Hardness of Being
It starts with a smile , continues with a feeling of embarrassement as our buried traumas or hidden fantasies rise to the surface . These are revealed by François Burgun’s photographs.
The strength of these images is in their representation of something very ordinary – alomst banal- these people are naked, men and women of all ages, seated , standing , posing demurely in gardens or exteriors , with calm , serenity even ; no dramatic effects of expression or attitude , no glitz , no show .They are girdled with their ribbons whose words become the “myself” of the small column news story , the “ myself “ of the hidden side of social taboo.
In our societes , cultures , in our so-called democracy held up as an example to the rest of the world , imposed at gun point , with all its arrogance , its mistrust of others , its infantile weakness to wich are attached the taboos, traumas, fantasies offered to us in broad daylight by François Burgun’s photographs, only the illiterate can be excluded from the “my” of the “self” ( without an accompanying translation) , but nobody , whatever their social status , can be spared by this representation . The nudity is simple , there is no double meaning , nothing perverted about these naked bodies facing us ; what is striking is , the relationship between text and image . The simplicity of the images helps this.
François Burgun doesn’t tell us that the persons represented have been victims or author of the acts depicted by the ribbons , they are perhaps real events theatralised by models and words , collected statements , little matter .
Like Joachen Gertz in his work “ The Answer” made with students from the California Davies University in which he confronts photographic portaits of nude students hung upside down with texts answering the question: “ what would you do if you were asked to abandon your religion ? ”.
The question we ask ourselves in view of François Burgun’s work is whether the relationship between the text and the person potrayed is true . And as Jorgen Gertz said ( interview with Catherine Millet in the special edition of Art Press “ images and religion in books” ) : “ What remains is the parallelism between image and “ forbidden” words. Neither the one nor the other is in itself . But their association points to real identities , to men”.
Formally , this work is very different , but the result in both cases is explosive . The photographs cannot leave us intact and that is why they belong to realm of art . With all the paradox that the designation of an image as art serves to empty it in part of its emotional force. However , to quote Joachen Gertz.again , the artist has nothing more to than confront and realise .
If there is risk in his work it is also with the model in joining his image to words.
Contrary to Gilian Wearing’s video entitled “Trauma” in wich the characters are masked , here they are not only unmasked but naked before a vehiculed trauma.
Those who will be most offended by these photographs will no longer take them as a form of representation in other words as works of art , but as a symptom of their dis-ease . Their panic at the uncovering of their deep traumas leads to a destructive rage , in other words censure . A censorship which alternates today , according to Eliane Burnet , between permitted – forbidden to bearable – unbearable.
Do images , photography , today still have power over the individual ? Obviously they do : the cases of iconoclasms multiply , which proves that to them, the iconoclasts, images can still be diabolical, and must be destroyed. But within this destructive frenzy nests the absolute belief in show . Thus - an iconclasm which is , has been, and will always be a contradictary logic.
Far from the lukewarm agreement that one so often encounters in the contemporary art world, far from the social animation into which falls much photographic work today , far removed yet so close to documentary photography , respectable , but whose distance from reality , the characteristic of artistic form , is so narrow , that these photographs become no more than informative , dated , historic archives . François Burgun’s work belongs to a timelessness which is it strength and status . It needs no philosophical crutch , no speech , no interpretative small talk , unless to mask the embarrassment of certain people confronted with the image , the work needs only to exist to be seen. It does not need this text.
Jean luc Founier Teacher in The Nationale High School of Photography in Arles