Dignity to imagination - Basel: Jeff Wall at the Beyeler Foundation

June 13, 2024

50 shots on view where the artist desecrates the documentary role of photography

In the brilliant comedy directed by Marc Foster “Stranger than Fiction”, IRS agent Harold, surprised by the breaking in of an inner voice in his boring and predictable daily life, realizes that he is part of a novel. The planes of reality and narration mix, sometimes fight against each other, and at other times compensate, but, in the end, they converge in a compromise between the character and the writer. Between cinema, advertising, and photography, between spontaneous and fake, between the capture of a moment and its re-presentation, also Jeff Wall plays the work, who himself, to recall the set of a film, prefers to define cinematography.

IN REVIEW ALSO MILK DATED 1984 AND A SUDDEN GUST OF WIND (AFTER HOKUSAI), 1993

The Canadian artist, on display at the Beyeler Foundation with 50 shots, desecrates the documentary role of photography and its testimony of random and unrepeatable events. Large-format, some in light boxes, or backlit, the images use performers guided in sophisticated staging preparatory, in some cases post-produced, to give the visitor a glimpse of the cultured and singular Wall world. Among the most famous are Milk dated 1984, where milk is immortalized as it comes out of the container, in a stop as ethereal as meticulously tested. On view, also the magical A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai) of 1993, in which a gust of wind surprises, in a sparse agricultural landscape, a group of people, reproducing the aesthetic composition of a woodcut print of the Japanese master, honored in the title, against the backdrop of Mount Fuji.

IN LARGE-FORMAT BACKLIT SHOTS, WE SEE PERFORMERS GUIDED BY SOPHISTICATED PREPARATORY STAGINGS

The education at Columbia University in art history will lead him, in fact, often to mention Delacroix, Degas, Manet, Bacon, and Rodin, integrated on several levels in urban or rock environments, personal memories, and social events, in a visionary and contemporary perspective that aligns with those like him who have fought to restore dignity to the imagination. As in a Greek tragedy, the staging purifies, and frees the emotions of the viewer through the representation of impulses, so the man abandoned to the solitude of After “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue dated 1999-2000, absorbs the frustrations of the human being and reverberates in the countless bulbs that surround him, alarm bells of his despair.

AS IN A GREEK TRAGEDY, HIS REPRESENTATIONS RELEASE THE EMOTIONS OF THE VIEWER

Between life and death lies the bitter and pungent mockery of The Flooded Grave, 1998-2000: a flooded cemetery pit, in which existence is reborn as a marine ecosystem. Can we access the truth through fiction? Shakespeare, who in Hamlet entrusted the regicide theatre to reveal Claudio’s guilt, would have no doubts. Edited by Martin Schwander, until 21 April.

The Author

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Freelance journalist and editorial assistant. From linguistic studies she bounces to those of engineering and arrives, through a process of kinetic liberation, to digital marketing. Performing at a gallery in Pietrasanta she meets the director of AW ArtMag in 2019 to which she binds professionally, combining the Stendhal syndrome for Boltanski to the excitment for editing. In the office, she is tête-à-tête with the PC. At home, she looks out of her window, thinking, writing and planning the next reportage.

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