Alain Delorme 


  from the serie Quarantine, 2020
80 x 60 cm © Alain Delorme

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Alain Delorme

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Little Dolls
On March 16th, 2020, the French government announced that starting the very next day people would not be allowed to leave their homes in what came to be known as “lockdown”. Suddenly last spring, millions of people began to accumulate stockpiles of toilet paper, sugar, flour, eggs and tinned foods. It wasn’t long before stocks started to run out in medium-sized towns, although the fears that led to these shortages were unfounded. Everyday essentials flew off the shelves in local grocery shops, small supermarkets and large hypermarkets, those temples of consumerism. Buying simply because everybody else is doing it denotes a definite need for reassurance and gives rise to an ephemeral feeling of serenity, until the next irrational panic sets in that is!

Quarantine is a series of photos taken over the duration of the lockdown (55 days to be precise) that shines a spotlight on society and its flaws, something Alain Delorme does only too well. A contextual artwork, it is however much more than a simple reference to living in the throes of a worldwide pandemic. It is also an entertainment, a simple pleasure, a sister to Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures and a young relative of Un Après-midi tranquille by Peter Fischli & David Weiss. While confined in Paris with his two children both aged under 4, Delorme created these images that are reminiscent of homemade mobiles or a makeshift game of Badaboum (a sort of tumbling tower game) using the elements he had to hand, including using seven different types of pasta and a mix of fish fingers and fish cakes. The act of taking the photo recorded an image of these everyday items, freezing them in place just before they fell. You can almost feel the irony in the subtle mix of sociology, politics and fun that is at play in each image.

This corpus is also enveloped in ritual and a certain form of sacredness. Alain Delorme fashions his stele-like creations and places these universal sculptures against a coloured background. They are the totemic figures of a world that overproduces, gobbles down the results of its production and throws up the rest once it has had its fill. Delorme observes, collects facts and then shoots their portrait like some lovestruck anthropologist. In this, his work is not so far removed from that of Walker Evans whose photos revealed the sublime beauty of the MoMA’s collection of African masks and sculptures in 1935. Delorme works with light and shadow, fine-tuning his composition, transfiguring the still life genre and hinting at new beliefs and a new paradigm of ecstasy and delight. Are the sprouting potatoes arranged so they look like a tribal mask or could it be a Celtic cross? Columns made from sugar cubes and bars of soap stand tall as if at the entrance to a temple, and a talisman-like ensemble of carmine gloves becomes a household guardian spirit.

Although minimal in nature, the background is markedly present thanks to a subtle array of textures and the photographer’s preference for a palette of pastel colours of varying density. Each colour and combination thereof is never the result of chance. Aptly chosen and skilfully matched, used to highlight objects or in a flight of fancy, they provide the viewer with a different possible interpretation of what he/she is seeing. The paired colours and different materials, whether real or imitated, accentuate the inherent force that lies within each precariously balanced tower and mound.

Like his previous series (Little Dolls, Murmurations, Icons and Totems), Alain Delorme’s work is open to interpretation, free of judgement or any sort of conformism. If these assemblies remind some people of ex-votos, iconic offerings giving thanks to the great god of mass consumption and his overwhelming generosity, I personally see an indication of the photographer’s desire to reveal the excesses of consumer society. He proposes an amusing anthropological analysis and, as he so often does, positions himself as both a spectator and a participant in this loss of control. Combining absurdity and fascination, he examines and reveals without condemning, bearing witness to the situation with just a hint of mischief. His work provides food for thought, encouraging us to reflect on what the world is doing and the consequences of our actions. When self-centred humanity rushes to accumulate food in answer to an artificial sense of necessity, it reveals the state of anomie (a lack of social or moral standards) that characterises communities suffering from the chaos caused by the absence of generally accepted rules, cooperation and notions of what is good behaviour.
To what is a rather dark analysis, I’ll conclude with some thoughts of life’s happier moments. Man is an animal that is capable of adapting to many different situations and so, even confined to our homes with our children, let’s huff and puff on Delorme’s floury stalagmite because, after all, you have to keep the kids occupied — and never forget the importance of the bursts of laughter.

— Émilie Flory
Manosque, October 2020

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