Bare Life by Antoine d’Agata / Magnum Photos
Under the circumstances that have marked the world, THE BARE LIFE is Antoine d'Agata's view of Covid-19 and its social and political resonances. The multiscreen video-installation will present up to 13,000 images produced by Antoine d'Agata between March 11 and May 11, 2020.
“We are only a little stored, organized solar heat, a memory of Sun. A little phosphorus that burns in the meninges of the world. ” Paul Cézanne
From the first day of confinement ensuing the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic, Antoine d'Agata roamed the streets of Paris with a thermal camera to record, in his own unique way, the viral epidemic that turned the city into a strange theatre of wandering souls, bowed heads and fleeing bodies. Initially attracted by the way in which the thermodynamic device records the various infrared rays (heat waves) emitted by bodies, which vary according to their temperature, the artist was soon fascinated by a process that reduces human subjects to essential figures, devoid of superfluous characteristics or specificities.
Living and working for two months out of the Paris office of the Magnum Photos agency and gallery, he used the thermal technique to document the impregnation of the deserted city existing under confinement: a city plunged into silence, traversed by bodies with stereotypical attitudes, inhabited above all by the homeless who appear - in these images - as the last truly living and resistant bodies, austere and flame-tinged compositions offering an alternative and dystopian vision of the emptying streets.
« This documentary work is dominated by the use of thermal technology because it offers the ability to capture information that photography as we know it cannot. It is not a question of aesthetics but of a technique under development that allows me to generate a visual language that apprehends reality from both an existential and political perspective.
As the coronavirus tore the continent apart and people isolated themselves, I was fed by words from Henry James quoted by Jean-Luc Godard - We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our mark - I tracked the heat stored by bodies, first on the street and then - very soon after that - in the Covid-19 continuing care and resuscitation units. In the last two months I produced 13,000 images (6,500 in the streets of the capital, 6,500 images in various hospitals) sometimes sleeping for days on end within the hospital buildings, photographing the interactions between ambulance drivers, doctors, nurses, and patients – gestures spanning the medical, hygienic, and comforting.
It is in this ambivalence between solidarity and contamination, this inevitability of social and physiological death, that I tried to apprehend, traversing a language of senses and of resistance that transfigures the body. The thermal image freezes forms, postures, figures, poses, zones imperceptible to the naked eye.”
Antoine d’Agata is member of Magnum Photos. He is represented by Galerie Magnum and Galerie des Filles du Calvaire (Paris).