Going Where the World Is Made
“How are we to represent a world that defines itself by representation,
that is constantly recording itself and recording itself recording itself?
[...] the landscapes that we inhabit are the same as the ones we see
on screens, and are themselves covered with screens.”1
Guillaume Janot’s photographic practice has often been characterised
by its movements across the trajectories of representation, a way of
probing its contexts and ambiguities, of questioning a relation to the
notions of documentary and author. Shifting between generic images and
their referents, his work is constantly exploring, among other things,
the circulation of a collective image in the form of an appropriation
of cultural referents and particularities.
Reactivating the codes of an extended folklore, its frontiers and vicinities,
his previous work, Roses and Guns, interrogated cultural signs and landscapes
Taken from a big park in Beijing where the public can “immerse
itself in idyllic countryside, rich in flowers and skilfully laid out,”
Ecostream, the title of this new series, becomes the generic term for
a journey through the diffuse geographies of a corpus which combines
iconographic sources, fictive places and original spaces. Incursions
into the imagery of replicas and an aesthetic of imitation, this new
set of photographs, made up essentially of landscapes, denotes Janot’s
interest in theme parks and leisure venues, which are avatars of the
spectacle and markers of a certain form of planetary tourism. The impersonal
places frequented by a certain middle class, these reproduced worlds
constitute privileged zones for stereotyped variations, effects of illusion
and disorientation. By the particular confection of its strata and textures,
Ecostream exploits the recursive potential of images by elaborating
an ensemble of echoes that enter into resonance with the globalisation
of contemporary fluxes: circuits of information and communication; the
industrialisation of travel.
Thanks to a general outsourcing and iconoclastic evasion, Ecostream
can be seen as an investigation of the territories of the image and
of the variety of its dimensions in the age of the global village. The
Great Wall of China, the Bavarian castle or a tropical forest appear
as the backdrop to a kaleidoscopic wander combining composite conflations,
cardboard panoramas and contrasting views.
Set in the botanical garden of Sydney, the zoo in Vincennes or Disneyland,
the photographs become pretexts for exercises in disorientation and
challenging our perception. The framing selects and orders things in
an open texture of places, oscillating between confusion and recognition
regarding the nature of the location, subtly blurring the identifiers.
The Eiffel Tower of a big Chinese theme park, the city of Beijing or
the jungle in a botanical garden appear in equivocal forms and latitudes,
like improbable, hybrid postcards. Playing with the definitions of its
reception, photography produces the conditions of a visibility, one
that consists not only in a naturalist, informational transposition
of the real, but also in the appearance of that gap instituted by representation.
Marin describes the process thus: “Whatever else is the case,
we are still faced with this operational machine that is the device
of representation, thanks to which the world and the subject are truly
fabricated as such.”2
In Ecostream, this subjectification of the gaze contributes to the creation
of a continuous intermezzo, the sensation of a relative exoticism, of
an indeterminate “elsewhere” or a false familiarity. Amplifications
of the artificial character of the places photographed, playing with
the factitious element, the polymorphous images sent out by the artist
correspond to a deceptive autopsy of our geography and our cultural
In questioning the photographic medium, Guillaume Janot shows its capacity
to instigate doubt about appearances and verisimilitude. By suspending
the instances of truth and authenticity, the photograph questions the
credibility of images while giving them an autonomous existence. Like
a back-and-forth between reality and representation, the ambiguities
generated by these reconstituted landscapes and reconstituted environments
are extrapolated by the artist’s modus operandi and its play with
photographic space. The catalogue of snapshots is revealed in accordance
with the interaction of scales and foreshortened perspectives, where
the models of buildings are more real than in reality.
Immersion and fictions
Taken as an ensemble, the photographs are like a deviant and amused
museology, with each element impressing unexpected and cosmopolitan
connotations: the young woman walking in the street seems to have come
straight out of a New Wave film from the 1960s, the actress from a fashion
shoot wandering in the forest is like a lonely, mixed-race Pocahontas.
