Agnes Geoffray's photographs have a deliberately phantasmagoric appearance, one that is not (or does not seem) staged, and a quality that does not seem too concerned with the nature of the medium. They are, in other words, potentially "unmediated", although this is also clearly a fiction. The images presented here are drawn from two series, one in which the photographs are veiled under a milky surface, another one made of black and white photographs. The former ones recall a photo-journalistic style of representation, the latter an aesthetic that has come to illustrate notions of the paranormal and phantasmagoric. Neither "photographs" nor "film stills" (which they also resemble) they are caught within a strange dramatizations of fear, desolation, terror and horror, all tropes that form the substance of a reckless enthusiasm typical of contemporary journalistic imagery.
(Nicolaus Schafhausen, Art Center Witte de With, Rotterdam, Netherlands)

The work of Agnès Geoffray balances between reality and fiction, between everyday and unthinkable situations. Her photographs, installations and videos combine the unknown with the terrifying, like in popular fairy tales. A fascination with the visible and invisible traces of disorder, or even disaster, in everyday situations and events underlies the texts, photographs, videos and slide shows in STUK. In almost entirely white photographs, gruesome compositions inspired by media images, or compositions we are familiar with from the traditional iconography, evade the public's eye. In a few light boxes the artist presents short fragments from known texts that refer to presence and absence. A slide show with drawings flashes by—the tempo is too high for the images to stick to the retina. In the video Interview or how my parents died or how did I get involved in art , Geoffray constructs an imaginary past. She appropriates images and scenes from a collective memory and wants to draw attention to the real meaning of events that are evoked by words and images.
(Eva Wittocx, Art center STUK, Leuven, Belgium)

In recent years Agnes Geoffray has created a series Night of highly charged nocturnal photographs, which are impregnated with evocative power and conjure dark associations. In these, time, place and circumstance are not indicated but left open to hypothesis. Permeated by a deep sense of disquiet and unease, these images function as fragments in a puzzle which may give clues about situations that may have gone or could go disturbingly - or even violently - wrong. Geoffray’s work has its conceptual roots in distressing news items, of the kind that do not make headlines. The foreboding content of these news items is then loosely ‘translated’ into powerful, deliberately ambiguous images in which a latent, suggestive narrative unfolds. Beneath what is visible within each image, a visual ‘double’ is brought to mind, which insinuates perturbing situations or circumstances. This particular image, entitled ‘Air’ (2007) and taken in almost complete darkness, depicts a slightly out-of-focus Gothic-style house bathed in an eerie, surreal, nocturnal blue light. Geoffray chose the house for its cinematographic qualities and the multiple references latent therein. On the right hand side of the image, a blinding flash of light coming from a seemingly unknown source lends the surroundings an even more eerie, threatening ‘air’. The scene is ghostly as it is enigmatic and the house seems suspended in a strange fluid-like space, almost as if it were immaterial. As with most of Geoffray’s photographs, nothing actually happens, but the potency of the image lies in its capacity to conjure multiple associations, giving the impression that something momentous or ominous will or has occurred. ‘Air’ can also be read as a prologue to an unknown event, nevertheless containing a presentiment of dramatic intensity. In that sense, all of Geoffray’s photographs can be seen latent places of becoming and spatial equivalents representing our childhood fears, or our worst adult nightmares. But apart from their sinister, immersive visual impact, Geoffray’s photographs ultimately open up a space for the imagination and for fiction, and in this space, the possibilities for interpretation are limitless.
(Katerina Gregos, independant curator, Brussels, Belgium)

1 — The chaotic current that animates change underneath the relative stability of everyday life – Ruptures – Unexpected manifestations such as toadstools, or maggots visual flags in quietly rotting substances.
2 — Sickness, Disaster, Loss, Coincidence call forth new and startling turns of behaviour – Is AG cataloguing these unusual occasions? Night photographs for example – Catching those mysterious forces in their covert operations.
3 — A long line of victims – Despite the circumstances, they seem joyful – Drugged sacrificial slaughter to some god? Suffering without anger or reproach – They embrace their destinies – Remarking not regretting the transformations exacted on them.
4 — And then the engineers of these strange scenarios – Guiltfree – Their pleasure in planning and executing or spontaneously inflicting change is absolute – Time passes as a means to fulfill a certain task – (Beheading, Nourishing, or Conversing) – Careful arrival at a predefined end. “Well the owners still have their third finger.”
5 — Disaster anthropomorphised – Working through these characters – Outside historical time – No plot where pain could get twisted into revenge or redemption morality – No consequences for horrors perpetrated in a neutral timeless space.
6 — Erase that idea of catalogue – even if AG looks like a collector, an oddball anthropologist these events are all fiction – Perhaps inspired by little known stories or overlooked news items, but principally all invented In Her Head.
7 — Arrangement of the incidents – The hint of some ordering hand – Once enclosed the destructive forces look tamer – like zooanimals – They rage, play out then get rearranged – AG as capricious
ruler of said zoo-empire – She models her Material into pawns – For Drama to take place.
(Eva Haines, independant writer, London, Great Britain)

In many of his texts and interviews, Jean-Luc Godard enjoys repeating that the most interesting moment for him when making a film is when he enters the montage studio and feels, cuts, locks, synchronises,
pastes, does the continuity editing and repastes the perforated strips of film in person. The choice of sets, scriptwriting, dialogues and the directing of actors are for him (unfortunate) but necessary passages in order to obtain a relatively formless, raw material, which then has to be processed and refined on the montage bench.

