Between Real and Imaginary Worlds with Miles Aldridge

By Natalie Stoclet

5 May 2021

‘Pictures or it didn’t happen’ has become the mantra of the Instagram age. Modern colloquialism, while undoubtedly widespread, poses a larger question: what is the role of the camera today? The task that we find ourselves with is to be able to separate an art form from those who only use it for the depiction of an attractive life on social media, and those who simply use cameras to record. reality. The point is, humans are drawn to drama and drama. The truth lacks banality. What is real becomes much more interesting when we change the idea of ​​reality itself. Whether it’s watching the news or scrolling through our news feed, our minds are constantly suspended between what we perceive to be reality and lie.


Before living our lives on screens, we were already using the camera to create fantastic realms that brought together question reality. Aldridge’s lens looked at many famous subjects – from Marina Abramović and Donatella Versace – to sculptures by Maurizio Cattelan he captured during a night in a Parisian museum. Decades of his work will be on display at the British artist’s first-ever American retrospective. Entitled Virgin Mary. Supermarkets. Pop corn. Photographs 1999 to 2020, the exhibition is exemplary of the type of collaboration you will see from Culture Works, the new company resulting from the merger of NeueHouse and Fotografiska.


Comprised of 64 works, Aldridg’s retrospective will feature themes ranging from consumerism and the false promise of luxury to religion and artificial realities. Aldridge’s work rarely allows the real world to encroach upon the imagined realm. Despite time and technology, his photographs and the themes they present are as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. Each piece asks the spectator to wonder about what he sees, to escape, to imagine. Here, we talk to Aldridge about his retrospective and what it means to distinguish between the real and the imaginary at a time when the truth is in limited supply.


Natalie Stoclet: What does it mean for you to have a retrospective?


Miles Aldridge: I am delighted to have my first American retrospective at Fotografiska. It brings together images created over the past 20 years highlighting the themes that have animated my work; the false promise of luxury, the inability to communicate, the mystery of life, and why I am me and not you.


NS: Tell us about the false promise of luxury. What is promised and what is wrong?


MA: The images promise that we will be happier and healthier if we buy the products in the s. How many images of smiling people have been used to sell us things we don’t need? Enough to fill the walls of museums around the world hundreds of times. This promise to improve our lives is seldom kept, but we continue to be willing participants in this false promise.


NS: Whatis the difference between real and imaginary realms as depicted in your art?


MA: In my images, the real and imaginary realms constantly overlap, intertwining to create a new reality. The moments glimpsed in life or that I remember from my childhood are seen through a film and art filter, and reinvented in the studio. When a bottle of ketchup fell and exploded on my kitchen floor. I made visual connections with The Wizard of Oz, David Lynch’s Gum Head, and Campbell’s Soup can screen prints of Warhol. Fellini’s films have shown me that creating an imagined reality in a movie studio can create compelling situations, whether the scene is believable or not. In the same way that a typewriter can be used by a journalist, novelist or playwright, I think the camera can be used for many purposes, including recording real life, it is probably the least interesting.


NS: If there is not a source of truth in today’s society, how to decipher what is real or imagined outside of art?


MA: A source of truth is not how the society that


NS: You said, “Fiction and theatricality can be truer than documenting reality,” can you explain what that means?


MA: It just means that when I’m sitting in a cinema watching a Kubrick movie, or in the theatre watching a Chekhov play, I’m moved by human stories. in these artificial scenarios. Most figurative paintings are also artificial. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and Caravaggio’s Boy Bitten by a Lizard are artistic yet we are moved. I believe in the stories we tell in pictures; from the first scratched images inside a cave 45,000 years ago imagining the animals that would be hunted, to the present day when the images that move us are products of the imagination.


NS: How do you feel when you look at the 64 works of art in your retrospective, and how do you hope your audience will feel?


MA: I have the feeling that I have completed a long journey which I embarked on in 1999. The world has changed, our priorities have changed but the work does not seem dated. It seems as relevant to me today as it was when I started.


NS: Among all the subjects of your retrospective, which was your favourite to photograph?


MA: It was wonderful working with Viola Davis on her portrait for the cover of TIME magazine. I explained that I wanted her to riff on the idea of ​​”joy” through a smile that is both real and artificial. That smile seemed to sum up all of Hollywood in its false construction of true human emotion. Being the accomplished actor that she is, she has found that balance over and over again. When I shoot, I like to repeat a gesture over and over again like a director taking after takes in the hope that something magical could happen. In this case, it is!


NS: When you’ve already shot what seems like everyone and everything, what are you still passionate about? your future work?


MA: I hope to make pictures until my last breath. Nothing else fresh It ‘s as real or as meaningful to me as to take pictures.

Between Real and Imaginary Worlds with Miles Aldridge


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