Alain Bublex explains that his contemporary art piece, Contributions, has its source in the urban planning work of Le Grand Paris. He says that looking at the output of the international consultation for Le Grand Paris made him realize that he didn’t actually know Paris, that many of the places mentioned by the architects and planners were known to him – as they are to many people who would say they know Paris, I might add – only in name.
So Bublex decided to methodically explore the entire metropolis by visiting each of the more than two hundred stations of the regional rapid transit network (known by its French acronym: RER) and document what he found around each of them through photographs. Contributions is the result of that work.
Contributions consists of a set of 136 color prints that form a single artistic piece. On the surface, the pictures seem unremarkable, they are the landscapes of the everyday that have lost any trace of interest or novelty for millions of commuters. Of course, there exists an aesthetic of the ordinary, and there is no doubt that Bublex is sensitive to that. But my impression is that what is more important here is the documentary aspect. This is our world. The RER stations are the center of each of their territories, and here is what we, as a society, have put there.
The central power of this work relates to the perception of Paris. Today, people’s mental image of Paris is the landscape of the urban core, the area within the city limits defined in 1860. Le Grand Paris has catalyzed a general awareness, even a desire, to acknowledge that Paris is much more than that: Paris is the whole metropolis. Bublex is showing us what that new visual world that we need to incorporate into that mental box labelled “Paris” looks like. He is helping us redefine our landscape vision of the city.
Comparisons have been made to the “new topographics” photographers (Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Frank Gohlke, Stephen Shore) and to the Mission Photographique de la DATAR, a campaign begun in 1984 to commission photographs of the French territory and which included Gabriele Basilico, Lewis Baltz and numerous others. But I like to think of this work in relation to the work of Charles Marville. It is only tangentially and hypothetically that Bublex might actually be documenting Paris before some big change to come with Le Grand Paris. But where the analogy does hold is that Marville documented Paris and played an important role in the mental perception of its landscape. Bublex’s Contributions is more modest in scale, but has the same idea of documenting a landscape in a way that contributes to the lasting visual representation we have of this idea we call Paris.
Contributions is on view at the Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois, 36 rue de Seine, Paris, until November 26th, 2011