Artists talk with Tristan Lajarrige
As part of the research practice of Kaeur Studio´s How to look at landscapes? we present contemporary artistic and theoretical positions on the discourse within.
by KAEUR STUDIO, Matthis Frickhoeffer
Lajarrige is a french-canadian visual artist with a strong practice in photography and a conceptual, performative approach to the medium. Based in Montreal he was recently featured in the Boston Globes Article "Six Art-School Stars to Watch". He earned his MFA in 2023 at SMFA by Tuft´s.
Earlier this year we met up in Boston to speak about his studio practice and experiencing landscape.
There is mention of the series Famous Tourists Attractions in which the artist places an autonomous shooting camera at a touristic sight, directed towards the sky, to then roam the place freely until the camera runs out of battery.
The Useless Archives were a work developed in 2021. Lajarrige tries to out run a
surveillance camera in front of an AI-generated landscape backdrop. A document of
the relation of the state of technology, acceleration and physical and mental exhaustion.
HTLAL: How do you connect imagery/photographs with memory?
TL: I find that photographs somewhat blur my memory as if I was so focused on snapping pictures during a moment that I barely remember what happened or how I felt. I remember better when free of photography equipment. I can particularly relate to this Nan Goldin quote:
“I was trying to take pictures in order to remember. But, in fact, I don’t remember much. And it might be because I took pictures. The memory became the photograph.”
(Nan Goldin, “Q&A with Nan Goldin and Gregory Crewdson,” 2020)
HTLAL: Why are the prints of Famous Tourist Attraction important if the project's aim is to create space for you to experience the place while the camera is operating on its own?
TL: The prints are merely a residue of my performance. This project could have been strictly performative, but creating and printing images of the sky above tourist attractions felt more satirical to me than being left with nothing at all. There is humor in misusing the camera, in making it surveil something that it is not expected to and presenting the documentation as if it were as valuable as seemingly objective pictures of the site. The reaction of the audience is also important to me, as I want viewers to question whether I actually traveled to these tourist attractions. Without printing and sharing the images, the performance of trust between viewers and myself would be lost.
HTLAL: What meaning holds sky?
TL: When I had the idea for Famous Tourist Attractions, I wanted to choose a subject that would enable me to set up my camera as quickly as possible. I started photographing the sky because it was the easiest thing I could have photographed without worrying about the picture being properly composed or the site being recognizable.
HTLAL: Why is the useless archive useless?
TL: Because it rejects the ethos of surveillance, which is to record human activity and provide people with clear, objective answers. In making the Useless Archives, I ran in circles around a motion-activated surveillance camera to trigger it but without being captured in any of the photographs. Contrary to a “useful” archive (in the context of surveillance), the documentation of my performances – utterly devoid of my human presence – provides viewers with uncertainty, inviting them to question if I even performed against the camera.
HTLAL: How do you generate AI-landscape imagery?
TL: I created the AI-generated landscapes used in the Useless Archives with a program called Runway (this series was made in 2021, right before AI became widely accessible.). I drew a line across my computer screen and instructed the program that the pixels above the line would be the sky and the pixels underneath the line would be the sea, for example. According to its image database, the program created a representation of a seascape.
HTLAL: What differences do you experience between artificial and physical landscapes?
TL: In Useless Archives, I was interested in working with artificial landscapes because we tend to think that AI-generated sceneries do not hold something important enough to be surveilled. They are not “real;” they are devoid of human activity and, thus, unworthy of being monitored. I like that surveillance can lose some of its power to artificiality.
HTLAL: How do you look at landscapes?
TL: Through my eyes instead of a viewfinder!