In his new series of portraits – La Vitesse du Temps– Nicolas Gaillard offers a furtive glance at a world in transition. A world characterised by the presence of uncertain signals and directions and led by super consumerism. His critique is inspired and informed by the critical work on consumer capitalism by French philosopher Bernard Stiegler. The vision of the world that Gaillard gestures toward is not entirely nihilistic. The artist sets the profound beauty of the human – la beauté humaine- against a background that he describes as: ‘an ever-changing world that doesn’t look to the past any longer’. The inner resilience of the sitters seems to represent resistance against the teleological workings of the consumerist social world we inhabit in the West. Such nuanced framing of social life offers space for change and hope for amelioration of the human condition, starting by Gaillard’s emphasis on la beauté within.
The seemingly docile subjects of the series embody this inner strength – holding objects that represent states of mind or personal characteristics. Traces of what the subjects do in their lives, what they say they do, and perhaps also what they aspire to do. The objects they hold are evanescent, almost transparent. The interior richness of each sitter is expressed through a fleeting materiality, that is the disappearing object of their choice. The quality of transparency reveals that which is not seen by the eye, although being present. The artist makes the viewer aware of their own speed, in this process the series also positions itself within the dimension of time. The photographic technique used to achieve transparency is about ‘using time differently’, as Gaillard says. In this case Gaillard’s method reflects the meaning; injecting slowness into the fastness of the sitters’ everyday lives, all of whom occupy frantic metropolitan spaces.
The slowness of the figures is set to contrast the fast-running and neglectful temporality investigated by the artist. The photographs seem almost nostalgic or from another era. The almost painterly quality and the stillness of the figures give a sense of out-of-time-ness to the image. Through the artist’s process, the message is purposely rendered immediate. This work is about inner beauty just as much as external temporality, by gesturing toward the past to elicit a critical look at the present.