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The Jeu de Paume exhibits fifteen photographic series by Marc Pataut
Marc Pataut, Projet Laotil, anciennes terres agricoles de la ferme de l'hôpital psychiatrique de Ville-Évrard, 1998/1999 © Marc Pataut.

PARIS.- The exhibition by Marc Pataut (born in Paris in 1952) presents a corpus of around fifteen photographic series, some of which are being exhibited for the first time. The artist’s work explores the individual’s relationship both to themselves and to society. His pictures reveal faces, bodies, affiliations and life stories. Linked to specific sites and regions, his projects grow organically over long periods and are nourished by an accumulation of personal and collective experiences.

The exhibition features a selection of his photographic essays produced between 1981 and the present day. This is not a retrospective, however. Rather, it is an artistic proposition focused on his art works and the evolution over time of their political relationships to society, space and territory. Frequently shaped by debates, exchanges and struggles, his work is a form of social and political thought. The works featured in the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue propose another relationship: that between the artworks and the public.

In the early 1970s, Pataut studied under sculptor Étienne-Martin at the École Nationale Supérieure des BeauxArts de Paris (where he himself taught photography from 2001 to 2018), and his photographic practice was strongly influenced by the latter’s ideas and approach. In the 1980s, after a brief stint at the agency Viva, Pataut devoted himself to photographic essays in which the human and political dimension was of central importance. Pataut’s experimental approach is based on collaboration and shaped by the particular context he works in. His working method is inextricably linked to a particular field of activity or social situation, or to the history of a place and or to a period.

The two beginnings
His experimental venture at the Aubervilliers day hospital in 1981 paved the way for this process. Working part-time as a “nurse-photographer”, he gave cameras to a group of children suffering from psychotic disorders. In the children’s photography, Pataut discovered a relationship to language and the body that impressed him greatly.

“I understood that a portrait was not only a face, that photography involves the body and the unconscious, something other than the eye, intelligence and virtuosity. The work at the day hospital taught me that you can photograph with your belly, that the portrait is the relationship between bodies – how I place my body in space faced with another body, at what distance.”

In 1986–87, he undertook a series of photographs of his own body. He produced a set of eleven closeups of his stomach to express the violence suffered by other bodies. He titled this work Apartheid and presented in it two forms: on billboards in the town of Le Blanc-Mesnil and in framed prints displayed in the town hall. At the same time, he produced Mon corps, a new series made up of a multitude of photographs. These three series, which make up a significant part of the Jeu de Paume exhibition, root the artist’s photography in an intimate relation to the body and the portrait.

The portrait
In 1989, the artist began experimenting with portraiture. The exhibition explores this aspect of his work non-chronologically, juxtaposing works from different series and in different formats. Visitors will discover a large body of work in the form of gelatin silver prints, as well as documents and publications: Aulnay-sous-Quoi ? (1990–91), a project produced with a class of fifth-form students from Aulnay-sousBois (north of Paris) and based on secondary school pupils who were members of the resistance and were condemned to death in 1943; Emmaüs (1993–94), portraits taken from various distances of Emmaüs companions in Scherwiller, Alsace; Humaine (2008–12), portraits of three inhabitants of the town of Douchyles-Mines; and, finally, a series of portraits produced with six patients and two nursing assistants from the Victor-Hugo psychiatric day centre in Béziers, entitled Figurez-vous… une ronde (2012–16).

Ne Pas Plier
In 1990, with Gérard Paris-Clavel, he founded Ne Pas Plier, an association committed to the struggle against the neoliberal society and its advertising culture through rallies, images and words in the public space. In 1996–97, they collaborated with Médecins du Monde, which was seeking to highlight the difficulty of accessing healthcare for the homeless. The project involved the participation of homeless people who were salaried sellers of La Rue (a magazine that no longer exists), and focused on their activities in the public space. They photographed their environment and the resulting images were published in the magazine. It led to a long friendship with one of them in particular, Antonios Loupassis (1950–2017), an architect of Greek origin, whose photography is exhibited here.

The territory
In 1994 and 1995, Marc Pataut photographed the inhabitants of Cornillon, a wasteland and the site of the future national stadium in Saint-Denis, outside Paris.

“In November 1993, the site of Cornillon, in the Plaine Saint-Denis, was chosen for the Grand Stade where the 1998 World Cup was supposed to take place. Before becoming the highly publicised site of a global event, this 25-hectares lot was the territory of a small number of people, who were gradually evicted before the building works started and whose huts were demolished when the stadium was opened. I understood that they were saved by their relationship to space, the sky, plants and nature. They maintained an intimate relationship with a vast territory.”

Le Cornillon-Grand Stade series was published as a book, and the works were also exhibited at documenta X in Kassel, 1997.

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