Tania Mouraud

Tania Mouraud’s first “photos-texts” from the 1970s are current -
ly on display at Centre Pompidou-Metz. Photography has since
been a recurring medium in her work. From the modest format of
“Vitrines”, to the monumental quality of “Palaces”, from rolls
of lm to digital les, Mouraud has continually explored how images
appear and how photos picture the world. The exhibit at Arsenal
unveils several of Mouraud’s major series from the early 1980s
through to her most contemporary work on the open air mines in
western Germany. Her continued interest in the use of image,
fabricated with one or the other medium, is revealed in the exhibition
where her photos are displayed alongside videos taken after
the year 2000. The exhibition continues at Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains
with the work titled Ad Infinitum. This impressive film provides
food for thought on the confrontation with the immenseness and
power of nature. Onwards, a novel experience in the Chapelle des
Templiers is based on a sound composition oering a retake
of this history-laden site.

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In her “Shop window” series started in 1981, Tania Mouraud
investigates the documentary potential of photography much like
Eugène Atget once did. Diligently following the recommended
tourist trails in the Paris Michelin Guide, she becomes Catherine
B., a fictional character freed from her family related responsi bilities,
who strolls the streets, capturing, until she is sick of them,
the many moonstruck pierrots, kitsch statuettes and other trinkets
that adorn the shop windows on the great Parisian boulevards.
omewhere between the display of ordinary objects and the negative
portrait of city life, this series of photographs documents the
signs of consumption and depicts the “less than glorious” side of
tourism. Mouraud above all wanted to compile a sort of inventory
“à la Perec”, from a cynical yet admirative point of view .

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In her “built images”, Tania Mouraud refines the art of disrupting
scales and plays with the potentials of the photographic medium.
By staging short scenes in an outdoor setting, she creates spaces
that encourage storytelling and fiction. Their forsaken, not to say
pathetic, character conveys a kind of melancholy. Indeed, these
black and white images point to a world that is on the edge of
oblivion. Mouraud effectively and wittingly distances herself from
her own work in this series of photographs, celebrating the poetry
of modesty.

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In the early 1980s, Tania Mouraud snapped pictures of the regulars
at the Parisian “Palace” nightclub, famous for its night l ife
and Wednesday night “gay parties” that she attended. Fitted out
with a wideangle lens, she took shots of dancers in the darkness
of the club adapting her exposure time to the party atmosphere.
The resulting allegorical images reveal ghost-like figures in tr ailing
light. This chaotic continuum goes hand in hand with the celebration
of an ephemeral type of aesthetics. A true showroom of
passion and lust through exuberant styles, the Palace was a real
utopia, a place for bodily freedom before AIDS struck.

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Since her first trip in 1971, Tania Mouraud has travelled to India
every year. From 2008 to 2010, she photographed heveas rubber
plantations in Kerala, focusing on the iridescent aspect of the
plastic covering on the coconut shells that are used to collect
the rubber sap. Taken at close range, the images invite us to embark
on a mysterious voyage deep into the material. The alchemy
taking place on the plastic’s surface is magnified. The brightly
coloured abstract images produced by the chemical reactions
bring gestural abstraction from the 1950s to mind. Photography
and painting unite forces to give birth to a beauty that does not
fear formalism.

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Out in the country, Tania Mouraud has captured, since 2007, the
landscapes reflected in the plastic covering on hay barrels. The
subtle variations in light and shadow bounce around the surface
of these opaque canvasses, their folds and crevices revealing
the shapes and colours of the fleeting sky. With a likeness to
Claude Monet and his “Haystacks”, these images also evoke the
atmospheric landscapes by John Constable and Joseph Mallord
William Turner. The tension between figuration and abstraction is
at its utmost here. Its title underscores this “border land” wh ere
he artistic medium explores its own limits.

2014 -
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The use of the panoramic format in this series of photos fully exposes
the wounds inflicted upon Nature. The anthropomorphic
dimension of a landscape is revealed by the scars left by humans
on their environment. The land becomes a sensitive surface
marked by the operations it endures. The dialectics of the stratified
beauty and the violently irreversible act are made visible
through the footprint left by these open-air mines in Germany. A
strange mix of emotions comes from the aesthetic experience
of these wounds, vacillating between fasci-nation and repulsion.

2014 -
Encres pigmentaires sur papier Hahnemuhle Photo Rag FineArt
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The “Disasters” series was shot near the town of Saint-Étienne
in 2014. Similar to her Once Upon a Time video and her “Scars”
photo series, Mouraud examines the destruction of our environment
in this work. Gaping swaths of land, where pine trees once
stood in the forest midst, stand bare. No sign of man, these silent
black and white images bear a dismal dimension. The romantic
contemplation of Nature has fallen to tragedy. The negative presence
of the trees, made visible by the gaps in the landscape, is
reinforced by the intense contrasts.

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“I had a show in Toronto and I went to Niagara Falls. I decided to
be a tourist, and I when I saw this!! So, I started filming, rig ht under
the falls. There’s a tunnel that takes you under the falls, where
you get completely sprayed, and drenched. I said to myself, ‘Too
bad, if I ruin my camera, that’ll part of the technical expenses’…
And I didn’t move! Actually, the only “artistic” part of the whole
thing was me saying to myself, ‘Shoot, despite the conditions’.
[…] My HD camera is no bigger than my hand. My heart was my
tripod. If the image moves, it’s because I’m breathing.”

Vidéo HD, couleur, sonore, 7’23” en boucle
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n my way to Masada, Mitzpe Ramon. I was up on a promontory
and my camera was lovingly caressing the landscape in a languid
choreography amplified by the final cut. Then a series of questions
arose. […] Emotional shock wave. Somewhere in the sky,
invisible but audible, Tzahal planes. Their intense noise sent me
back to the urgency in the sound’s rattle that I produced, between
fireworks and automatic gun fire. […] What is this? Sky or earth,
video or painting, a melancholic meditation on these multi-millenary
landscapes, theatre of conflicts past or yet to come? This video
is part of my work on landscapes and history, in which the sound
hides a certain amount of anxiety behind the visual beauty. A moment
suspended in time like the dry pastel dust behind the glass
in a Francis Bacon painting.”

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