EXHIBITIONS



What are we dealing with? Is this a simple case of dressing up, a duplicity, a laborious exercise on the relationship between photography and fiction? A treatise on solitude and alcoholic dependency? An attempt to link disaster with its individual consequences? "I Drink", a series of photographs taken in New Orleans by Kourtney Roy, is all of these things in a way. The series is implacable: one image is all and can be reduced to a fragment. The avatar takes precedence in a unique, unchanging narrative, where the stereotype reigns. Kourtney Roy, photographer, actress and director makes a body, her own, available for a range of little sketches, the backdrop of which is always desolate or banal, places where bad things happen.

The term decor does not apply in this instance. The backdrop is in fact imbued with a fictional power on the edges of the real. The photographic space blends with a space that seems to be theatrical. A few general views clarify the situation. We are in New Orleans, a city that has not yet managed to get over Katrina, with its grim neighbourhoods, service stations and bars. Wearing a "disguise", with no ostentation, a nameless character in a "mask", features in them, or in fact, lives in them. The bar, the karaoke stage or dancefloor house an accepted solitude that family life cannot assuage. Nevertheless, there is purposefully no pathos in the depiction. The feeling of holding back in the metamorphosis comes from the impossibility of creating a "naturalist" role and the clear awareness of not being in a position to make the situation new. The "mask" is an obvious lure, and despite changing wigs, the modifications have no effect on the way the narrative unfolds, it is necessarily brutal, a lost girl in a counterfeit, illusory world.

What is the aim of this transformation? The provisional modification is intended to create an encounter with one of her potential doubles. The photographer and her character are looking for each other. Here photography reaches its aim: here, without a doubt, they find one another, they identify each other. In the framework of this piece of photographic fiction, the change in appearance is essential, obvious and tragically comic. The dramatic resilience of the distortion relieves the series of pathetic, painful commentary. The trio of photographer, character and spectator, the viewer, is not taken in. The reality of alcoholism is complex, but above all it is a series of aversions, of negligence, of brutality, of shouts and tears that we are all aware of. These photographs are perhaps only useful for this, they do not inflict the disorders of the imagination on us but reveal what we wish to be; narcissistic characters, with a certain beauty, however fragile.

But the photographer does not fool us with these "kitsch" backdrops; of these preposterous wigs and this low-key eroticism there is nothing left but ennui and banality. We do not expect anything else, anything more off-putting, as the photographer, perhaps through empathy, pushes us to act, to put ourselves in the place of the character, the "everyday neurotic" that inhabits us all. The title, "I Drink", is evidence of the character's refusal to look at reality head-on, the subject that struggles to find its place in the world of language. History, Katrina, the social framework, the neighborhood and the family unit hide a deeper, almost primitive condition. Sociological explanations overtake us like the decor of the refusal of the real. As such, photography and alcohol share man's unquenchable need to modify his conscience. Faced with the overdose of the world's meanings, emptiness is the only option. Everyday life is a used-up photographic material that can no longer be approached without an ironic lightness.

In contrast to common sense, the stereotype and its exaggerations seem to be a necessary evil. The character adapts to the real. "I Drink" does not deal with the loss of reality but with a permanent present that has banished the future. The illusion contributes to the balance. The artificial nature of photography is but the metaphor of the artificiality of existence. These images are not here merely to confound or amuse the viewer. They relate the viewer to the work of the imagination, which, in the end, is the medium's sole function.


François Cheval, June 2018