Marine Hugonnier is an artist whose work researches politics of vision. Across film, photography and work on paper she engages with an on-going questioning of the gaze and of image-making procedures. Although French, she partly grew up in the US and studied philosophy and anthropology before becoming an artist. These disciplines continue to influence her practice.
For this exhibition Hugonnier unveils a new body of work under the title TRAVEL POSTERS, a series of large format images exploring the acclaimed Pan Am advertising campaign designed by Yvan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar in 1971 and photographed by Magnum's photographers. These posters which feature evocative, unspectacular and anti-corporate images of far-flung places, are emblematic of the most progressive design of the 1970’s and are now a symbol of late modernism.
Hugonnier has been exploring the travels of these jet age posters through the digital age, in a literal way: questioning how their travels on the internet have affected them. By looking at their appearance on the net and comparing their loss or addition of substance - Hugonnier's work shows how these images, although apparently all similar, are in effect all different.
As the artist has said, in conversation with Tom Geismar, “When I received the high-resolution files of your posters, I realised they were different from the analogue ones, because they were JPEGs, lines of code, so ghosts of your 1971 originals. This is the paradigm that all images are going through now; it is a shift between a perspectival view and a computerised one... I looked at them for what they are: travel posters, and investigated this literally to see how they have been travelling. I looked at how the internet have affected them. In effect I am looking at the migration of these objects that are now data, at their travels from modernism to post-modernism. To chart their travel, I searched for patterns within each image, something like a crease, a fold, a stain, and soon I was able to trace that a specific image had been uploaded in London, and then uploaded again in Chicago, and so on. Of course, these images do not have the same resolution, but surprisingly they often don’t have the same hue. So the result once they are lined up is a shimmering intensity of the same and that is possibly the beauty of it.”
An engagement with time and place also runs through the exhibition and connects with a second group of works: examples of Hugonnier’s Restoration Project, in which paintings are acquired by the artist and subjected to a process of restoration (by a qualified conservator) under the artist’s instruction to work subtly on what Hugonnier calls the “climate and temporality of an image”. The 'restored' paintings are exhibited alongside two condition reports, one made before and one after, with the restoration itself existing between the two. This process investigates the changes to the paintings through time, and attempts to weave the history of their materiality with their subject to create new narratives. In a similar way to the Travel Posters, these are an invitation to consider the transient nature of images and our position as viewers.