INNER SELF

Everything is fluidity, impermanence or in transition in Anne-Sophie Guillet’s work: this is the stamp of an approach that is both introspective and contemplative, taking the time to sketch out her major obsessions. Situated at the heart of the series Inner Self, the unfathomable enigma of human identity is one such concern. From 2013 to 2018, Anne-Sophie Guillet has patiently built up a series of thirty photographs of androgynous-looking young people. Most often chance encounters in her daily round, they attracted her attention thanks to the way they seem to escape from the binary, normative model of man/woman. Whether the effect has been aesthetically enhanced, or else there is an ongoing hormonal treatment, they all convey “gender trouble1”. Their face-on portraits seem draped in a heavy silence; however, there is nothing mute about them. Instead they question how an identity is constructed and represented in front of the Other. More clearly than anyone else, Clément Rosset has rejected the common distinction between personal identity (or, the intimate identity of the self) and social identity. According to this French philosopher, personal identity is a stubborn illusion, a phantom, and any attempt to pinpoint it will inevitably result in failure. All identities are socially constructed, and “all there can be of me is from the other and by the other, whose support guarantees the emergence and survival of myself”2. But, in front of any portrait, be it a painting or a photograph, the question that spontaneously comes to mind – who is this person I can see or, rather, think I can see here? – is twinned, when confronted by the images in the series Inner Self, with a hesitation concerning the expression of gender.

From one image to the next, page after page, their gazes pass by: young, open and frank, offered to the lens. Anne-Sophie Guillet has photographed them using a traditional camera, in daylight, indoors, on a neutral background. The whole has intentionally been pared-back, rid of the superfluous so as to focus on the essential, which lies in the visual exchange between the photographer and her subject. Discretion and patience are essential in this dialogue, whose moment of fulfillment can be imagined during the shoot, in a calm, serene atmosphere. Doubtlessly, it is because she needs to project herself at once into a non-verbal relationship that Anne-Sophie Guillet favours chance encounters over a more impersonal method of recruitment of models using small ads. As opposed to certain traditional portraits, aimed at fixing the image of a face and providing it with an iconic power, these portraits only capture nuances and a fleeting moment, or the possible hesitations of bodies when faced with identities in motion, which are more than ever open and multiple. For this series, which was constituted over time, she also has photographed some people several times, with the intention of revealing the notion of a permanent becoming, or happening. This movement, which is inherent to the construction of an identity, is accentuated by the age of the models, who all waver between adolescence and the early years of adulthood.

1 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, NY, Routledge 1990

2 Clément Rosset, Loin de moi, Etude sur l’identité, Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 1999, p.48 

Right from the opening pages of a non-fiction narrative, entitled The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson tells of a divergence of viewpoints between her and her partner, the artist Harry Dodge, who was soon to undergo a double mastectomy, and take regular injections of testosterones. This divergence, which is quite clearly fundamental, had to do with the power of words. While words had always been enough for the author, Dodge was on the contrary convinced not only that they were not enough, but they could be “corrosive”. Language determines and assigns, while “for some, or for some at some times, this irresolution is OK”3. The anecdote of the writer searching out pronouns used to qualify Harry on the web, at the beginning of their story, is an excellent illustration of this overwhelming need to categorize, while others prefer to favour indeterminacy, the transitive or the in-between. By choosing anonymity for her models, Anne-Sophie Guillet is in fact trying to counter the effects of closure that any additional information about the images would create. Forenames, ages, gender identities and sexual orientations thus linger only in her memory. 

In the 1990s, new gender identities arrived to deconstruct the dominant norms. This proliferation is often correlated with the ripples set off by the publication of Gender Trouble, Judith Butler’s flagship work. Once deconstructed, gender is no longer considered in a binary, rigid way, but as a variable, shifting condition. Binarity is subverted by plural identities with numerous names, such as for example “transgender”, “genderqueer”, “genderfluid”, “pangender”, “agender” or else “gender-neutral”. In the mainstream media of the 2010s, these new identities seemed to embody a characteristic phenomenon of Western postmodernity. In 2016, the publication of a study commissioned by an American prospection and trends agency was reported on by a large number of wide-circulation titles, including Vice. This research, focused on Generation Z – people born between 1995 and 2003 – in particular established that over a third of the respondents thought that gender no longer defined a person as much as it had before4.

