Rien, Presque is the latest limited edition artist book by French, Brussels-based artist, Michel Mazzoni. Translating into English as ‘Nothing, Almost’, Rien, Presque is a dense, non-narrative assemblage of surfaces and ‘accidental’ compositions. Thick and glue bound, it functions as a collection of artefacts made from the traces left behind in the overlooked cycles of destruction, reconstruction, abandonment and activity found in urban and suburban environments. Through working with the aesthetic potential of his own photographs, Mazzoni brings together divergent ideas, placing them in relation with each other and unifying them through a single consistent style and form.
Throughout Rien, Presque, architecture and nature cross-over, mirror and spill into one-another. By getting up-close, Mazzoni’s approach to image making borders on the claustrophobic and confrontational, as if he is playfully experimenting with – and perhaps even making an argument for – photography’s capacity to create abstraction even in the most unlikely of settings. Concrete blocks and other debris of construction intermittently appear to us as sculptures. Void of any sense of scale, what was small, minor and insignificant, appears before the camera as decisive and monumentous.
Void of any sense of scale, what was small, minor and insignificant, appears before the camera as decisive and monumentous.
This interplay between the ‘everyday’ subject and its transformation through the act of photography, is further intensified through Mazzoni’s handling of his images. Each seems to have undergone a different type of process and manipulation; some look bleached out, overexposed or even collaged, others appear dotted or diffused. The more manipulated images remind me of other (non-photographic) printing methods, such as risograph or silkscreen. Indeed, there is something about the production of Rien, Presque as a whole, with its soft grey tones and matte paper, which is reminiscent of a photocopy. Mazzoni appears to reference these layers of process and construction through the inclusion of exhibition installation views, adding an additional layer of ‘images of images’.
Looking at Rien, Presque, I’m aware that the ‘everyday’ seems to have become inseparable from the life of the individual – here, I imagine (for argument’s sake) a typical still life (you know the type – perhaps a half-peeled apple softly lit by the morning sun). By contrast, Mazzoni’s images draw from a collective experience of urban and suburban public space; one which is often distinctly unromantic, perhaps even dirty, soiled or spoiled. His images look closely at an environment which is constantly marked, scarred, scratched and trodden on, caught in an endless process of destruction and reconstruction. In this sense, Rien, Presque feels best described through a series of suggestive motions or gestures – ‘rubbing’, ‘scuffing’, ‘grinding’, ‘bleaching’, ’seeping’, ’scratching’ – actions in progress which overlap, but none-the-less appear to us as completely disconnected or disjointed.
Rien, Presque feels best described through a series of suggestive motions or gestures, actions in progress which overlap, but none-the-less appear to us as completely disconnected or disjointed.
In Rien, Presque, overlooked marks and traces are collected, constructed, arranged and formed into something new. It is an assemblage based on the camera’s capacity to create, rather than to record, whereby the environment becomes an artist’s studio, ripe for experimentation with readymade sculptures, drawings, textures and surfaces. Mazzoni seems to be playing with constructing a system that operates without an explicit purpose, direction or end. Within this loose framework, Rien, Presque can be read as a catalogue of ‘found’ material, both the artist’s output, and the artist’s resource. Here the artist’s book becomes a method through which to think through ideas. Rather than an end point, it is one possibility.