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Nicolas Faure

CERN, 1997
C-print, diptych
160.0 x 125.0 cm each
By turning his lens on Switzerland’s system of roads, Nicolas Faure offers a photography that clearly marks a break with the depictions of the idyllic, romantic and nostalgic country nestled in the Alps. Taking a documentary approach, Faure reveals what is there, simply and straightforwardly with a will to document world around him. Yet his images do not reflect the objective approach of German photography, as it developed from Bernd and Hilla Becher to Thomas Ruff : “By showing seemingly banal sites, I think I’m celebrating life in fact. Life shows itself in the day to day. Hunting down the sublime would run counter to this approach… The extraordinary, by definition, exceeds the normality that catches my interest and enables me to think about man.”

Motorways occasionally serve as the foreground of the grandiose alpine landscapes they are shown crossing; in other images they are glimpsed in the distance, while the detail of grassy silhouettes stands out against a lunar sea in a play of motifs that verges on the abstract. By bringing together different timeframes in one and the same image – the modernity of the highway system before the permanence of mountains’ geological layers, the concrete ribbon of an overhead motorway before the picturesque aspect of the Swiss landscape, or a mineralogical tangle of computer cables (CERN) – Faure offers up a certain image of progress.

As the photographer explains, “The two subjects that appeal to me the most since coming back from the United States in 1982 are modernity and identity. What era do things speak to us of ? What heritage are they offering us for tomorrow ? These motorway installations, full of artificial marshes and curtains of trees, selected one by one, perfectly illustrate our engineering culture and our cult of the ‘ neat and tidy ’ ”. Faure’s images make it possible to perceive that the natural may well be more artificial than meets the eye, and that the modernity of concrete surfaces can combine pertinently with the views of a vernacular Switzerland.
Nicolas Faure, CERN, 2018