Where does this sense of uncanny strangeness in Valérie Belin’s photographs come from? From the living complexion of her shop window mannequins, or the fixed expressions of these women encountered in the street? From the organic aspect of these car skeletons, or the sculptural character of these flayed beef carcasses? Is it a double, or a wax figure?
From 24 June to 14 September, for the first time ever, the Centre Pompidou is devoting an exhibition to the work of Valérie Belin. It will feature around thirty works, organised around her most recent series, «Super Models». This new proposal revives the theme of the mannequin central to the artist’s work, in relation to previous works from public and private collections.
Valérie Belin makes play with uncertainty through her treatment of light, contrasts, the proportions of the prints and other skilfully orchestrated parameters. When looking at these images, it is often hard to say whether what you see is alive or inanimate, real or virtual, natural or artificial: subtle details that interrupt daily continuity, harking back to Sigmund Freud’s «uncanny strangeness». He defined this as «raising doubt as to whether an apparently animate object really is alive, and conversely, whether a lifeless object might indeed be animate, with reference to the impression made on us by waxwork figures, ingeniously constructed dolls and automata.» [Sigmund Freud, «Uncanny Strangeness», 1919]. This is precisely what gives Valérie Belin’s works their singular power. The choice of the works brought together here (including «Michael Jackson», «Black Women I», «Lido», «Meats» and «Engines») illustrates this scientific aspect of her work.
The exhibition is accompanied by a book published jointly with Éditions Dilecta containing essays by Larisa Dryansky and Clément Chéroux, together with an interview with Valérie Belin with Roxana Marcoci.