French artist Laurent Millet’s hazy self-portraits challenge our understanding of two-dimensional photographic space
In his recent project, Translucent Mould of Me, Laurent Millet, who lives and works in Rochefort, France, takes the traditional self-portrait as his starting point, although what he creates is far from conventional self-portraits.
In keeping with his interest in the manipulation of space and his exploration of the links between photography and sculpture, Millet created these images by choosing a space and using wire to construct shapes before improvising moves and poses in front of his view camera. The final images created with a degree of chance have the feel of performance art, and it is unclear which elements exist in the physical space inhabited by the photographer and which in the pictorial space of the image.
“The idea for the project came from a desire to experiment with the possibility of creating self-portraits in a weird space that would be in between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional,” he says. “The body seems to be diluted in time and space, and the corners of the room and the wire seem to pass through it, just as if it doesn’t really exist. It is hard to say if the main element is the body or the wire. To me the wire has a trembling quality that makes it human, like a goofy drawing in a space through which I could walk.”
The idea for the series came to Millet a few years ago but it took him a long time to realise what was going on in the images. “I kept a few of the first results and made the rest of the images in five or six short sessions over a month. This series is my last attempt to confront physical references related to drawing, lines and to real space. I’ve done this with the landscape many times before, but in this case the absence of wind allows me to play with time and to create movements only in parts of the picture I’ve chosen.”
While he wouldn’t describe his images – which are paper negatives that are scanned and printed digitally – as conceptual, Millet refers to his approach as “empirical” since he was unable to see himself when making the images. “It is more a feeling that drives me through the conception and choice of the images,” he says. “This feeling is quite hard to name. I am diluting my body in a drawing. The image proves it [happened], although the result of this accumulation of time means this picture shows something that never really existed. The confrontation between a human and a small piece of everyday material is very present in Samuel Beckett’s work, which I love,” he adds. “I guess it influenced me in one way or another.”
Although Millet had an idea of the images he wanted to create beforehand, questions remained as to the relationships between various elements, he says. “I had many questions about the relationship between these simple elements. I knew which tool I would use to get the result needed – that is, paper negatives. I felt that working in this way would enable me to suggest references to drawing and to do time exposures. The exposure times are between one and two minutes. The semi-transparent effect comes from the long exposure as some parts of the body are moving and others aren’t. The blurry effect is a gauze made from time and movement.”
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