Louis-Marie Maudet is a French photographer who has been working for several years on a series that is comprised of an ensemble of old wall posters shot in India and Sri Lanka. These disintegrating posters, weathered and vandalised, seem to Maudet to “look at us more than we look at them. Since they have long lost their purpose of communication and their power of seduction, in many ways, we no longer see them.” In his work however, they regain new lives and are transformed into artefacts despite their tattered states, forcing the viewer to confront their gaze.
Gaze is central to this project in more ways than one. Maudet’s fascination and interest in questions of sight are a driving force of the series, and he extends the question of gaze into new dimensions when he begins to use the physical eye (and the image of the eye) to initiate a conversation with that which has passed, and yet lingered unseen. The direct nature of the captured two dimensional gaze also forces the viewer to revisit once again the meanings of these forms – that were once criticised, valorised, tolerated – that were once, in fact, seen.
Maudet re-examines the significance of these posters that in an earlier moment performed the role of messengers – with their proclamations, appeals, suggestions, arguments and rhetoric – now simply silent observers of a street that has forgotten their existence. Reinterpreting their meanings and value in the present, Maudet foregrounds their form as much as their content, to retell their stories.
These photographs are presented in different sizes, some very large even, and are transferred on to canvas by a pigment print process – adding a tactile and visceral visual dimension to the process of dialogue and this new conversation between the spectator and the erstwhile posters.
His work on this project, Maudet points out, has led him to realise that whether “a politician, an actor or an unknown person… [they are often symbolic figures] revealing a form of nudity, the transparency of their being.” This he believes is a universal phenomenon, producing an environment where the direct gaze results in a personification process, and the viewer sees himself, as if mirrored. They are ideally situated therefore, to perform in the contemporary moment, ‘a display of violence’. As Maudet explains, these “old pieces of paper, hastily glued, remain clinging – open wounds – and hanging like tattered flesh. As if the battle has passed.” This is in many ways a central thread of this series, that showcases their tragedy, but also ours.