So, what do such views tell us and, through this prism, the gaze of the photographer? By dealing with such issues, the series Inner Self is necessarily political, but without taking testimonies or sides. With no effects of demonstration or militancy, the photographs it includes rather allude to the power of subversion attributed by Roland Barthes, in Camera Lucida, to “pensive images”. While a photography whose meaning is too dominant will be consumed aesthetically, and not politically, Barthes referred to the example of the refusal of Kertész’s photographs by the editors of Life, after his arrival in the USA in 1937. His images, “‘spoke too much’; they made us reflect, suggesting a meaning (...).” Barthes then concluded: “Ultimately, photography is subversive, not when it frightens, repels or even stigmatizes, but when it is pensive.5>” As the French philosopher Etienne Helme explains so well in a short essay entitled Parler la photographie6, this subversion “does not transform the world and does not necessarily change the vision we have of it. It is above all a matter of activating in us a power of analysis, imagination and judgement.” An aim that Anne-Sophie Guillet would surely not disagree with.
—  Marie Chênel

3 Maggie Nelson, The Argaonauts, Graywolf Press, 2015, p.92

4 JWT Intelligence, Gen Z goes beyond gender binaries in new Innovation Group data, 03/11/2016

5 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, Reflections on Photography, New York, Hill and Wang, 1981, P.38

6 Etienne Helmer, Parler la photographie, Paris, Editions Mix, 2017, p. 31

63ème SALON DE MONTROUGE, 2018.

Une attention portée, au hasard des trajets quotidiens, à des personnes à l’allure androgyne, au genre indistinct. Un regard contemplatif, ouvert à une réalité vécue en tant que flux, dans la moiteur d’un mois d’août japonais. Loin des apparences gées, tout est fluidité, impermanence ou passage dans l’oeuvre d’Anne-Sophie Guillet. Depuis plusieurs années, l’artiste travaille notamment à une série photographique intitulée Inner Self (moi profond). Comptant à ce jour une vingtaine de portraits effectués au moyen format argentique, à la lumière du jour et en intérieur sur fond neutre, Inner Self se développe à la faveur de rencontres avec des inconnu·e·s qui échappent, de manière apparente, au strict binarisme homme/femme. Que l’effet soit esthétiquement accentué ou qu’un traitement hormonal soit en cours, tou·te·s sèment du « trouble dans le genre ». Frontaux, leurs portraits paraissent drapés d’un silence lourd ; ils n’ont, pour autant, rien de mutiques, mais ils interrogent comment se construit et se représente une identité face au regard d’autrui. En 2016, lors de la première de deux longues résidences estivales dans une zone rurale du sud du Japon, Anne-Sophie Guillet débute Komorebi, une série mêlant courtes vidéos statiques et photographies travaillées par le brouillage des plans, et dont le nom désigne la lumière filtrant au travers des feuilles des arbres. Produite à l’intuition, au gré de marches répétées dans un périmètre limité, entre les rizières, les montages et la mer, elle nous plonge « dans un espace-temps de la narration », voire dans l’espace concret de la vie, cet espace où, à l’inverse de l’étendue conceptualisée par le cartésianisme, continueraient de croître ensemble l’être et les choses. Rythmées par les chants si particuliers des cigales japonaises, Goldfish, Screens ou Bamboo Forest pourraient même avoir intégré le concept du mono no aware, cette « sensibilité envers l’éphémère », ou la « poignance des choses », selon la traduction de Jacques Roubaud, qui marque toute l’esthétique de l’archipel.
—  Marie Chênel

ENG 
Anne-Sophie Guillet pays special attention to the randomicity of daily commutes, to androgynous people of an indistinct gender. Hers is a contemplative look, one opens to experiencing reality as a flow, somewhere in the humidity of Japan’s late summer months. Far from fixed appearances, everything in her work is fluid, impermanent, and transitory. For many years now, the artist has been working on a photography series entitled Inner Self. To this day, she has shot around twenty portraits in medium  lm format using natural light. Her sub- jects pose indoors against a neutral background. Inner Self developed through chance meetings with young unknowns who visibly escape the strict man/woman binary. Whether the effect is purely aesthetic or there are actual hormones at play, all of them heavily blur the lines of gender in some way. Taken head-on, their portraits seem draped in heavy silence; there is however nothing mute about them, instead something which seems to question how our very identities are constructed and perceived when faced to the Other’s gaze.

