PARIS.- Since the early 1980s, Sophie Ristelhueber has been one of the most original and significant proponents of a new approach that has moved documentary photography towards into a more poetical, political and aesthetic territory. This shift in values, applied to the codes of representation of the real, has significantly changed the space in which the conception, production and reception of photographic images are negotiated.
Indeed, most of Ristelhuebers pieces force viewers out of their passive role of observer, turning them into witnesses and judges of the tension that is created between the visually obvious, truth and representation. Ristelhuebers highly structured work is inscribed in this same interstitial space, at the frontier between proof and verdict, or between index and doubt.
The artist thus simultaneously explores several different territories of conflict: those where the politics of the representation of a given space and place are renegotiated, and those where viewers are torn between their personal experience, their capacity for critical judgement and the pressure exerted by the dominant politics of representation.
In this crossfire, between what we see and what we know, Ristelhuebers images make no attempt to impose a judgement or organise our looking, but seek, rather, to elaborate multiple narratives that offer a range of stimulating new possibilities. Image after image, project by project, fundamental themes such as the perturbation of memory, the insanity of power and the obscenity of human suffering are explored not from the angle of fatality or excess, but in relation to their discreet inscription in the inexorable process of life. Or, to quote Spanish writer Enrique Vila-Matas, as if they were little serious afflictions.
Marta Gili, November 2008
from the preface to the catalogue
Petites affections graves