Stéphane Couturier Melting Point
The series of twenty large photographs depicting the Toyota assembly plant in Valenciennes, France can be distinguished in many respects from previous works that Stéphane Couturier has carried out on urban work sites. While previously he transformed buildings under construction into veritable refined geometrical pictures, with careful rigor in regard to the composition, the images of the current series on the contrary are flowing, mystifying and teeming with elements; invertebrate, so to speak.
The technical and visual protocols put into play as a matter of fact obey a visual and deliberate conceptual orientation — to divert the documentary aspect of photography, to shift and transcend its narrative dimension, to question its reputation as beholder of truth.
Stéphane Couturier’s works at the Valenciennes Toyota factory are in a flagrant break away from photography’s documentary system of verity. But, the break away is not a total one. Somewhere between digital and gelatine silver technique, between detachment from the reality of things and persistence of close adherence to them, the works propose a kind of ‘figurative abstraction’ — a combination and shock of forms, of realities, of systems of verity, of the nature of the imagery, photography and painting.
In front of the Toyota factory assembly line, that is say – confronted by a veritable metaphor of movement that is perpetual and implacable as is today’s technological world, rationalized, disembodied, automated and increasingly subject to the silent and ruthless profit logic – Stéphane Couturier knows that reality is no longer made up of isolated things, of fixed geometrical shapes, but that it has become a reality of flux, in continuous movement and transformation.
The images by Stéphane Couturier visualize this major phenomenon in today’s world whereby the domains of expertise and rationality, the most emblematic of 20th century Western civilization, cede place to the new logic of flux.
Thus it is necessary to unbridle photographic fixedness, to melt it, to abolish its perspective framework, to enable it to be able to gather (and not seize) content and forms in fusion within an accelerating and evolving world.
But, that comes down to deviating photography outside of itself. Such is the reasoning and pertinence behind the process conceived by Stéphane Couturier. Not to explain, inform or document anything whatsoever, but to have us experience visually, at the nerve center of the world, some of the forces that are driving it.
About the photographer
1957, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
In 1994, Stéphane Couturier showed the first works in a series called Urban Archaeology, viewing the city as a living organism. From 1999 onwards, Stéphane Couturier began to focus on mushrooming housing developments with his Monuments series. In 2002, the uniformity and repetitiveness of these landscapes around the world drove him to begin working on the series Landscaping, with polyptychs. With a new body of work called Melting Point, Couturier changed his visual approach. The technical and visual protocols put into play as a matter of fact obey a visual and deliberate conceptual orientation – to divert the documentary aspect of photography, to shift and transcend its narrative dimension, to question its reputation as beholder of truth.
After photographing the Toyota assembly plant, new subjects such as the Indian city of Chandigarh built by Le Corbusier and the city of Brasilia built by Oscar Niemeyer caught Couturier’s attention.
After his first exhibition at the Galerie Polaris in Paris in 1994, Stéphane Couturier has shown his work in numerous venues in France and Europe. From 1997 onwards, the Laurence Miller Gallery in New York exhibited his work on a regular basis. His work for the Monuments series was displayed at the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in Arles, France, in 2001. In 2003, his Landscaping pictures were shown at the Laurence Miller Gallery in New York and University Art Gallery in San Diego. A retrospective of Couturier’s work was shown at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, in 2004. In 2006 his work Landscaping was presented at the ICP exhibition, Ecotopia, in New York. The Toyota series was displayed in Centre Georges Pompidou as a new purchase of the Museum in 2008. An exhibition of the Melting Point series was also presented in Spain at the Art Center Tinglado 2, and another retrospective from the same series was exhibited in a solo show in November 2010 at the Blickle Foundation in Germany, and in Landesmuseum in Linz. Austria, 2011.
Stéphane Couturier’s photographs are in major museum collections, including Centre Georges Pompidou, Los Angeles County Museum, and Art Institute of Chicago. In 2003 he was awarded the Nicephore Niepce prize.
- Melting Power Alstom – Musée de Belfort (2009)
- Chandigarh replay – Editions Ville Ouverte (2007)
- Melting Point – Editions Ville Ouverte & Trans Photographic Press (2006)
- Stéphane Couturier – Photographies – Editions Adam Biro (2004)
Mitch Epstein, American Power, 2003-2008
Christian Als, Kibera - The Shadow City, 2007-2008
Edward Burtynsky, Oil, 1999-2009
Stéphane Couturier, Melting Point, 2005
Chris Jordan, Midway: Message from the Gyre, 2009-2010
Yeondoo Jung, Evergreen Tower, 2001
Vera Lutter, Body of Work, 1997-2006
Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo, The Hell of Copper, 2008
Taryn Simon, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, 2004-2007
Thomas Struth, Paradise, 1998-2006
Guy Tillim, Petros Village, 2006
Michael Wolf, Architecture of Density, 2005-2009