Photography and its history have only ever been questioned from a point of view that has been distorted by painting or, more broadly, the graphic arts. “La Fabrique des illusions” suggests a different way of thinking about the origins of this medium, particularly in its relations to theatre and the performing arts.
“Orientalist” photography can be just that special place for such a necessary overhaul, the latter having always functioned in the mode of simulation. In the 19th century, photography and theatre introduced new modes of representation. This was the time when “visual spectacle” was invented—a complex scenography with special effects and a mass of new images.
The perspective of photography in all visual performances during the 19th century, especially in theatre, is based on common codes and references that are understood by all. What is sought above all else is the illusion of life, best embodied by the scene and its effects. Photography is a theatrical space.
“La Fabrique des illusions” confronts the “Orientalist” photographs in the Fouad Debbas Collection with works by ten international contemporary artists: Mac Adams, Nadim Asfar, Vartan Avakian, Elina Brotherus, Daniele Genadry, Randa Mirza, Louis Quail, Angélique Stehli, Wiktoria Wojciechowska and Ali Zanjani. Overall, the exhibition presents some 300 pieces.
Since the 1970s, contemporary photography has offered an alternative to illusion.
It is well versed in gimmicks so as to be able to spot a ruse. The challenge of this exhibition thus lies in confronting deceptive beauty with true lies. In fact, “La Fabrique des illusions” sketches the picture of another history of photography—contradictory and, in short, illegitimate.