‘Terrain de Jeux’, by Julie Pradier, is the experimental set-up for an examination of the world and our perception of it.
REVIEW BY BETTINA WENZEL
Reminiscent of the illusion and entertainment arts of the phantasmagoric theaters of the 18th and 19th century – when the Lanterna Magica shows the first moving images and artificial smoke is staged as the wafer-thin partition to the world of the supernatural – Julie Pradier photographs colored spirals of smoke, which she places in woodlands and at lakesides.
Her understanding of natural landscape as a ‘geographic reality, which combines the materiality of space and the experienced world, our knowledge and our representations of the world’, defies a reading that reduces landscape to its function of anti-urban alternative, of picturesque cliché and recreational facility. Landscape as an environment we accept as given is revealed as a result of human interaction and imagination.
Smoke and fog have always been used as stage props, as a means of dramatization. But they are more than mere distraction and camouflage of technical mechanisms. They aim our gaze at something that may not have been there before, or that we have not noticed. Through the veil of smoke, which slowly fades, we gain another vision of the world – a vision of another world.
Smoke excels through its présence absente and it is not astonishing that it has always been connected to the supernatural and the magic. As soon as Pradier’s colored twirls of smoke form, they dissolve again. They are artificially produced and carefully staged. Yet the direction of their movement seems independent and arbitrary. An element of unpredictability remains, which resists our control and our expectations. Involuntary experimenting lies in all discovery of the world and has its origin on the playground. In play, we understand and reenact what we observe around us. The testing of different hypotheses, the make-believe, plays an integral part of this: “I imagine a place which does not exist, where people get lost, appear and disappear. Photography is the beginning of a narrative that does not exist, an invitation to the dream.”
Julie Pradier was born in France in 1982. She works with the landscape as an artistic material, and with artificial and illusionist devices to instill doubt and cause a disturbance in the perception of the viewer. In her work, Julie stages unexpected encounters between characters and colored objects, and the construction of her pictures is experimental in nature, always about to become, evanescent. She works with analog and digital cameras and is interested in old photographic processes such as Wet Collodion and Cyanotype. Julie is also the editor of a self-published photo fanzine called Aziz light. You can find out more about her work here.
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