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– Autumn/Winter 2011

Jean-Luc Moulène: Photography as Training Manual

Sophie Berrebi

Jean-Luc Moulène, Père Lachaise — Bastille, Paris, 15 September 1998, Cibachrome print mounted on aluminium, 67 × 56cm. © Jean-Luc Moulène — ADAGP. Courtesy Chantal Crousel, Paris; Thomas Dane, London and Greta Meert, Brussels

Jean-Luc Moulène, Père Lachaise — Bastille, Paris, 15 September 1998, Cibachrome print mounted on aluminium, 67 × 56cm. © Jean-Luc Moulène — ADAGP. Courtesy Chantal Crousel, Paris; Thomas Dane, London and Greta Meert, Brussels

It is not unusual for one artist to display admiration towards another, but it is more so perhaps when the two are almost contemporaries (give or take a decade) and the appreciation takes the form of a dedication at the beginning of a book. In giving ‘tribute to the work of Jean-Luc Moulène’ on the credit page of Akram Zaatari: Earth of Endless Secrets (2009),1 Akram Zaatari acknowledges the undeniable formal proximity that exists between his photographs showing material evidence related to the stories he presents in his films and installations projects and Moulène’s photographs of objects set against neutral grounds.1 More than that, however, and despite tackling different subject matter, Zaatari’s images consider the ambiguousness of the photograph as evidence — a reflection that can be traced back to Moulène’s own experimentations. Rather than the industrially manufactured objects of daily life that commonly turn up in Moulène’s images, Zaatari’s photographs most frequently present objects that bear the marks of the conflicted history of Lebanon, from postcolonialism to intermittent war. A handbag stuffed with letters from a war prisoner, vintage audio and videocassettes, an archive of old photographs and pages from a diary are shown as material traces of the narratives that unfold in such films of Zaatari’s as Al-Sharit Bikhayr (All Is Well on the Border, 1997) and Fi Haza al-Bayt (In This House, 2005). But, once they are captured in the form of a photograph, the folded letters become illegible and the tapes inaudible. For all their clarity of composition, these images show the limits of photographic evidence. As with the work of Jean-Luc

Footnotes
  1. Akram Zaatari: Earth of Endless Secrets (exh. cat., ed. Karl Bassil and Akram Zaatari), Frankfurt, Hamburg and Beirut: Portikus, Sfeir Semler Gallery and Beirut Art Center, 2009. 

  2. ‘Each Any – Interview with Jean-Luc-Moulène, Paris, October 2008’, in Jean-Pierre Criqui (ed.), Jean-Luc Moulène (exh. cat.), Nîmes and Cologne: Éditions du Carré d’art and Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2008, p.135.

  3. Moulène recapitulates his work experience with Journiac in his statement ‘Histoire de l’image de Darek. Temoignage de Jean-Luc Moulène’, in Vincent Labaume (ed.), Michel Journiac, Paris and Strasbourg: École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, Les Musées de Strasbourg, 2004, p. 166.

  4. Moulène often includes identifying information alongside his titles beyond the traditional date.

  5. Charles Baudelaire, ‘À une passante’, Les Fleurs du mal, Paris: Poulet Malassis et de Broise, 1857. English translation: William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil, Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954. 

  6. Quoted in Bruce Glaser, ‘Oldenburg, Liechtenstein, Warhol: A Discussion’, Artforum, February 1966, vol.4, no.6, pp.20–24. 

  7. The tendency on the part of photojournalists and photography editors to select pictures of disaster that recall in their composition Christian religious imagery is a simplification and broadening of this phenomenon.

  8. John Tagg, The Burden of Interpretation: Essays on Photographies and Histories, London: Macmillan, 1998.

  9. See Audrey Murate, ‘Paulownia tomentosa (Thunb.) Seud.’, in Jean-Luc Moulène, Opus 1995–2007 / documents 1999–2007 (exh. cat.), Lisbon: Culturgest, 2007, pp.211–15.

  10. Translated in Le Tunnel / Documents de Jean-Luc Moulène, Paris: éditions al dante, 2005. 

  11. ‘Each Any – Interview with Jean Luc-Moulène, Paris, October 2008’, op. cit., p.136.

  12. Ibid., p.142. 

  13. Yve-Alain Bois, Denis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss and Hubert Damisch, ‘A Conversation with Hubert Damisch’, October, vol.85, Summer 1998, pp. 8.