Oliver Clément (b. 1978, Germany) works in Lorraine, France. A former engineer in the field of biomedical research, he graduated at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie d’Arles in 2009. His work, which he formulates as an open chronicle, is a visual exploration of the microfictional capabilities of the photographic medium with a specific interest in the survivance of modernist utopia.
This work originates as a meditative exploration of the concept of history developed by Walter Benjamin and especially the “Dialektik im Stillstand” (dialectic at a standstill). I made this formula mine as a profane hypothesis, a mean by which I could describe this quality of time so specific to our contemporary period, where our attentions are focused solely on the most immediate present. Hence this feeling of a perpetual present time, without horizon nor periphery, a “permanent present” abandoned to a reality that resides as a spectre flirting with virtuality. This anxious assessment made me question about the possibility of thoughts about the future in this presentist continuum.
Modernity in its vernacular acception carried a feeling of utopia and positive beliefs towards the future. I focused my attention on non-spectacular and modest evidences standing at the fringe of modernity in places with an important industrial past which can be seen as objects, things and configurations directly prehensile by my vision. Things that in the past could have embodied possible futures, which are today unaccomplished. Through images that flirt with virtuality and abstraction, I’m trying to restore fragments of discrete expired utopias and to take a look at some blind spots of modernity, “mirages of the present in the past” (Bergson).
My practice puts into tension two approaches of the photographic medium; its documentary aspect on one side and its ability to abstract and virtualize on the other. I conceive my images as deviant documentary observations where the apparent objectivity flirts with semantic ambiguity. I seek to produce, through voluntarily hollowed-out or abstract images, a quality of mystery and silence, opening the field of interpretation to fiction and narrativity.
“Permanent present is a photographic series that hovers on the boundary between the familiar and the strange, where something doesn’t feel right, or where something doesn’t look like what it seems to be.
The a-temporal and dreamlike quality as well as the multiple narratives of his work reflect the conundrums of idealism and ideology of a past generation, but also seem to become the sediment of time, which does no longer coincide with the idea of velocity promoted by modernity but, on the contrary, it expresses the manifold time dimensions of progress.”
– Sophie Yerly
To view more of Oliver’s work, please visit his website.