In 2016, during the first of two summer residencies in rural Japan, Anne-Sophie Guillet began a series entitled Komorebi — a name referring to the light coming though the leaves of a tree — which blurs short videos with photographs in a multitude of ensuing shots. According to her repetitive walks in a limited perimeter between rice fields, the mountains, and the sea, and with intuition as her only guide, the artistplunges us into the depths of a “narrative continuum”, or perhaps into the palpable space of live itself: a space where, contrary to the vast conceptualized spaces of Cartesianism, human beings and things still grow side by side organically. Set to the particular rhythm of the Japanese crickets, Goldfish, Screens, and Bamboo Forest seem in tune with the Mono no aware concept — a “sensitivity to ephemera”, or the “pathos of things” according to its literal transaction — which has marked the aesthetics of the Japanese archipelago for centuries.

KOMOREBI, 2017.
translated to Japanese by Yukiko Nishikawa.

Komorebi signifie la lumière filtrant à travers les feuilles et les arbres. Les images présentées sont une selection de la série Komorebi, série toujours en cours entamée par l’artiste durant sa période de résidence au Japon (Studio Kura) en août et septembre 2016. En cette période particulère de l’année, les éléments font partie intégrante du quotidien et rythment l’ensemble des journées. Humidité, chaleur invitent la nature à s’exprimer et à se déployer en force, insolente, rendant dérisoire toute tentative de resistance. La nature dicte ainsi ses règles, se présente comme un secret à sonfer contenant intrinsèquement en elle l’espoir d’une rencontre. Ces images sont ainsi les premières écritures de cette rencontre. Multiples dans leur dimension, elles racontent autrement que par des mots la découverte d’un lieu, l’expérience d’un nouvel espace-temps à investire et à vivre. Car le temps prend ici toute son importance et sa signification. Omniprésent, il passe par le silence qui émane de ces photographies: silence d’une reflexion, silenc qu’impose cette nature, silence d’une solitude ressentie qui se déploie ou se contracte selon les dispositions de l’artiste. Dans ces photographies, la présence humaine est pratiquement absente, accentuant cette sensation forte d’isolement et d’intimidation face à une nature qui s’impose presque comme un écran, un rempart que l’artiste traduit par une prise de vue frontale ou avec peu de profondeur de champ et des horizons souvent absents. Comme labyrinthiques, ces images traduisent cette sensation “de ne pas s’y retrouver car on y est encore un peu étranger” mais amènent toutefois, angoisse de l’inconnu propre à toute prospection. Et figure en quelque sorte l’intuition d’un apprentissage qui permet d’accéder à quelque percées, à qelques ouvertures dissimulées dans un espace qui était de prime abord réduit. De cette expérience résulte un ensemble d’états de lieux topographiques et cognitif du territoire exploré par l’artiste qui s’est rendue disponible à son environnement dans l’acceptation d’un voyage en territoire inconnu.
— Coline Franceschetto

ENG
Komorebi means the light filtering through the leaves and the trees. The featured images are a selection of the komorebi series. It is an ongoing series which has been initiated by the artist while she was on a two months residency in rural Japan at Studio Kura in August and September 2016. At this specific moment of the year, , all elements become part of our everyday life and rhythm our days. Humidity and heat invite nature to express itself and to spread within an insolent force, by making every attemps of resistance as derisory. This it is nature that dictates its rules, presenting itself as a secret to survey. Nature contains intrinsically the hope of an encounter within itself. In the pictures, the human presence is almost absent, creatiing a greater feeling of isolation and intimidation facing a nature that imposes itself as a screen, a bulwark that the artist translates through a shot with a front view or with a very shallow depth of field, where horizons are often absent. As labyrinths these images convey this feeling: “ don’t get lost when still unfamiliar with a place”. Nevertheless it spreads and brings abundancy of details such as liking for landfill, vertigo of initiation, fear of the unknown prospections, and to a certain extent the intuition to find out new ways which would let you access a few breakthroughs in an area that was at first sight limited. From this combined experience of a topographic and cognitive status of the territory, the artist makes herself available to her environment by accepting the journey in an unknown land.  

INNER SELF, 2016.

