Antoine d’Agata is a saint. His saintliness lies in giving the power of speech to those whose photo he takes.
One of the girls in Atlas tells Antoine something that no critic has yet dared to say – but you really had to be there: “You told me that you were no more than a useless witness. You fed my pleasure in my own suffering. To reach me, you destroy yourself.” She didn’t say: “You fed your own pleasure in my own suffering”; she said, “You fed my own pleasure in my own suffering”. And suddenly we have the words we were looking for to explain why, with women, Antoine has always sparked a feeling of trust that he never betrays. And why it’s always the guys who fear him.
Other people’s words are everywhere in his latest works, particularly in a collective exhibition that opened at Le Bal in Paris on 11th September: S’il y a lieu je pars avec vous. He uses as a pretext a long motorway journey from Paris to Marseille, where he became a butcher — slaughter is a word that has always had a painful resonance for Antoine. We hear the diary of the girl travelling with him, the e–mails he receives, the propositions he finds on the Internet, and his father’s diary, when he left Italy for Marseille at the age of 20. In Paraiso, one of his latest books, one of the strongest ('André Frère, 2013'), he includes bits of his own diary among the photos of Valparaiso. In it, he mentions Phnom Penh in 2008, of course, his father dying, his relationship with Ka, with Ice and his own personal torment. The months spent in the stifling room with the cracked wall, where he lived through something, the first echoes of which are only being heard now, six years on. That “something” is the truth, if truth exists. That truth that the women give him to understand is infinitely cruel, cruel and gentle, but inseparable from the night. It is its outcome. If the night ever served any purpose, if night has a function, it would be to bring down the wall that links us to secret consciousness, or, in his own words: “The world is not made of what we see, but of what we are”.
S’IL Y A LIEU JE PARS AVEC VOUS, an exhibition of works by Sophie Calle, Julien Magre, Stéphane Couturier, Alain Bublex
and Antoine d’Agata at Le Bal, Paris 18th, until 5th October. ATLAS, on general release from 22nd October.
SAVAGE NIGHTS Hotel room, in Écommoy,