Culture | Mois de la Photo: Spinning into sight

Luc Courchesne’s Journal panoscopique

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to fall down the rabbit hole, travelling in disarray from one world to another? Well, thanks to innovative Montreal artist Luc Courchesne’s newest exhibition, you can get a little closer to knowing what that feels like.

Journal panoscopique is part of this year’s Mois de la Photo, which takes place from September 10 to October 11 in various locations around Montreal. Courchesne’s work is one of the 24 solo exhibitions chosen to represent this year’s theme: The Spaces of the Image, which was initiated and coordinated by French guest curator Gaëlle Morel.

“I wanted people to become aware of all the possibilities in showing pictures,” says Morel. Each of the artists involved displays their brilliant avant-garde contributions to the field of expressive contemporary photography. Morel adds that artists are also very aware of the public while conceptualizing their works. “Many artists think of the relation of space as their relation to the public,” noted Morel.

Courchesne’s innovative work consists of a variety of landscapes taken with his own invention: the Panoscope camera. Invented in 1999, the contraption allows the artist to photograph images in a frameless manner. The photographs presented depict a wide range of landscapes captured by the artist over the course of his travels between 1999 and 2006.

What immediately comes to mind when viewing the exhibit is the way in which each image was taken. Questions, that very likely will have no simple answer, challenge the viewer’s entire conception of the work. For instance, upon first glance each piece looks like two images, juxtaposed because they depict contrasting landscapes. However, further inspection reveals a single, flowing image displayed through a complex, dysmorphic point of view.

Interestingly, the work also includes an interactive component – viewers can spin the Panoscope’s discs, creating an immediate impression of “virtual vertigo.” The capture of real life spaces, which are then transformed by the viewers into warped flashes of colours and shapes, creates the sense that we ourselves cause this type of bewilderment in our own world – we distort everything we touch. Spinning the disc, which displays a simple relatable image, causes a mind-boggling sense of disorientation.

If you can come up with an interpretation of what the disc shows as it is spinning, I applaud you immensely. As the image rotated furiously in front of my eyes, I was immediately caught off guard. I became frustrated and ultimately uncomfortable – I could no longer decipher what was up or down, real or imagined. While the disc spins, the resulting sense of vertigo creates tension because you can no longer explain what you are looking at.

Simply put, art that has the capacity to challenge our thoughts and perceptions is worth taking a closer look at. Even if Courchesne’s photos leave a sense of bafflement, discomfort, or dizziness, they intensify one’s emotions in the most satisfying way. In today’s world, there is an urgency to register everything around us immediately as we hastily disregard all the challenging peculiarities present in everyday life. Panoscopic images force anyone examining them to question his or her conception of normalcy and look deeper into a distorted world.

Journal Panoscopique runs through October 11 at Les Ateliers Jean Brillant (3550 Saint-Jacques O.).

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