photo caption (above) © Eric Rondepierre, Couple, passant, 1996-98
“That impossible photogram, as Roland Barthes said. An object which is not (even) an object, but at the same time is actually two objects. It doesn’t (really) belong to the cinema or (simply) to photography ; it is more than a photograph yet less than a film. It is, therefore, a sort of axis or fold, the precise crossing point (punctum) between cinema and photography. Eminently paradoxical, the photogram is the touchstone of Eric Rondepierre’s work which is acutely conscious of the delicate balance on the razor’s edge where cinema meets photography in their most intimate specificity.
Eric Rondepierre’s work always starts with a film, or more precisely with the image-matter of a film. Rondepierre is not interested in cinema as the reflection-projection of a film on a screen, in a consumer relation to what is watchable, with its imposed length and speed, uninterrupted flow, impression of movement, perceptive fiction, transitory illusion – in other words the magic of the large cinema-body on the screen. What interests him is the film as actual film strip, a material sequence of fixed images intimately and appropriatively related to its object. Film images that you can not only see but also touch, hold, manipulate and collect.
In other words, Rondepierre aims at what is most authentically photographic at the very heart of cinema. This is of course profoundly contradictory. The photogram is an impossible object : it is both film’s condition of existence and its total negation. Obviously a film consists only of photograms, yet seeing a photogram for what it is (the frozen image of a film) necessarily means not seeing the film, which can only exist fully as movement. Seeing a film flow past automatically implies not seeing photograms, nevertheless the very essence of a film since they disappear, absorbed into the projection process. Photograms are the only real images and the only invisible images in a film. This is the ontological paradox which makes photograms into cinema’s blind «spots».
What strikes me most in all this is the principle of texture-filters which seems to me to operate in Rondepierre’s artistic strategy like Freud’s memory screen. It is a question of masks and shifts, in which the accumulated density of textures only reflects downstream the work that the spot principle has already performed upstream : burying and excavating part of what is invisible (part of the unconscious). Just as the concept of photograms revealed by freezeframes can be interpreted as a figure of the revelation of film’s unconscious. Photography and cinema are merely spots and textures. Don’t believe too much in what you can see. Learn to not see what is displayed (and therefore which hides). Learn to see beyond, beside, across and beneath. Look for the spot in the image, texture in the surface, negatives in positives and latent images in the negative ground. Follow once more the route mapped out by the psychicphotographic apparatus, shifting from eye to memory, from appearance to unrepresentable. Dig down through the layers and levels like an archeologist. Photographs are only surfaces, they have no depth, only a fantastic density. Behind it, beneath it or around it, one photo always hides (at least) another photograph, or a film. It is a question of screens, and here you enter in a singular universe, the one of an individual by the name of Eric Rondepierre.
And in this lies one of the possible dimensions of his work – it operates precisely like a psychic apparatus, maybe like Freud’s famous little Wunderblock the « magic notepad » which in 1925 Freud used as the ideal metaphor for the workings of the first topic of the unconscious : a question of levels, of transparent surface area upon which one writes, and a background layer on which the inscriptions are preserved in absentia even when the have been erased from the surface. Photography is the top surface, cinema the background dephts and writing the displaced entity. The « Wunderblock » shifts from one to the other, a link, like the photogram which relates photography to cinema. The deep spot (the invisible, the inconscious, the buried object, the lost text) and the texture which brings it to the surface, visible and conscious (the layered pathway to visibility). Coming and going. Directly or mediated. And starting again from the beginning.”
excerpt of Eric Rondepierre or working with photograms (between spot and texture) by Philippe Dubois in “Eric Rondepierre”, ed. Espace Jules Verne/ Galerie Michèle Chomette, Paris, 1993, pp. 28-35. FULL TEXT here
more of Eric’s work here