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Carole Benzaken

Le séjour dans l’eau ne transforme pas le tronc d’un arbre en peau de crocodile (Seydou Badian)
September 5 - October 10, 2009
Galerie I, Paris

Carole Benzaken’s work draws both on a set of images from the press and the media and from personal films and photographs. Working from within the depths of painting as well as on the surface of the digital medium, the artist succeeds in staging a multitude of scenes which work simultaneously from within and without, digging into depths and scratching the surface, scanning our collective consciousness and individual memories.
Abandoning the excessively static landmarks of an anthropomorphic vision, she adopts an unprecedented visual logic, one of side streets with no main roads. Her work is open to the infinite while drawing from the most intimate source of the imagination. It is a bird’s eye view, capable of mixing zooms and panoramas, realism and the dreamworld.

The cinematic model of western culture follows a logical narrative based on a rationale of cause and effect - stories with a beginning, a middle and an end. On the other hand the rhizome theory of digital data flow exposes the traveler to an unexpected intellectual approach. But Carole Benzaken does not ask the onlooker to choose. On the contrary, she seems rather to be representing an exciting period of mutation permitting hybrid forms of all types. The aim of her work is to surprise by never landing quite where one expects, somewhere along the frontier between a cinematic device rooted in events and duration and one composed of images on a screen which stratify the visible world, where optic depth takes precedence over the narrative. The overall result is an oscillation between the moving image running from left to right until it dissolves and the on-screen picture which is carefully woven together and thickens as successive layers are added.
This is the idea behind the composition of La Manne. Three screens arranged as a triptych broadcast an endless sequence of walking. A man is crossing the horizon of a landscape somewhere between paradise and no man’s land, on the edge of sand and sea. The character’s progress recalls the linear form in Rouleau à Peinture, but by splitting it into three screens the walk echoes the modernist grid of Tulipes or the By Night series, seeking to contain the fluidity of the digital present. But here Carole Benzaken superimposes a second grid on the surface of the endless walk, an arbitrary image which pierces and simultaneously overlays the entire cinematographic flow. The digital esthetics of the thickness of image are unveiled, stripping bare the narrative and rational illusions of an image constructed on a mimetic lie.

Alternation between the picture on the screen and the moving image is used to the full in the comparison between (Lost) Paradise and Zem. In the first case the spectator penetrates further and further into the picture frames, which randomly criss-cross the surface of coded imagery, evoking both a holiday paradise and the colonial memory of slave ships on the shore. The painting is the surface and texture of memory, giving body to the flimsy membrane of repressed past events. In the second, the spectator is caught up in a fleeting whirl, a dizzying attack on the stability of the observed world. There is something crossing the picture, which has become nothing more than a “means of transport”. At this point the storyline is stifled by the life-force of Now – knowledge of where the moment has come from and whence it is going has been lost forever. The eye only records a blur on the retina, an image also drawn from cinema, and we are left with a sense that the present moment cannot be caught on screen. Only a trace of paint remains, like an unforgettable yellow stain.

Stephanie Katz 2009  

Author, analyst of the image, and teacher, Stéphanie Katz is holder of a thesis on " The representation of the voice in painting ».
She conceived numerous documentaries on painting and the image for France-culture. Author of « L’écran, de l’icône au virtuel. La résistance de l’infigurable » (L’Harmattan, 2004), she publishes regularly catalogs, artists' monographs, or interventions in press. She pays attention to her role of transmission.