Monthly Archives: July 2009

Mikael Levin


Mikael Levin
Textes de Jonathan Boyarin, Jean-François Chevrier et Carlos Schwarz
Le Point Du Jour

A Jewish Itinirary from Poland to Africa

I met Cristina da Silva-Schwarc in Guinea-Bissau in 2003. Four generations back our ancestor, Isuchaar Szwarc,
a renowned Jewish scholar, lived in Zgierz, in central Poland. In his lifetime Isuchaar saw his small medieval town
transformed by industrialization. He died as the Nazis exterminated the Jewish communities. Isuchaar’s eldest son,
Samuel, settled in Lisbon. A successful mining engineer also known for his scholarship, Samuel lived in Portugal
during the waning decades of its colonial epoch. Samuel’s daughter Clara settled Portuguese Guinea in 1947. There
she and her husband played a prominent role in the anti-colonial movement. Since Guinea-Bissau’s independence,
Carlos, their youngest son, has devoted his life to the agricultural development of this impoverished nation. Cristina
is Carlos daughter.

I had always heard of this accomplished branch of my family. It occurred to me that their lives were an embodiment of modernity’s positivist belief in mobility and progress.

Jewish families are often characterized by patterns of dispersal and migration, patterns that have of late come to characterize the general world population. While my images are specific, my intent is to go beyond the narrow identifications of any particular community. It is the tension between the local and the global that interests me.
The condition of multiplicity, wandering, and exile, as shown in this story, suggests some principles for an alternative foundation of cultural identification, based on shared patterns of experience.

Rue Narutowicza

Untitled (from Cristina’s History – Zgierz), 2005.
Silver print, 15 x 18 inches.
Edition of 5.

Bissau, Centre-Ville

Untitled (from Cristina’s History – Bissau), 2003.
Silver print, 15 x 18 inches.
Edition of 5.

ArrŽt du tram pour Lodz, anciŽn quartier Juif

Untitled (from Cristina’s History – Zgierz), 2005.
Silver print, 15 x 18 inches.
Edition of 5.

Cristina`s History is presented as an installation consisting of three digital projections (Zgierz, Lisbon, Guinea-Bissau). In the rooms concerning Poland and Guinea-Bissau, two projectors are mounted back to back on a central pivot. The images rotate around the room (like the beams of a light house), stretching and bending on the walls as they are distorted by the shape of the room. In the Lisbon room, three projectors project the images on alternate walls. A voice-over narrates the story. Each room`s cycle lasts approximately 15 minutes and consists of about 60 images.

The catalog consists of three chapters (Zgierz, Lisbon, Guinea-Bissau) with the sequence of images, and essays by Jean Francois Chevrier, art historian and independent curator, Jonathan Boyarin, professor of modern Jewish studies, and Carlos Schwarz Da Silva, Levin’s cousin living in Guinea Bissau, director of the NGO Action for Development. Texts in French, English, and Portuguese. Format: 21.5 x 24 cm, 124 pages, 160 tricome images.


Antoine d’Agata

Choix des textes d’Antoine d’Agata et de Bruno Le Dantec
Postface de Bruno Le Dantec

Ces images ont été produites dans le cadre d’une commande publique associée au projet Euromed de Marseille. Cette vaste opération vise notamment à « reconfigurer » certains quartiers du centre-ville. La série est constituée, pour l’essentiel, de montages numériques où des jeunes de ces quartiers et ceux qui en seront les futurs usagers (des cadres du tertiaire en tenue de travail) apparaissent dans des espaces urbains déserts. Dans le livre, des phrases sont d’abord données comme anonymes avant d’être identifiées comme des citations d’habitants, de fonctionnaires ou d’hommes politiques. Certaines surprennent par la violence sociale, le plus souvent mêlée de racisme qu’elles illustrent. Inspiré, comme son titre l’indique, du premier situationnisme, Psychogéographie se situe, à travers ces multiples collages, dans la tradition du photomontage politique.


