“When photography was first invented in the early 19th century, people feared that photographs would suck out their souls. They were right......” Hiroshi Sugimoto
After the screening at AsiaNow Paris, I took the opportunity to visit Versailles to catch the show of noted photographer, Hiroshi Sugimoto at Versailles. The show, Surface de Révolution, opened 5 days ago.
One really needs to invest a full day to fully experience the work - in order to know it, one has to walk the palace grounds and know a bit of history. It took me what felt like half a day (distance and getting past tourist queues) to get to the northern Trianon Estate. it was built by King Louis XIV, to get some respite from courtly activities.
Sugito Hirsoshi has an interesting approach here, while keeping to his practice of “questioning our relationship with photography and time.” The artist reinvented a historical narrative by presenting “shadows” of personalities who had lived in or visited the palaces. The shadows took the form of black and white portraits sited in different rooms and niches in the Trianon estate. How did he do that?
It started when he visited Versailles and saw the wax portrait of King Louis XIV — it was a cast that was made from a direct mold of the King, by Antoine Benoist, done in 1705, 10 years before his death. Sugimoto then photographed it.
“I have reproduced via photography a living likeness of the King, it was as if King Louis XIV was photographed 100 years before the invention of the medium,” said Hiroshi Sugimoto.
And he didn’t stop there. What happened to the other personalities in this project? That was when his connection with Marie Grosholtz, or more famously known as Madame Tussard, started. She had worked as an artist at the palace of Versailles and was the tutor to King Louis VXI’s younger sister. She experienced the French Revolution firsthand. She had access.
She had applied wax directly on the faces of these subjects’ to make a cast. Sugimoto photographed these wax figures taken by Grosholtz and placed them in the setting of Trianon estate.
Many hundreds years later these personalities have “returned” as “soulless husks” in photographs.
In the end I only had about 2 hours of FIAC but the sacrifice was well worth it. Pardon the rawness of the iPhone footage edited on the go. Enjoy. On till Feb 17, 2019.