The exhibition 'alter, alter' by Marin Kasimir and Frédéric Migayrou is part of a much larger project entitled 'The Description of the Arch'. Begun in Paris in 1990, the project comprises the construction of panoramas around the historic eight-kilometre axis that runs across Paris from the Louvre to La Défense, the site of the Arch: a minimalist concrete cube which, like a punctum, articulates many of the panoramas.
Abstract Expression is a set of four panoramas, filmed in different places and at different times between 1990 and 1995. Across the timelessness of the Louvre courtyard and the laminar flow of urban life, the structures assume a different meaning in each instance. The term 'expression' refers to the collection of these human times within the construction, in which the subject has at his physical disposal the various elements which will go to make up this abstract architectural theatre. Against the grain of this temporal construction, Vinci, Pasqua (1995) reveals a de-structured space: the promotion of knowledge symbolised by the new Leonardo da Vinci University, built by the minister Charles Pasqua, stands out against an interloping first floor of detritus and ruins, right in the city centre. The monumentalisation of the reference collapses in the debris of meaning.
These panoramas are neither formal images nor sociological indictments. Their primary material is the formative process of the image, in connection with its own grasp of reality its fictionalisation of temporality. In the practice of Kasimir and Migayrou, the panorama has assumed the dimension of a film short. It preserves the duration of cinema while, in its continuous state of development, abandons the visual grafts of editing. Perceived as such, the panoramic image proves open to the construction of simultaneous tenses. Here, photography becomes detached from itself. This is non-photography: the negation of the frame and a flattening of the data that constitutes the image. All of these elements are present in The Last Day (1995) filmed as French President François Mitterrand was paying homage to the unknown soldier on the 8 May 1994. Filmed beneath the Arc de Triomphe, Mitterrand embodies the hierarchical sense of History in a panorama in which all the procedures of the construction of power are spread out, one might say, in broad daylight: from the Olympian frieze of the official dignitaries to the proliferation of prosthetic surveillance devices. The latter, in the form of nine blow-ups linked to the panorama, disseminate the focus of the image. This declamatory apparatus of power finally submerges the President himself.
Against this historicisation of human time, in its excess of visibility, stands the toppling of subjective time in Vertical Horizon (1995). Here, a scene is set up beneath the Arch of La Défense. An unleashed brawl destabilises the image: after the vision of a body lying on the ground a body in prosaic time space begins to topple into a verticalised horizon. This is non-history coming to the fore, the subjective time of the construction of the self, diffracted in the multiple reflections of glass walls. The rotary movement of the camera, which can turn through 360š over a number of hours, produces heterogeneous times and spaces within a single image. The Long Moment (1994), filmed on the roof of the Arc de Triomphe, practically amounts to a 'presentification' of time; time literally flows through these three panoramas, shot from sunset to darkness and run through by filaments of light. Three colours (1992, 1993, 1994) brings together three panoramas, two filmed on 14 July and a third on the anniversary of the liberation of Paris in 1994, to form a visual pyramid in which the recurrence of red, white and blue produces a sense of the vacuity of historical time. Toporama 1 (1995) is an abstract cartography of the axis around which all the panoramas are shot. As its name indicates, the place has become the image. There are no longer any single landmarks, just a loss of scale which now provides multiple views of the place. Table 1 (1995) presents one of the plates of the large book under preparation, since 'The Description of the Arch' is both a literary and an artistic project. The literary exploration of urban foundations is really structured around the physical experience of the places in question, making possible a diverse range of writing processes.
Since its invention at the end of the 18th century, the panorama has made it possible to push back the boundaries of the visible and to physically integrate the spectator in the construction of illusion. Unlike the framed image of the traditional panorama, which is based on the axis of a fixed point of view, the images of Kasimir and Migayrou literally transform the panorama into an 'eccentric image', which exceeds its own frame. As Migayrou states, 'The panoramic model is confused with the new nature of the city... the image becomes a map, so detailed that it is confused with reality, that it produces reality... it is no longer possible to represent the city... it is definitively confused with public space'. Here, as in the work of Walter Benjamin, the city is the machine of vision the representation of diverse social and cultural powers.