Antoine d’Agata est né en 1961 à Marseille. Membre de Magnum Photos, il a exposé récemment au Metropolitan Museum of Photography (Tokyo) et à la Photographers’ Gallery, (Londres). Outre De mala muerte, sa première publication en 1998, Le Point du Jour a édité Home Town (2002) et Manifeste (2005). En 2002, il a été accueilli en résidence et exposé à Cherbourg-Octeville. Il fait partie de l’exposition inaugurale du Point du Jour en 2008.

Le Point Du Jour éditeur
Format : 23 x 30 cm
80 pages
62 photographies en couleurs
ISBN : 2-912132-43-6

Guy Debord and Situationist the Theory of the Derive, and Pyschogeography.

I recently came across the essay “The Poetics of the Derive” written by Vincent Kaufmann. Not being that familiar with Debord’s Derive, and only slightly informed of its predecessor from the Surrealist Andre Breton and his walks through Paris, it quickly raised many questions to tackle. Most specifically the idea of looking at the early photographic works of Eugene Atget, and his systematic walks through Paris cataloging the ephemeral Paris of his time. One which was being demolished to make way for the Modern streets and boulevards that Debord and the Situationist would later lament in the same manner Atget did before. Yet, how might this theoretical construct of the Derive apply to the large amount of contemporary urbanscape photography found in the United States. And even more interesting the actual activity the photographer performs in order to find these locations.


Debord’s Derive is not simple a walk through the streets of the city, of chance encounters. Instead one must move rapidly and decisively through the urban space, with intention. When possible the practice should not be done alone, but in groups of two or three. They should be aware of their surroundings, of the “…ecological analysis of the absolute or relative character of fissures in the urban network, of the role of microclimates, of distinct neighborhoods with no relation to administrative boundaries, and above all of the dominating action of centers of attraction…” (link to essay) Thus the most talented photographers who’s oeuvre includes the investigation of the urbanscape. The walk itself, the interaction of operator, camera, and site breaks down the normal relationship we have with public urban spaces. Their activity alone is the Derive.

Breaking the rules of theory to return to Eugen Atget melancholic catalog of a ghostly Paris that is no longer. His photographs present to us the sites slated to be demolished, of the concrete reality of the demolition not just of squares and houses, but of the intricate means and subtle variations of the daily social realities created and maintained through public works and layout.

The pyschogeography. Atget’s photographs of a forgotten urbanscapes now stand like so many rectangular ghost, an archive of ephemera, of power structures that have morphed, shifted, become temporal and translucent. They function as nostalgic tombstones, racked nicely in a file, viewed sequentially, ordered and precise. Are Atget’s photographs any less powerful than they were in his time period? Or does the contemporary viewer see them only as quaint post cards, a romantic bygone era of a dirtier, grimmer, Paris leaving out the pychogeography of that site and the site that will replace it?

If Atget’s photographs have lost their power to be anything more than romantic nostalgic post cards and coffee table books, then what of the contemporary photographers working within the urbanscape. Their photographs present tangible realities, visual stand ins of the power structures, specifically in the United States. Yet is the mere representation of these sites enough, does it go far enough to instigate more than just chance encounters for the viewer looking at the photographs. And what of the Modernist aesthetic formal qualities laid over these sites. Atget’s Paris is grimy, dark, moody. Contemporary urbanscape photographs are made to be as beautiful as they are not in reality. The photographers activity of finding these sites is the derive, the photograph itself is the pyschogeography, the questioning. But unlike the gritty ghost of Atget’s Paris, their contemporary formal presentation, high gloss, bright colours, fends off the questions raised by their derive. Instead the viewer is left with one word, nostalgia. The photograph becomes a representation of the United States political landscape and the power structures in play as it slowly turns and morphs. Instead of critical action and engagement, we mourn. The United States is changing and morphing its political and social power structures while its identity as super power declines. Its intial status symbols and sturctures that came to represent power have shifted, take on new meaning. Like so many tombstones the contemporary photographic formal aesthetic and their beautiful rendering of the dynamic and shifting urbanscape moots any possible critical interaction. Instead we are presented with lovely nostalgia, and pretty memento mori.

Grant W. Ray

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