“Whatever it gives to see, and whatever its manner, a photo is always invisible; it is not she that we see. »
Extract from « La chambre claire » written by Roland Barthes, XNUMX
“My research revolve around iconic deconstruction and the question of the photographic images’ power in contemporary societies.
It is said that "a photograph depicts what it wants", that its meaning can be corrupted as it shows one thing and its opposite despite its referent. Deconstructing the documentary image has become a fundamental issue that pushes both the frame and the narrative boundaries. This search sets the basis for a statutory upheaval eased by the advent of the digital era. “I chose industrial architecture as a theatre for my set-up because of its duality with photomontage, through the juxtaposition and organisation of volumes assembled in puzzle: silos, tanks, ramps, conveyor, belts and furnaces. Already revealed by Bernd and Hilla Becher, this architectural typology allowed me to apprehend the freedom of forms and volumes placed in space.
A factory is a set of modules’ accumulations linked together, with the sole purpose of transforming a material to create another. With the elaboration of my photomontages, I make real false photographs of architecture, I blur the tracks of reading and perceptions, I prolong the transformation of the matter and the image by operating an inversion of process; the factory does not transform any more, but she is the one that is transformed, and the image does not show anything which can be the incarnation of a tautological truth, since the subject disappeared. Like the industrial design process that assembles a final product from elements manufactured or produced all over our globalized world, my constructions, through their spatial organization, echo the poetry of this contemporary metamorphosis.”
After the series Ghost stations which explores the service stations abandoned on the national roads (acquired by the FRAC - National Fund for Contemporary Art in 2000), then Fiction Factories in 2012, architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte discovered his work and offered him carte blanche for his Venetian foundation. From this meeting was born the series of imaginary islands "Isola Nova" presented in 2014 at the Lichfield Studio in London then in 2015 at the Royal Chapel of Versailles.
Following this Venetian journey, and now honoring the invitation offered to him by the Hangar on the city of Brussels, the artist looks at the European capital.
Faithful to his method, he travels the city intuitively, photographs its bowels, interweaving industrial wastelands, historic and contemporary buildings. From this profusion of architectural and town planning buildings, this coming and going between past, present and future, Philippe Calandre allows himself to freely deconstruct and rebuild the city. He thus invites us to perceive his strange architectural typological alchemy. These contemplative images sometimes refer us to paintings of the Romantic school of the XIXrd century or even to certain engravings by Piranesi: its unique approach to Brussels reminds us of how great the magnificence of this emblematic capital is, when it is constantly reinventing itself. The spectator recognizes without recognizing. The magic of forms operates. The first 8 images of this new series: are presented for the first time in the hangar during the PBF03.
Delphine Dumont, 2018
1400 light years from Earth, in the constellation Cygnus, NASA's space telescope recently detected a terrestrial planet whose existence calculations have established that it revolves around its sun at a distance that would make it habitable. . It is on this baptized exoterre Kepler 452b that Philippe Calandre has located some of his last architectural compositions.
These form utopias: non-places, nowhere in the true sense of the term. And yet these chimeras come from fragments taken from reality.
After having traveled the globe as a photographer for a long time, Philippe Calandre has now decided to organize long, still journeys to unknown lands or cities that his irreproachable photomontages will reveal. Drawing his construction materials from the stock of images he has accumulated during his travels and reports, he develops very clever combinations where hybridizations work wonderfully. As the hero of Invisible cities Italo Calvino, who speculates on "cities too likely to be true", he seeks to bring about a reality augmented by the imagination. His fascination with industrial architectures, whose aesthetics derive from practical necessity and economic imperative, led him to design strange factory complexes. Bristling with silos and chimneys spitting their smoke, traversed by pipes and inextricable stairs, grafted with metal footbridges overhanging landscapes of deserts, its sites possess the beauty of the underworld.
No one would certainly like to go with pleasure to these places of obscure labors - they are also empty of any human presence - but they bewitched by the disturbing melancholy that emanates from them. Driven by the creative freedom that his method inspires in him, Philippe Calandre has come to invent his own forms, and thus to draw with photography. The architectures with geometric developments that he therefore proposes, the monuments and the cities that he built as construction games seem, by the grace of their structures, a way of welcoming us to his planet.
Jean Pierre Chambon
"No map of the world is worthy of a look if the land of utopia is not there"
Following the “Fiction Factories” exhibition in 2012 at the Galerie Esther Woerdehoff in which Philippe Calandre created fictitious factories “in images”, Jean-Michel Wilmotte suggested that the artist create a new series for his Vénitienne gallery.
After several trips to Venice, Philippe Calandre imagines a series of new islands, inhabited by large industrial structures mixed with fragments of traditional Venetian architecture. Fantasized islands-buildings, floating between nods to reassuring iconography from the classic era and worrying chimerical constructions in the process of multiplying.
These photographic compositions between document and collage are exhibited at the Fondacio degli Angeli in Venice from December 17, 2013 to March 15, 2014.
This dreamlike Venice results from an interweaving of images of the historic city of Venice, the “old town” and of Venice belonging to the “limit of the lagoon”, that of the outskirts and the industrial zone of Porto Marghera.
We will recognize the sumptuous architectures of the past, the best known, and those linked in particular to the industrial past of Venice, especially the island of Giudecca, in the second half of the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries.
These visions bring us back to precedents in architecture, Aldo Rossi with his drawings for the city and for the La Fenice theater, or even Bernard Huet with his unforgettable collage cover of the city for the magazine “L'Architecture d'U Today”. hui 'in 1980.
The utopian Venice of Philippe Calandre takes us on a journey between the islands of the lagoon, between the colors of an imaginary Venice, a reconstruction that denies the progressive destruction of forms in water.
His images are an enigma, a feeling of timelessness oscillating between irrational and formal emanate from these places.
Venice is enigmatic and in the words of Maria Zambrano (cfr. “Dire Luce”, a cura di Carmen del Valle, ed Bur Rizzoli 2013)
- "no matter what happens in Venice, whatever the confusion, the anomaly or the talent, everything immediately enters into order, everything is assimilated, there is no before and no 'afterwards there is an ALWAYS who collects everything. "
This is what one feels in Calandre's works, which give light and color to the city, as in a filiation both with the great pictorial tradition of the Venetian Schools of Painting and picturesque views, the colored “vedutes” on the glass for passing travelers.
Finally, the work of Philippe Calandre is a photographic and pictorial work open to the near future of Venice and its periphery.
Corinne Peuchet, Art Historian