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I and Thou – Anne Clergue Gallery (English)

In its new exhibition, Anne Clergue Galerie is happy to present the photographic series of 16 images from I and Thou by the South Korean artist Mi-Yeon. It was a reading of the book by the philosopher Martin Buber that gave birth to this artistic work. Mi-Yeon questions the relation between the outside world and herself, through a poetic vision informed by a powerful aesthetic sensibility.

A native of Seoul, Mi-Yeon studied photography at the Icart Photo school in Paris. From earliest childhood, she wondered about the place occupied by her own “I” in relation to the world and to others. She was naturally drawn to the work I and Thou by the philosopher Martin Buber, who argues that all our relations lead us into a bonding with God, the eternal “Thou”. Buber considers human beings to be defined by two pairs of words, “I-It” and “I-Thou”. The first expresses our relation with the other, the fact of revealing, in the form of experience and feeling, how we interact. This is the world as we experience it, with bonds that we can identify and distinguish. As to the “I-Thou”, it expresses a far more spiritual relation between “me and thee”. This view allows an abandonment of the area of feeling, so as to place, at the heart of our reflections, the interaction with another “I”, which could equally well between a person and a tree or between two individuals. It implies a forgetting of oneself, a shift of one’s individual center, in order to focus it on the interaction.

In this reading, the photographer poses a true philosophical conundrum. She uses this decentring of oneself, bringing to light what lies between ourselves and another individual. Mi-Yeon reveals what is usually invisible during our exchanges, whether spiritual or real, with an entity other than our self. It is a profound reflection on the functioning of the human soul in connection with the universe of another dimension, where notions of time and space are blurred. Her photographs are never identifiable portraits. Although the human being often stands at the heart of her images, the play of fuzziness, the blurred, vaguely anthropomorphic contours, never depict a face or a character trait.

One only recognizes the human, like an entity incarnating the “I”, as if the human were the only distinguishable “I”. The use of the personal pronoun thus becomes paradoxical, at once specific to a person and incarnating a set of individuals.

These photographs provide an approach to oriental thought, particularly Taoism, where “the other is a variation of myself”. The characters that one perceives project this thought by the orientation of their gaze towards the horizon. This vision, borne to the far distance, guides the viewer to the observation of something unidentifiable. Mi-Yeon releases us from ourselves through this very graphic work. The artist performs a sort of process whereby a print on “washi” paper is re-photographed with a digital camera. Some prints are silk-screened. She obtains a highly graphic rendering, with pastel and luminous colors, marked by strong contrasts. The grain of the suggests a vague texture as if the relation with the world has materialized.

This perceptible approach to an element that we cannot identify with the naked eye elicits a sensitive and poetic perspective on the part of Mi-Yeon. The viewer is completely lost in the midst of this artistic work, inundated by feelings. Her Taoist philosophy reveals a quest for wisdom aimed to achieve harmony. This places the heart and the mind on the path (the Tao), in other words, on the path of nature. Mi-Yeon causes the innermost nature of the human being to surge through a vision initially focused on herself. Her highly altruistic orientation is inspired by her contemplation of the exchanges with the world that surrounds her.

This sensitive outlook, once unveiled, forces contemplation. The photographic series “I and Thou” demands a forgetting of oneself. The mind roams her work, reflecting on the relations that we maintain with others, with nature, and with the world. Mi-Yeon succeeds in transmitting her philosophy, her images take possession of her thought, thereby becoming the incarnation of herself, of her “I”.

*****

I and Thou – Anne Clergue Galerie (French)

Anne Clergue Galerie, lors de sa nouvelle exposition, est heureuse de vous présenter un ensemble de seize photographies de la série photographique, I and Thou, de l’artiste coréenne Mi-Yeon. C’est à la suite d’une lecture du livre du philosophe Martin Buber que ce travail artistique est né. Mi-Yeon interroge la relation entre le monde extérieur et elle-même à travers une vision poétique mêlée d’une grande sensibilité esthétique.

Née à Séoul en Corée du sud, Mi-Yeon étudie la photographie à l’école parisienne, Icart Photo. Depuis toute petite, elle se questionne sur la place que tient son propre “Je” face au monde et à l’altérité. Naturellement, elle s’intéresse au livre I and Thou du philosophe Martin Buber, mettant en avant le fait que toutes nos relations nous amènent à être en lien avec Dieu, qui serait le “Tu” éternel. Selon lui, il y aurait deux paires de mots définissant les humains, le “I-It” et le “I-Thou”. La première définition exprimerait notre relation avec l’autre. Ce serait le fait de montrer, sous forme d’expérience et de sensation, comment nous inter-agissons ensemble. C’est le monde tel que nous le vivons avec des liens que nous pouvons identifier et distinguer. Le “I-Thou” quant à lui, exprime une relation beaucoup plus spirituelle entre le “moi et toi”. Cette vision permettrait un certain abandon du domaine de la sensation, pour placer au coeur de notre réflexion, l’interaction avec un autre “Je”, qui peut autant être une relation entre un être et un arbre ou deux individus entre eux. C’est donc un oubli de soi, le déplacement de son centre individuel afin de le focaliser sur l’interaction.

De cette lecture, la photographe, nous transmet un vrai questionnement philosophique. Elle utilise ce décentrement de soi, faisant apparaître ce qui se situe entre nous et un autre individu. Mi- Yeon montre ce qui est habituellement invisible lors de nos échanges, qu’ils soient spirituels ou réels avec une entité autre que soi. C’est une réflexion profonde sur le fonctionnement de l’âme de l’être humain en lien avec l’univers d’une autre dimension ou la notion de temps et d’espace semble disparaître. Elle ne fait pas de photographies avec des portraits identifiables. Bien que l’être humain apparaisse très souvent au coeur de ses images, le jeu sur les flous, la vision trouble des contours de formes anthropomorphes, ne permet en aucun cas de distinguer un trait de visage ou de caractère.

