Words and Pictures

Jean-Kenta Gauthier Vaugirard

June 15 - July 27

Jean-Kenta Gauthier Odéon & Vaugirard
5 rue de l'Ancienne-Comédie  75006 Paris
4 rue de la Procession  75015

Opening reception: Saturday 15 June, 2 - 7pm (*)
Hours: Wednesday - Saturday, 2 - 7pm

(*) Saturday 15 June, 5 - 6pm: public conversation with Clément Chéroux, Mishka Henner and Jean-Kenta Gauthier

For his new exhibition Words and Pictures presented in both Jean-Kenta Gauthier Odéon and Vaugirard spaces, Mishka Henner (b. 1976 in Brussels, Belgium, lives in Manchester, UK) continues exploring how photography exists in the 21st century, and how it has shaped our perceptions of art and its conventions.

At JKG Odéon is presented for the first time the sound installation Photography is a Durational Reading (2024). 14 years ago, Mishka Henner attempted at widening the definition of photography and the discourse on the medium in the age of search engines, and published his manifesto Photography Is containing over 3,000 sentences isolated from their original context, each one offering a potential and often surprising definition of photography. Thus questioning what it means to build a discourse on a wide subject while defining an entire visual genre solely through words. With Photography is a Durational Reading, Henner created an immersive installation: in the gallery transformed into a dark room is broadcast a 7-hour long reading of the entire text, based on a 7-hour long performance realised recently on Youtube by Michael David Murphy, a US photographer then unknown to Henner. Photography is a Durational Reading is a re-appropriation of an all-appropriated project, reminding us that circulation is an essential quality of photography. Offered to visitors as a collective experience, it is a meditative work on the state of photography in the 21st century, without photographs. On the occasion of the exhibition, an updated version of the original book is published by Gato Negro Ediciones (Mexico City) and available at the gallery.

At JKG Vaugirard is presented for the first time the installation Words and Pictures (2024). Composed of a stack of business cards offered to visitors, a wall text and a projection of 80 images, Words and Pictures is a play on art conventions. While the wall text respects all art conventions presenting the artist’s name, the exhibition title and dates in English, its main content is summed up to a Lorem ipsum. The Lorem ipsum reflects the historical telescoping effect present in many of Henner's works: a faux-text with its origins in 45 BC, it was invented in the 1960s for the needs of the first page layout software. The formal qualities of the wall text reflect Henner’s interest for all frames imposed on art discourses that today even apply to artists themselves, hence the ”mid-career artist” title on the business cards which greets visitors. For each presentation of the work, the wall text must be updated using the exhibition space’s visual identity (font type and size) as well as the new exhibition dates.

Next to this element is projected a set of 80 photographs created from sculptures, paintings and texts, as well as a set of sculptures, installations and paintings created from photographs. In the age of generative processes, these photographs were created by Henner using solely text prompts exploiting an almost infinite library of images. In 1844, William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the inventors of photography, suggested that photography was the most effective way of reproducing artworks, namely sculptures, drawings, lithographs, architecture and books. Observing that since the 19th century, our knowledge of art history is largely dependent on our knowledge of photographic reproductions of artworks, Mishka Henner has created this group of projected photographs by playing with the iconographic conventions of art and artworks typology: the sculptures are each presented on a perfectly finished plinth with perfect lighting, the installations are monumental and presented in vast white cubes, and the works on canvas or paper are all perfectly framed and reproduced on a neutral wall, making each visitor wonder whether art galleries have not turned into large photo studios. Behind this quest for formalism, the resulting images projected onto the wall often contain motifs that echo those in Henner's work: our relationship to the world, to technology, and the consequences of our own activities.

With his new exhibition, Mishka Henner questions the fundamental role of photography in defining our relation to art, addressing what an art exhibition consists in today, what it means to represent artworks and to present the work of an artist. While text is at the core of Photography Is a Durational Reading, same applies to Words and Pictures.

— Jean-Kenta Gauthier, June 2024

Press kit