Author Book Award Les Rencontres d'Arles 2013
“The slow ruin of a man with no ties, a refugee from a long expedition, which repeats itself from room to room.” Such is the description that Antoine d’Agata gives of the triptych that he is preparing for January 2013 – a triptych comprising an exhibition, a film and a book. The three parts of this project share a common architecture, in nine episodes, punctuated by nine “points” – errancy, intoxication, desire, flesh, pleasure, fall, excess, orgy and agony – that are both physical and mental, and which organise the tale of an arduous, radical but lucid quest, experienced by night, combining sex, errancy, suffering and drugs.
Antoine d’Agata does not stage the world he photographs, he is merely the silent witness, the assiduous spectator. He plunges himself into it headlong, and carries us along with him in these ordinary or extreme experiences of the flesh, the void, death and pleasure. There is an essential quality to his work, as well as an urgency. An autobiographical journal, the chronological tale of a disorderly path, an intimate confrontation that feeds on the photographer’s unique capacity to root out an elaborate but instantaneous language from lived situations, this book offers a vertiginous dive into the night, which forges Agata’s thoughts on the power relations between two antagonistic worlds. From social alienation to the solidarity of the flesh, from immorality to the transparency of amorality, from politics to pornography, from intoxication to narcotic prostration, from speech to instinct, from sensual confusion to hys- teria, from perception to action, from unconscious absorption of the world to lucidity.
The pictures become ever increasingly abstract throughout the book, revealing the degeneracy due not only to the increased vio- lence of the situations, but also to a slow evolution of black and white to colour and to digital imagery. They are opposed to the other facet of the book, to the meticulous labour of inventory and sequential arrangement. The methodology of classification and the compulsive use of blocks of images brings the spectator back to a certain rigidity in the physical and social space, which echoes the violent by insidious formatting of the individual within modern society.
As a fully-fledged participant in the programme that he condemns himself to live, d’Agata is obliged to follow to the letter – via corporeal experience – this exacting systematism. Situations retraces a photographic practice that is indissociable from a certain way of understanding existence, in which risk-taking, desire, the unconscious and chance remain the essential elements. There are no moralistic attitude or judgments of any kind, simply the ethics of the affirmation that in order to explore certain worlds it is necessary to share them in the extreme, without taking any kind of precaution. Situations is a photographic enactment, at the limits of disappearance, pleasure and death.