A l’image des personnalités qu’elles représentent, à l’image de l’indécision et du trouble qui émanent d’elles, les protraits d’Anne-Sophie Guillet tentent d’atteindre, avec le plus de fidélité possible, cet indéfini qui habite celles et ceux, et tous leurs espaces-temps intermédiaires, qui ont accepté de poser.Peut-être la photographie est-elle un médium particulièrement approprié pour creuser l’énigme de l’identité quand elle se percute à une indécision de genre. En effet, un arrêt sur l’image, tel celui qu’Anne-Sophie Guillet recherche, qui allie confiance généreuse et mystérieuse dignité, dit mieux que le mouvement, la force équivoque de l’indécidable. Une image fixe permet peut-être d’atteindre avec plus de profondeur cette fidélité au singulier, à ce qui ne s’apparente pas à du connu, à du déterminé, et qui ne renvoi à rien d’autre qu’à une seule caractéristique commune qui traverse les images, une caractéristique partagée qui s’épèle en trois lettres: “qui?”  Commencée en 2013, à l’occasion du travail de fin d’études de cette jeune photographe, alors au terme de sa formation à l’Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles, cette série “Inner Self” se continue, à la faveur des rencontres inattendues, nécessaurement assez rares, des êtres sortis tout à coup de la stricte dualité qui régit la plupart de nos relations. Au bout du compte, passé le moment d’ébranlement, ce qui reste est un échange de regards, frontaux, les yeux dans les yeux, entre le spectateur et la personne dans l’image. Ce qui se matérialise alors, au-delà du silence étrange qui émane de ces photos, c’est un dialogue muet, dense pour qui sait prendre son temps face à l’autre, qui fait ricocher les attentes déçues, émiette les certitudes et nous laisse seul.e à seul.e avec ces trois lettres qui nous rassemblent aussi, qu’on le veuille ou non, qu’on l’accepte ou non: “qui?”
— Anne-Françoise Lesuisse

ENG
translated to English by Alexander Strecker In the images of the personalities they are trying to represent, in the image of the indecision and trouble which emanates from them, the portraits of Anne-Sophie Guillet try to achieve —with the greatest possible fidelity— the undefinable which lives within each subject. Subjects who, with all of the intermediary space-time between themselves and the photographer, agreed to pose. Maybe photography is a particularly appropriate medium to dig into the enigma presented by identity; one which the camera stikes, but with its own genre of indecision. Indeed, a still picture, such as the kind that Guillet produces, combines generous confidence with a mysterious dignity, and thus speaks better to the movement and force that lie at the center of the undecidable. Perhaps a fixed image allows us to reach more deeply, with a singular loyalty, to what is not similar to the known or already determined. The picture does not refer to anything other than a single feature— common across all images; a characteristic which shares three simple letters: “who?” The series, “Inner Self”, continues thanks to the unexpected encounters (necessarily quite rare) that suddenly burst into being from the strict duality that governs most of our relations. In the end, after the moment of shock, what remains is an exchange of frontal glances, from eye to eye, between the spectator and the person in the image. Then what materializes, beyond the strange silence contained in these photos, is a mute dialogue, dense for he who would tak the time to face the other. A space filled with the ricochet of unfulfilled expectations and the crumbling of our certitudes. A time that leaves us alone with all but those three letters who resemble ourselves, who— whether we like or not; accept it or not—”Who?”

AU DELA DES APPARENCES, LA MATIERE DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE, 2015.

Le face-à-face avec les modèles d’Anne-Sophie Guillet traduit ainsi l’intérêt de la jeune artiste pour les questions liées à la construction identitaire. Abordée dans un premier temps au sein de sa propre famille via un corpus d’archibes, la notion d’identification se poursuit dan l’ensemble de portraits intitulé “Inner Self”, ctte fois dans l’anonymat. Se lève le doute sur le genre du modèle, portant parfois à hésitation, témoignant du fait que l’image d’un individu peut ne pas refléter son être profond et éventuellement lui échapper, comme elle peut aussi être le fruit d’une élaboration codifiée et volontaire. Le face-à-face auquel vous invite Anne-Sophie Guillet nous invite à prendre toute la mesure du rôle, voir du poids des apparences dans notre rapport à l’autre qu’à nous-mêmes.
— Danielle Leenaerts

ENG
BEYOND APPEARANCES, THE SUBJECT OF PHOTOGRAPHY
The one-on-ones with Anne-Sophie Guillet’s models reflect the young artist’s interest in issues relating to identify and its consctruction. Having first been explored within her own family through a collection of archives, the notion of identification continues throughout the series of portraits entitled Inner self, this time in anonymity. The portraits raise doubt on the model’s genre, sometimes leading to hesitation, reflecting the fact that the imag of an individual may not reflect their inner being and may possibly evade them, while it may also represent the fruits of a codified and voluntary creation. The one-to-one that Anne-Sophie Guillet invites us to fully educate ourselves on the role, even the importance, of appearances in our relation to each other as much as to ourselves.