Edouard Taufenbach and Bastien Pourtout’s images thrive on unity in a fragmented world

French photographers Edouard Taufenbach and Bastien Pourtout achieve the constructed image dotted with repeated pattern by recontextualising the given world of things.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Apr 03, 2022

The recurrence of the similar shapes and elements with the minimalistic colour leads the viewers to gauge the incongruity within an appearance of a congruent field of the photograph. The dissimilarity creates a subtle flow of rhythm synonymous with the circuits of movement in nature. These are the images constructed by the France-based photographer-duo Edouard Taufenbach and Bastien Pourtout, as they like to say, “In the exchange and confrontation of two points of view. This creates a multiple and subjective image of reality.”

La Méthode, 2019, Exhibition view | Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach | STIRworld
La Méthode, 2019, Exhibition view Image: Courtesy of Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach

The photomontage The Blue of the Sky, for which the duo won the Swiss Life 4 Hands 2020 Prize, represents the world of the sky dotted with the swallows. The composition does not refrain to underscore its grid structure punctuated with sharp black lines only to suggest the world, even if disconnected with borders and boundaries, remains connected through the facets of nature and environment, here the birds. The flock of swallows is captured at different periods of the day with digital reflex, mobile phones and Rolleiflex. The swallows in a variety of directions compounded by the spectrum of light - blue, grey and orange - hints at the global phenomenon of bird migration at different seasons of the year.  

In an interview with STIR, talking about the making of a project, Taufenbach and Pourtout explain, “It often begins with a shared curiosity. Sometimes it becomes obsessive, and it is then a matter of inventing protocols to structure this new interest. For example, in The Blue of the Sky, we took over 100,000 photos of swallows. We then had to invent matrices to sort and organise these images and thus recompose skies and trajectories.”

Le Bleu du ciel, 2021 | Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach | STIRworld
Le Bleu du ciel, 2021 Image: Courtesy of Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach

The Method, a set of 96 unique collages, created in cyanotype and palladio type are inspired by the American-German artist Josef Albers' series Homage to the Square. The squares, quintessential to the works of Albers, are deconstructed and reformulated through the antique technique of making the photograph. The visual artists expound on this obsession with Albers, “Cutting out their perspective lines gave us several pieces, then rearranged in sequences like a melody. We had fun exhausting all the possible combinations. We are very attentive to the execution of the works. Their realisation as an object allows us to extend our intentions. For the method, we had metal frames made, reminiscent of the 1970s and the protocol art of that period.” The repetition – an archetypical feature to the works of the artist-duo - of the squares creates a psychedelic art effect cognisant to not overpower the viewers but keep them engaged.

La Méthode, 2019 | Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach | STIRworld
La Méthode, 2019 Image: Courtesy of Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach

The immersive installation Sfumato is composed of eight videos of different skies appearing in semicircles and arranged in a manner similar to the panels of a polyptych. The visual device accompanied by musical pieces produced by Paul Braillard underlines the absorbent quality of the images while furthering an attempt to immerse the viewer. “The video work carried out for Sfumato, like the sfumato in painting, is done by the accumulation of several layers. It is achieved by superimposing each video on itself a large number of times, on a smaller and smaller scale and with a very slight time shift from one layer to another.” The installation brings to the fore the gradual movement of the sky- where each video highlights the distortion of the open sky.

Villa Medici, Jardins, 2020 | Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach | STIRworld
Villa Medici, Jardins, 2020 Image: Courtesy of Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach

From the vignettes to the complete blur effect of the video – the fear of apocalypses is dissipated as soon as the clear sky appears, even if it is for a short interval of time. Towards the end of the video, the centripetal force is made visible as the shards of white light illuminate the sky of day and night. 

La Méthode, 2019, Studies | Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach | STIRworld
La Méthode, 2019, Studies Image: Courtesy of Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach

The works such as The Blue of the Sky, Garden Villa Medici, and Sfumato disturb and reconfigure the organic world of nature to manipulate the trained vision, only to reorient it towards the inconspicuous. Taufenbach and Pourtout mention, “The exterior interests us because it is a territory of exploration and play. It is a reservoir of infinite forms and possibilities. We have no preconceived idea of the images we want to obtain. We photograph the phenomena that interest us, and it is by observing the images obtained that we then choose the way they are arranged.”

The photographers' practice disturbs and reconfigures the organic world of nature | Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach | STIRworld
The photographers' practice disturbs and reconfigures the organic world of nature Image: Courtesy of Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach

The constructed images for the artist-duo are delimited to any particular reading, a play of shapes, colours and lines. The discrepancy between the initial intentions and what is shown for the photographer is inescapable. “You have to abandon the objects you produce. You cannot control the reactions and so much the better if they are contrasting, different and unexpected. We like the idea that the works remain open and that the viewer can construct their own story. We like to make objects that are free of meaning and form.”

Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach’s work aims to create objects that are free of meaning and form | Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach | STIRworld
Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach’s work aims to create objects that are free of meaning and form Image: Courtesy of Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach

The photography as a medium inherently attempts to freeze a moment in motion, yet the fluidity with which Taufenbach and Pourtout create a minimal tension with their photomontages keep the viewers on a move to trace a tinge of novelty. 

Portrait of the artists | Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach | STIRworld
Portrait of the artists Image: Courtesy of Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach
02 mins watch Edouard Taufenbach talks about the works | Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach | STIRworld
Edouard Taufenbach talks about the works Video: Courtesy of Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach

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