C’est seulement l’humain que l’on reconnaît, comme une entité incarnant le “Je”, comme si l’être humain était le seul “Je” que nous pouvions reconnaître. Parler de ce pronom personnel devient donc paradoxal car il est à la fois propre à chacun mais il incarne aussi un ensemble d’individus.

Ces photographies s’approchent d’une pensée orientale, notamment le taoïsme, où “autrui est un variable de mon moi”. Les personnages que l’on perçoit mettent en avant cette pensée par l’orientation de leur regard sur l’horizon. Cette vision portée sur le lointain, guide le spectateur sur l’observation de quelque chose de non identifiable. Mi-Yeon nous libère de nous-même à travers ce travail très graphique. L’artiste exerce un jeu de traitement en utilisant une  impression sur papier « washi », qu’elle re-photographie ensuite à l’aide d’un appareil digital. Certaines sont sérigraphiées. Elle obtient un rendu très graphique, aux couleurs pastel et lumineuses où de forts contrastes se dégagent. Le grain des images nous amène à percevoir une certaine texture, comme si la relation que nous entretenions avec le monde était matérialisée.

Cette approche perceptible d’un élément que nous ne pouvons pas identifier à l’oeil nu fait l’objet d’un regard sensible et poétique de la part de Mi-Yeon. Le spectateur s’oublie pleinement au milieu de ce travail artistique donnant naissance à des émotions qui nous submerge. Sa pensée philosophique taoïste, montre une recherche de sagesse visant à atteindre l’harmonie. Celle-ci place le coeur et l’esprit dans la voie (le Tao), c’est-à-dire dans la même voie que la nature. Mi-Yeon fait émerger la nature intérieure de chaque être humain à l’aide d’une vision, qui au départ, est portée sur elle-même. Son orientation très altruiste s’inspire de sa contemplation sur les échanges avec le monde qui l’entoure.

Ce regard sensible dévoilé ne peut qu’être contemplé. La série photographique “I and Thou” impose alors un oubli de soi. L’esprit s’évade au travers de son oeuvre ce qui aboutit à une réflexion sur les relations que nous entretenons avec les autres, avec la nature et avec le monde. Mi-Yeon parvient à transmettre sa philosophie, comme si ses images prenaient possession de sa pensée, devenant alors l’incarnation d’elle-même, de son “Je”.


I and Thou – Nathalie Gallon (curator)

Mi-Yeon’s photographic series, « I and Thou » follows her reading of Martin Buber’s book.
Mi-Yeon’s photography explores the relationship, the relationship between oneself and the world.
There is no identifiable portrait or individual identity function in this work.
We are miles away from the selfie. Rather than egocentric, Mi-Yeon’s work is ego-dicentric.
Echoing Taoist and Buddhist teachings, the photographer states that « The other is a variant of
myself. In this series, I try to convey our soul’s connection with the universe which exists in another dimension, one without space or any notion of time. »


Alone Together – Akiko Otake (Writer)

“Photographs that disengage us from ourselves”

One thing I notice when I look at the photographs in Alone Together is that there are people in all of them, but not a single one of the photographs is shot at the distance you would expect when ordinarily engaging with other human beings.
I have been taken with this fact for quite a while now.
Most of the human figures in the photographs are faraway and therefore small. Spaces with no human beings in them, instead filled with water, sky, rocks, account for most of the scenes. At first glance, you don’t see anyone in the shot, but at a second closer look, you spot a lonely human figure in the corner.
Some of the people were photographed at close range, but they are deliberately out of focus and their image is blurred. Sometimes, they are vaguely vibrating because they are in motion – diving into the water or sitting in a moving car.
The feeling I get from this is that Mi-Yeon is not at all concerned with emphasizing the presence of people in her photographs. On the contrary, she attempts to make them diaphanous, to suspend them in the air, something that is represented symbolically in her multiple-exposure photographs of human figures standing in a street. The individual figures of the people overlap each other and their outlines dissolve, merging into the landscape to form another kind of presence.
In many of the photographs we see the sea or sky or rocks featured big, but do not get the sense that the people are being swallowed up by them. This is perhaps because, even at a distance, the photographer’s gaze is fixed on the human figures. Someone sitting on the jagged rocks holding a sun umbrella. Some men standing in the water about to catch a beach ball that is up high in the sky above them. Two people travelling through the water in a boat that leaves a trail of white foam in its wake.
As Mi-Yeon stares intently at the human figures, the people in the photographs stare at something faraway and imperceptible to us. The same is true of the photographs of the black silhouette of a line of people.
Mi-Yeon wrote the following in the preface:
“When in a large crowd of people, “I” vanishes.
Within the “countless I’s,” the “big I.”
I sense that she does not feel afraid about her “I” vanishing, that she even welcomes that experience, but when I read her words, a thought crossed my mind. That maybe it was through photography that she came to have this feeling.
When we stare at something, we go right inside the thing we are staring at. We become one with the object, for the most part without even realizing it, and have the experience of ourselves disappearing. The smaller the object on which our eyes are trained, the more concentrated the object becomes, like looking at something through the eye of a needle, and the extinction of “I” is achieved.
The act of taking photographs is nothing other than looking at the photographed object over and over again. Through this repetitive act, the feeling that we are liberated from the self, a self that is bound to “I,” and step out into the world is experienced visually in the form of joy.
The fundamental qualities of a photograph are presented by Mi-Yeon as a single idea in Alone
Together.