La Chaudière, 2005
"The sento, the Japanese public baths, date back from the 8th century. Currently and even if less in number, they form a mixed democratic island within the neighbourhoods, where the youth and the old, the officers and the workers, the employees and the retired purify their bodies and souls. The over-connected electric Tokyo, a slave of modernism contradicts the Westerners. Draped in its vaporous volutes, Edo pines, Edo stretches out in the fire of water before coming out purified. Even though the segregation of men and women was finally instituted in the 19th century upon the arrival of prudish Christians, the Japanese way of seeing nudity is not the same as that of a Westerner. The tradition of bath, who would originate from Shinto religion and its water purification ritual, captured by the Greco-Swiss artist, derives from the homo sociabilis source, this unshakeable link between being and nothingness, love and death. It is not the case here of a mere moment of relaxation, a cleaning of the body, but the fulfilment of a rite which transcends the individual and makes him part of a history, of a quest of absolute, a moment of eternity. Through the eyepiece, Iseult Labote’s sight experiences the privilege of not existing for the other. And despite the discomfort felt at first sight, there is nothing more extraordinary than what she gets to see: the intimacy of a civilisation.The intimacy of a social link, of a culture, of a tradition, of a history evokes the wisdom of an Asian-like Tristes Tropiques.
The strangers’ sight is not exempt from common references either and we should refer here to Ingres’ painting, full of Orientalism, revealing the sensuality of a public bath exclusively formed of women, who were seen there also through an artistic eye - the Turkish Bath (Le Bain Turc); the pop art whose successive traces emphasise the vision field of acid notes. The flagrant transgression of the photographic form enables, as a boomerang effect, to go beyond the first impression and literally plunge into a genuine bath of civilisation. Iseult Labote’s feat mingled with courage detects with a reasoned instinct the scene plaid: between the social reality and the artistic shock, we see there too the essence itself of the artist’s work. Aren’t the murmured voices covered by the water flow echoing the deafening silence of the industrial pictures? These photographs of strayed periurban landscapes, sites, sublimated sites.On the one hand, the human influence is implied and on the other hand it is transcended. In both case, in the centre of attention, Iseult Labote’s art concerns mankind. The eyes scan and reveal each time the humble human condition, as well as the sacredness.
The shooting process
Triggering event: the chat. Puzzled by these public baths existing in Geneva (despite the presence of spas, which are opposite to the Japanese baths, which foster the individualism and the consumerist comfort), Iseult Labote strives, during her journey to Japan, to grasp their essence, their main function. Suddenly on her way through a popular neighbourhood, the artist catches a chat. Intuitively, she follows the feline which leads her directly behind the scenes: the boiler. There, out of the limelight and in the heat, Iseult Labote’s eye understands that she has no time to waste: the shooting will last less than a quarter-hour. The time required for taking photos, write the light, the steam, the gestures, the postures..."
Text by Fabien Franco
Born in Geneva, raised in Greece, lives and works in Geneva and Berlin. Iseult Labote Karamaounas is interested in looking for unexpected details, where she waits for the exact moment when the light transforms the matter, giving its primordial beauty back in order to discern the textures and decontextualize them from their trivial origin. Through her research she establishes a new perceptual order, I create doubts by troubling our senses in the exploration of space and time, where the object does not find its primary meaning anymore and reality is dematerialized. Recent solo exhibitions : 2013 KMA92 Contemporary Art, Berlin, Urban Fotos / 2010 Y&DC Gallery, Geneva, 50 JPG Triennale de la photographie, Paysages urbains, curated by Hélène Yubero. Recent group exhibitions: 2015 Shine Gallery, Albemarle Gallery, London, Automne Contemporary Collection / 2015 Projektraum M54, Basel, Die Welt Retten / Ex-Voto.