Pierre Daguin: The Frank’s Wild Years

Home Gallery, Prague, 17 December – January 30 

To correspond with its first anniversary, HOME Gallery will be hosting an exhibition of recent works on paper by Pierre Daguin.

This show, Daguin’s first in Prague for several years, represents part of a larger series of recent works including a selection of photographs (“Philip Morris,” “Kuchen und Lugger” and “Psychosex”), several “antipersonnel bombs,” an installation entitled the “Children of Marcos” (weapon-toys) and the White Book (a book of collage about terrorism).

For the installation of “drawings” at HOME Gallery this December-January, Daguin will be exhibiting a series of faux-naif renderings of images culled from erotic magazines.

Unlike Daguin’s previous work, these renderings take the form of line drawings, ink sketches, paintings and stylised outlines coloured-in with felt-tip markers like the images in a child’s picture book.

The effect ranges from echoes of Egon Schiele and Hans Bellmer, to the soft-core punk aesthetics of Sonic Youth.

Daguin’s use of colour is at once lush and toxic, vibrantly contrasted and indeterminate.

Surfaces are colour saturated or sparse, expressionistic or linear, or both. Figures are highlighted or placed under erasure, some having been entirely blacked out.

The effect produced is that the more “explicit” the image, the less “pornographic” if becomes—its mimetic quality dissolving into composition, the eye foundering upon the self-exposed quality of a highly “posed” technic.

Daguin’s purpose here, we may speculate, has been to render the armature of pictorial desire not in terms of the imaginary but of the image itself as a form of structural outcome—the technics of drawing, of composition, of colouration.

At the same time, these technics onto which desire grafts itself in the operations of “pornographic” seeing, constitute a blind—the unseeable beyond the illusion of an interminable optical unveiling.

What Daguin succeeds in affecting is an index of traces and tracings from which the imaginary recedes and the fact of the unseeable begins to encroach upon the eye in the uncanny, disturbing manner of an “optical unconscious.”

Among Daguin’s previous shows in Prague was his participation in the First Biannual Festival Foto Praha-Kolín, 1998, entitled “Body and Photography” and curated by Martina Pachmanová.

Daguin’s contribution, “Around the World,” which was also exhibited at the Belgian Cultural Institute on Karlovo Námsti, comprised an extensive series of juxtaposed photographic images: half self-portraits of Daguin himself, adopting various holiday, travel or expeditionary personae; the other half being images that may well have been culled from soft porn and fashion magazines (in fact they are pictures of retro-models by Carlo Mollin, a famous architect and designer, which were discovered after his death).

Each diptych was entitled by means of a geographic locality, e.g. “New York (USA),” “Lisbon (Portugal),” “Lima (Peru)”—imitating the form of a pictorial/sexual travelogue.

The effect of many of the juxtapositions in “Around the World” is often hilarious, with Daguin’s comic self-presentations set against often lush or gorgeous female nudes.

The found-object quality of the nudes operates both to suggest the pictorial accumulation of postcard impressions of exotic destinations (sexualised in the manner of tourism brochures hyping travel-consumerist desire), and to heighten the paradoxically trashy and collectable nature of these symbols of transient (and vicarious) “pleasure.”

Like Huysman’s cult of simulationism, Daguin’s stereo tableaux play upon the idea that man’s relationship with the world of experience always takes place through a matrix of desire and representation, whose virtuality leads it to be situated anywhere and nowhere, but whose lineaments are no less “real” for that, since it is the imaginary itself which stands as its object.

Among Daguin’s other work to have appeared in Prague, there are several book publications from the design house Divus, including The Nude (1998; a deluxe hard-cover catalogue from an exhibition at Prague Castle by the same name), 33 (1994; an impressive volume of experimental poetics mostly in French, and beautifully designed by Markéta Othová), and most recently French Connection (2001; a series of photographic collaborations (or rather “encounters”) between Daguin and Othová, with Daguin’s colour prints set against Othová’s black and white prints on facing pages—each presenting different images from different locations between which unexpected and often surprising symmetries arise).