ready made characters for our generation

a m/m (paris) + inez van lamswerde & vinoodh matadin workshop
ecal, école cantonale d'art de lausanne, may 2000.

exhibition at l'elac, espace lausannois d'art contemporain,
from january 18th to march 3rd, 2001.

aalex |
bettina | cendrine | emy | geoffrey & julien | gilles & vincent
joel | nathalie | olivier | rachel & corine | romain | sandrine

photographed by inez van lamsweerde & vinoodh matadin.
light: jodokus driessen. image manipulation: karin spyker.
studio coordination: pierre fantys. thanks to pierre keller @ ecal.

The images gathered here are the result of a collaborative work process involving photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, the graphic design team M/M (Michaël Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak) and students from the Visual Communication Department of the Ecole cantonale d'art of Lausanne (ECAL). Starting from a realization of the impact fashion images have on our visual culture, and therefore, on its elaboration at an everyday level, the project took the form of a one-week workshop, preceded by preliminary research and preparation.

The protocol of this workshop took as its working hypothesis the idea that the construction of fashion images « is in most cases articulated around collective dreams and fantasies projected on an individual (the model), and which are expressed through clothes, postures, hairstyles, make-up, etc »*. "Characters" created for the needs of a brand, a magazine or a market, floating around us like so many potential surfaces of projection, can either « become icons celebrating stereotypes or the possible starting point for totally new stories »*. The workshop aimed to pursue this reflection by inviting students to experience this process through the invention of such a character. They were called upon to (1) define a set of elements composing this new personality (social class, place of residence, lifestyle, and cultural references); (2) draw a list of the physical changes this new personality would create (attitude, make-up, hairstyle, posture, gestures, habits); (3) put together a styling adequately synthetizing these intentions (clothes, shoes, accessories). The characters thus created then went through a "casting", testing the validity of the different proposals. Thirteen characters were selected and later photographed by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. Today they form a new series of images entitled "milleneufcentseptantesix".

Inez van Lamsweerde's work plays on a split surface, between art project and fashion photography. It investigates issues of identity and the media. If criticism of her work has mostly focused on the computer transformations she often applies to images, other series reach a similar level of referential ambiguity and constructed artificiality without resorting to digital imaging processes. In a recent set of pictures entitled "Me", the artist tries to define the part played by mechanisms of self-projection in an "indexical" photographic language. In a similar way, the works made in Lausanne stress the constructed nature of identity codes, without post-camera intervention. Only the intentions of the photographers and the authors/actors seem to matter here, through the practice of a medium made "visible" again as a form of "writing".

In their art direction work for such fashion designers as Yohji Yamamoto, Balenciaga or Jil Sander, and in their collaborations with artists like Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe, the two graphic designers known as M/M have never ceased to interrogate the image from the angle of its latent narrative content, its capacity for generating scenarios. By way of "inventing" new characters, played by their creators and photographed as so many potentially new stereotypes, the true "ecological" dimension of the project launched in Lausanne is brought to light: to make images which are aware of themselves as images, capable of deconstructing the mechanisms fabricating desire, style or identity; to oppose fashion's value-system with so many counter-values, also fleeting, also built from the same codes, yet rich from the textures of their origins, which will attach themselves like viruses to the interface of this system.

Lionel Bovier

*Quotations are taken from the original brief as given to the students.

participants to the workshop:

alexander aeschbach
emy amstein
olivier arcioli
aalex bettler
sara bochicchio
geoffrey cottenceau
philippe cuendet
jacques dousse
thomas eberwein
aisha enz
erwan frotin
julien gaillardot
matthias gehri
bettina hempel
rachel imboden
laurence jaccottet
laure jordan
ana lugumerski
marie lusa
cédric madelaine
michela montalbetti
lauris paulus
sandrine pelletier
sandrine pernet
danilo pierotti
nathalie rebholz
claudia roethlisberger
romain rousset
alexandra ruiz
corine sautebin,
joel tettamanti
gilles turin
vincent turin
cendrine viscomi

make-up assistance by ligia dias.

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