The suggestive power of these images brings these figures to us via
the intermediary of reminiscences and allusive shifts.
A fiction of fictions, Ecostream sketches out a heterodox and prismatic
chronology, a compilation of times and periods in which the viewer navigates
between anachronisms and incongruities. Among the possible subliminal
allegories generated by these multiple juxtapositions of milieus we
may note: the mountain built for the apes at the Paris zoo: Zoo de Vincennes,
Hiver 2008. 2009, the giraffes at the same: Zoo de Vincennes, Hiver
2008. 2009, the two park wardens with their telescopic rods: Botanic
Garden, Sydney. Eté 2008. 2009. Sustaining the idea of an uncertain
relation to history, the networks and diffractions suggested by these
images indicate a turbid relation to the conception of the vestige and
of the past: the faux derelict American building, the stones of the
Disneyland castle or the Italian fountain…
Evoking the contemporary relation to images, we might cite Jacques Rancière:
“We are not in front of images, we are among them, as they are
among us. The question is, how do we move around them, how do we move
them around.”3 This corpus of images, like a kind of precipitate
of the modern sphere, seems to mime the accelerations, phantasmal speeds
and other transports of our modern media regime.
A climatology of the image
A genuine faux still life, the motif of the artificial flower constitutes
the symbol both of the lure, of the banality and of the seduction of
Ecostream. A recurrent emblem of copy and counterfeiting, it partakes
of the logic of the ersatz and the decorative image on the same level
as the suburban housing archetype. Collages cultivating mannerism and
cheap effigies, these fragments undergo condensations and heterogeneous
crystallisations; these tabs are the result of several types of identification
and contraction. The left-field urbanism of Lucky Street – Sans
titre, Beijing, hiver 2007. 2009 oscillates between impromptu assemblage
and the archiving of influences, the mixing of kitsch from all around
the globe, and comes across as an importing and compressing of architectures
Where greenhouse meets biome dome, the photographs of forests, cascades
and flowery meadows fill the exhibition space as big, immersive mural
images, juxtaposed sometimes to the point of saturation, breaking of
the space-ground-figure relation. They are samples juxtaposed, enhancers
and trompe-l’oeil panoramas of this recreated and prefabricated
nature, exhibiting a constant tension between ornamental data and modelled
Where ornament meets screen and furniture, these posters of clearings
or waterfalls that Janot sets out in his exhibitions may also evoke
the decoration of 1970s living rooms, in a great big game or mirrors.
Bucolic or luxuriant flora, this vegetation reveals the atmospheric
quality of Ecostream, a vehicle of contemplation, embodying dream and
invasion. With its audible reference to brooks and rills, the term streaming,
referring to the continuous relaying of data onto the screen, can be
understood here as an analogy describing one of the characteristics
of the apprehension of these fixed corpuses of images: the consumption
of mixed data in the form of a flow.
Ecostream could then be considered in terms of the metaphors used by
Peter Sloterdijk: spheres and foam, figures of the movement of globalisation,
relating the transformation of the external world into a broader inner
With its indices of an archaeology of the real and of a capturing of
mirror effects, the artist’s work is organised in a flow of fragrances
that we pore over in a kind of kinetic and mental drift. If Guillaume
Janot likes to say that “photography is a slow image,” then
the different strategies of representation implemented here derive from
an equivocal focus, an unpredictable self-timer. Slowing down to catch
the world’s rustle and burble, touring its multiple interiors.
“Which only goes to say how ambiguous your journeys will have
1 Marc Augé, “L’art du décalage,” in
Multitudes Web, June 2007.
2 Louis Marin, Des pouvoirs de l’image, Paris: Seuil, 1998.
3 Jacques Rancière, Le travail de l’image, in Multitudes
Web, June 2008.
4 Gilles Deleuze, Lettre à Serge Daney, optimisme, pessimisme
et voyage, Paris: Ed. de Minuit, 1990.