Paranoid Viewership: Bertrand Mandico Exposition de polaroids et de vidéos

December 16, 2009 § Leave a comment

Jilana Stewart

In the Galerie Pierre-Léon at Alliance Française Toronto, Bertrand Mandico introduced his works for Nuit Blanche this month. Although I was not fortunate enough to attend the opening, I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of the exhibition. I would say just in time to put me in the mood for Halloween. Mandico’s work Mie, un film figé, provided a short narrative through Polaroid and the use of cut out words pieced and framed together.

Bertrand Mandico, Mie Image 10 of 18 dans le film figé, 2009

Bertrand Mandico was born in Toulouse, France, and is recognized artistically on a world scale today. The entire exhibition is in French and predominately viewed by Francophone and Francophile audiences. Traditionally, the French are able to capture emotion in a very unique and satisfying way that is evident in their long tradition of art and the Avant-garde. I use the term Avant-garde dually in this instance, first as a loose term of innovation and experiment in art, and secondly attributing this Modern movement inherent in the French artistic culture.  The experimental nature of Mandico’s work is evident through his use of Polaroid film, an outdated form of photography, which he utilizes to reflect his artistic morbidity. Polaroid cameras and their films are not being manufactured any longer, rather being stored away or collected as our photography has progressed. However, the artist has managed to resurrect this practice and exploit its advantages despite it being old-fashioned. These concepts of morbidity, resurrection and old are distinctive of the short narrative Mie that he presents at Galerie Pierre-Léon.  The artist also plays with the text he has written; each word is cut-out individually and typed by an old typewriter. Needless to say, the theme of something old being reinterpreted in a new way comes into play once more.

Within the artist’s narrative, a young girl plays with an old man “Croque Le Marmot” in what ends up being her dream (or is it?). Le Croque appears to be very interested in the young girl; perhaps sexually or maybe to harm her in someway. The Polaroid and inserted text poetically play with the young girl’s beauty and the grotesque appearance of the man.  The contradiction of young and old, innocent and knowing, beautiful and ghastly are evident through the material used by the artist and the narrative he tells. The typed text that has been pasted jaggedly does not conform to any standard of traditional literary writing, and is further evidence of this experimental “Frozen Film” effect.

Bertrand Mandico, Mie Image 17 of 18 dans le film figé, 2009

Mandico’s short narrative captures the viewer with the first glance of the obscurity and darkness of the subject matter. That is to say, it is difficult to decipher the story and distinguish reality from dream or perhaps an intermingling of the two. The mystery of the narrative through the writing and pictures draw the viewer in with a sense of wonder. At first, perhaps for shock value but, as the story progresses and becomes even more curious, some clarity is formed and the viewer has truly experienced something intangible yet understood. Contrary to this intangible feeling experienced is the tangible photography and writing right before the eyes of the viewer. Inherent in the entire exhibition is the theme of contradiction in life. The artist approaches this theme and his use of material in a very surreal fashion; perhaps targeted to fellow filmmakers and artists alike.

This exhibition showcases Mandico’s dark sense of humour which is evoked in symbols of death, like a child’s bed in the middle of a field made from branches and huge rocks piled in a garden that the little girl was too afraid to crossover. But what does this all mean?   The young girl’s hesitant yet curious nature to go outside and explore is representative of the ambition that every child has to discover, and though the artist depicts a very intimidating environment on one hand, there are glimpses of beauty shown through the Polaroid and writings. The artist plays with the viewer’s emotions; Mie is a little like life, full of contradiction, happiness, death, and poetry and can be very surreal in moments. The artist provides a solid foundation for discussion and personal reflection. As well this exhibition pushes the boundaries of material use in a contemporary context, ironically opening the door for more experiment with Polaroid. The short narrative provides a film- like experience without the actual use of video.

Bertrand Mandico, Mie Image 16 of 18 dans le film figé, 2009

The exhibition can also be viewed at:

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