate and continue our exchanges, we developed a process of image conversations with the Instagram messaging system.
One of us sends a photo to the other who will reply to it with another image that includes the original photo. We record each step of the conversation with screenshots. This simple mechanism allows us to create, in real time, dynamic and evolving collages which, photograph after photograph, end up composing chains of images, like Russian dolls.
In the manner of a photographic exquisite corpse, our visual conversation thus creates joyful associations. By using effects of repetition and analogy, it allows the multiplication of shapes and colours with a great amount of freedom. It is a fast-working process that forces a certain spontaneity and engages the body: a performed collage where we are both actor and sometimes subject.
Often executed during urban walks, the creation of these collages forces an interaction with the shapes directly “available” as a game to observe the nearby environment differently. This dialogue is constantly renewed as we photograph everything that passes before our eyes: us, our bodies, architecture, nature, objects, and even flat areas of colour using the option of the application that reduces the images to only a gradation between two tones.
This conversational work builds up playfully from response to response. It associates images and their subjects along the dividing lines between each step and anchors these collages in a contemporary aesthetic of photographs taken by phones.
TWS –Which is your (personal) definition of collage?
ET&BP –Collages are above all tools, matrices for thinking and creating forms and images by association, imbrication and arrangement. They allow us to give form to a dialogue. We consider them as a kind of language.
Find more of Edouard Taufenbach & Bastien Pourtout on their website and their Instagram profiles ET & BP.