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> Antje Lechleiter

Under the beautiful title "The Origin Of Light", the Kunsthalle MESSMER gallery presents the French artist Michel Kirch, recipient of numerous international prizes including for the year 2017 "Best Monochrome Photographer of the Year", and in March, laureate of the "32nd Chelsea International Fine Art Awards".

The title "The Origin Of Light" is justified in two respects. On the one hand, in his works, light generates hope in places of destruction and in times of human distress. On the other hand, the title testifies to how it works. Kirch photographed analog and exhibited his films in the darkroom. So this is the place where light wins over darkness and creates these incomparably moving images.

When we look at the work entitled "Genesis", we perceive the relation to the theme in a very special way, because it tells us on several panels a story which is a successful quest for the Light in both its physical and spiritual sense.

When I asked Kirch why he was shooting film, he replied that these captures had a soul for him, a very special vibration that he could feel when he pressed the shutter button ...


Of course, the exhibition also includes the work "The Origin of Light" (2012), installed here in a light box. She tells a lot about the essence of these works of light sculpture, because, obviously, Kirch is not subjugated by the need for a normative reality. His images strongly remind us that photography can never be objective and true, that photography is always an interpretation of reality.


Beautifully elegant, the tightrope walker stands evidently in the "Vertical Horizon" image, and yet he deceives us: the truth in the sense of "that's it" can only be expressed through direct images.

Kirch says, "Reality is a point of view, so you don't move around, but it's hard to define reality, and I subjectively decided to assign the concept of reality to this situation or that landscape, but this is just a kind of convention ”.

And it gets really interesting when the standard is defeated by artistic means.


Each image is made up of a variable number of photographs. Sometimes just one, when the "outer" landscape already matches the artist's "inner" landscape. However, most of the time many different images are used, synthesized into a sort of believable collage. In other words, the images are used. images of the outside world are transmuted into a single image, which is the interior landscape.The resulting reality comes from a different reality, from a fantastic world, arising from the artist's personal perception of the real.


I'd like to clarify the process again: Kirch works in two stages. First of all, he is a photographer and, as such, he must move in search of material. But what constitutes the background of his "interior landscapes" can be found in his garden as much as on long journeys. It just has to do with the way he sees himself and the world. Then he goes on to the second step, in his workshop. The silver negative, often in 6 x 7 cm format, is digitized and then processed with computer software. In this phase he uses images and technology like a painter would use his color. There is no pre-defined concept. He lets his hands work and clears his mind.

The background always consists of its own shots. For some figures he uses the gigantic reservoir of images present on the net. With just one click he has, as Kirch says so beautifully, "the world at his fingertips".

His own images form something like a fundamental, which is subtly completed by this additional information… The triptych “the Garden” contains, for example, images from the net that belong to our collective memory. They should be understood as the artist's message that there can no longer be a "single, absolute and universally valid reality" in our digital and social media world.


Kirch uses an impressive symbolic language in "the Garden", the image consisting of opposing, complementary and contrasting forces, like Eros and Thanatos, light and dark, civilization and nature, construction and destruction. In this way, a magic emerges which far surpasses the effect of the original pictorial material, and makes us absolutely doubt the documentary character of the image, and therefore of the reality, which is implicit.

By focusing on the porosity of the border between real and virtual, his work shows us that there is no reality outside of the image.

Only the image itself is reality.

This work was conceived after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, and is part of a series called "Homo Fukushima". "New Babel" also belongs to this group. The volcanic landscapes of the series "Homo Fukushima" come from Iceland and are part of Kirch's concept. Because the artist wanted to demonstrate that it is possible to create symbolically and analogically. landscapes without having to go there - like Japan, where he has not yet visited, but whose volcanic topography of the two countries is comparable. Kirch thus experiments with the subjectivity of images and the spectator's expectations.


The initial material is recorded in the photographic process, but the temporal and spatial aspects undergo a process of change. The result is a simulation of reality that plays with presumably objective and real benchmarks according to the common acceptance of mankind.

Michel Kirch thus shows that photography is capable of making reality even more real.

For the work "New Babel", of course, he used the Bible as a generating element. This is not an isolated case, because for Kirch it is a timeless reservoir, which can also be applied to the events of the present. In this work, I particularly like the monks who climb the mountain to finally turn into birds. The reality thus transformed leaves a mysterious and inexplicable feeling of peace.

In the next room you can also see three videos in which the artist's fantastic images came to life. This expansion in the "time" dimension is, in my opinion, only coherent. Kirch urges the idea of ​​creating a reality different from the components of reality. I say another reality, because Kirch himself emphasizes that his works are not surreal.

His images are mostly monochrome, because, as we all know, color can produce extraordinary aesthetic and emotional stimuli, and therefore flattering. The renunciation of color as a means of expression stems from his concern for distancing himself from the image and allows the skeletal essential to reach the symbolic stage. Thus, these works are protocols of an experience of enlarged reality, allowing the viewer to participate emotionally in his own reservoir of experiences and intimate memories.


Michel Kirch describes his “interior landscapes” as “the geography of the soul”. I like this concept that appeals to me, no doubt because his works ignore what was in front of the camera, to access a new reality, a sort of "Terra Incognita".

The resulting image cannot be determined, it is true and false, objective and abstract, this is undoubtedly what propels our reflection and our contemplation.




16 Juillet 2017, RIEGEL

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