MICHEL GAILLOT, philosopher and art critic, Das Schloss
Éditions Filigranes 2015
« Das Schloss » (The Castle) - this large family home in Lorraine, where Sara Imloul spent most of her childhood and where this project was completed – is the main subject of this photographic work, as the title suggests. And yet paradoxically, it features in none of the pictures of this series, a series entirely dedicated to it.
This paradox, however, is only superficial. More than its external shell or objective architectural material existence, what is at stake here – as presented by the artist through the staging or settings of her different pictures - is the subjective dimension she experienced in this space where several generations crossed paths and developed a common existence. So, the series of pictures brings out a counter-relief picture, a true space of co-living, crisscrossing and exchanges - that is, existential co-spacing of these several generations, the different actors being staged here and there. So much so that in this emblematic linking place - the very spacing within the link - what comes out first and foremost as presented here between documentary and fiction, is its co-existential dimension. In other words – in a representative approach where reality and imaginary worlds stop excluding and opposing each other – the fantasy and symbolic, dream and poetic crystallisation of the multiple experiences she had there until now.
In the end, just as this large house cannot be identified, neither can the different characters we meet be recognized or identified, since their faces are somehow denied, obliterated through artifices pertaining to staging prior to shooting or subsequently when the artist uses drawing or collage to work on the negatives. Rather than attempting to represent them as objectively as possible, Sara Imloul seems to give them fictitious roles to play in this intimate theatre made of shadows and lights, dreams and memories, fantasies and introspections, as The Castle turns out to be through the lens of its camera. As if the aim were also to make more complex, or even to blur, the perception both of its own space and of the bodies exhibited within.
However, although deeply pervaded by “ the fantastic “ and “ the mysterious “, the pictures presented here do not represent an escape out of the world or its effective reality. Quite the reverse, we are invited to touch and to face up to its entirety and its integrity. This is probably the major challenge of this work – to invite us on the front line or the contact area where reality and its strange, fantastic or mysterious part of shadow do not exclude each other anymore, but cross over and intermingle constantly at a point of incandescent non-discrimination.
Besides, if from the very beginning Sara Imloul started a sort of initiatory and experimental quest for the origin of her living places (The Castle) or herself (her family connections), it was never about looking for a full and assured identity. As her images testify, what is at stake is not a journey leading to a reassuring, identified and re-appropriable “self” or “home”, but rather to the initial abyss and strangeness – the everlasting “other one“ or “stranger” we are to ourselves, unrelentingly – lying deep inside ourselves, preventing self-withdrawal, closing down into a definite or assured identity.
Thus, in this abyssal staging of reality by images and images by reality – the intensity of which produces an outflow or eclipse of meaning along with its shifting to ‘somewhere else’ which is not another reality, but the other one in reality – Sara Imloul puts us in front of this constituent hairline fracture in her, as in every being or each thing through which – and this is the mysterious and fantastic strangeness of life - the ‘self’ flows and pours into the other one, just as the other one flows and pours back into him. The visions she offers to us through tearing apart and opening up the surface of the signs to reveal the underlying abyss are dazzling, coming from, springing from or torn from the depth of the living being steeped in the strangeness of matter – like the visions of a dionysiac, bacchanale reality, watched with “ burnt eyes “.
This is why these images, giving us this sort of stifled revelation of the night, of the “ wretched part “ of existence, only exacerbate our need to understand, to go beyond it, therefore leaving us, staggering and destabilized, gliding happily into the abyss awoken in us. May they give us sufficient impetus and strength to finally recognize
that if “ vast expanses lie within us we will never be able to follow “, but at least “ these are useful to face up the harshness of our climates, favorable to both our awakening and our distress (1)”.
 René Char, « Nous avons », in Commune présence, Gallimard, Collection Poésie, 1978, p.265.
Michel Gaillot, philosopher and art critic.