The same could be said of photography. The critic would like the photographer to patiently organise his studio or frantically scour the streets in search of the perfect picture and the ultimate shot. He would always be prepared to pull out his camera, adjust the speed, diaphragm, sharpness and field depth in the blink of an eye and – hey presto ! – with a single click of the shutter release, the image would be recorded, produced and ready to be printed. The only thing left to do would be to send the negative (or the digital file) to the laboratory, along with a few instructions on the format, paper quality, brightness, contrast and colours. In short, the photographer would simply have to ensure he was on the alert or create the right situations – watching like a hawk so as not to miss the picture which would secure his reputation – and the rest would be just mechanics and chemistry.

Imagine a photographer who decided to photograph only a single image. He would understand that many expressions, situations and landscapes have already been photographed from all possible
angles and that there was no longer any serious reason to press on the shutter release. It is rather like the musician obsessed by the sampler placed alongside his computer, who is convinced that everything has already been recorded. Our photographer would shut himself away in his dark room with a single negative, a single shot, and begin to conduct totally new experiments, replacing one chemical product with another, mixing silver salts with powdered rhinoceros horn, adding his sweat or blood to various development liquids, before finally fixing and retouching the image with a line of mascara and a touch of rose poussière. He would pretend to be the sorcerer’s apprentice in search of the philosopher’s stone, capable of transforming a miserable piece of lead into a gold bar. His prints would become unique works in which the shooting and the original negative would merely have a secondary role. But this could also be expressed in a less magical, more prosaic manner: our photographer would one day realise that one of his “negatives” contained all of the images which he wanted to create.

Let us now consider the portrait of a child in a forest. She is standing upright in the landscape. Her wide open eyes are gazing at a more distant horizon than can be seen by the camera’s eye. She does not see us and appears to be fascinated by something which remains prohibited to our view.

There is no more information than this to be given and today, I have three images on my desk which almost entirely match this description. The first is in colour, the second in black and white and the third – without me being able to truly explain how it was made – is in “white on white”. I see the little girl first of all, in a short black dress with matching patent shoes, holding in her right hand a furry white object which could be equally a toy or a dead rabbit. The image is slightly out of focus, as if it had been taken with an imposing telephoto lens. The forest is dense, the weather is quite pleasant, but the hues in the trees and on the ground suggest that it is already autumn. The second image is in black and white, with a relatively large grain, reminiscent of the argentic films that were so fashionable in the 1970s. Any professional would point out to you that it is obviously a digital image, but on first sight, its appearance gives us to believe that it dates from times past (albeit not so distant). The grain is one thing that the 21st century and the digital era have caused to disappear, through the great strides in producing high capacity hard disks and complicated compression algorithms. This second image has to be compared with the first
in order to understand it. Once they are side by side, it becomes clear that it is the same little girl, with the same hairstyle and expression. We have simply moved far closer to the subject and the picture is inversed. Here again there is nothing really mysterious, for if a negative can be printed in one direction, it is extremely easy to turn it over in the enlarger and obtain a “mirror” image. But in this reframed portrait, it is above all the child’s expression which has become important. The forest is forgotten, the white object has disappeared and the fixed expression on the child’s face is what matters. It is a little like in art books, where the author and the editor decide to print the detail alongside the reproduction of a painting in its entirety, in order to make us notice a point that is not necessarily apparent in the whole composition. Finally, the only technically skilful aspect involves the third photograph. The framing is exactly the same as for the second image and the technical trick which I can not reveal here consists of presenting the
child’s face in “white on white”. And the shot, the moment when the photographer found himself in front of his subject in order to then capture its image in his camera, only took place on a single, unique occasion. But the portrait of the girl, between each printed photograph, becomes less and less perceptible. She gradually disappears until she ultimately becomes a colour (white) on a colour
(almost the same white). Between each version, there is a loss of information. First of all the forest disappears and the colours are transformed into a few shades of grey. Then the black disappears,
leaving only two shades of white. And once we have reached this point, we rightly ask ourselves what there actually is to be seen here. Should we look at the young girl or try to find, in her enlarged pupil, the reflection of what she is looking at?

The same picture and click lie at the source of three different images, as if the film maker used the same shooting to present three different films with three stories, three beginnings, three middles and three endings.

If I can describe what I can see without too much difficulty (a child, an expression, patent shoes, trees, a white fluffy toy or a dead rabbit), once this simplistic description exercise has been completed, I naturally ask myself: what is this little girl looking at? Everyone would have their own version of the facts and let themselves fall into the trap, for in response to this question, I just want to answer: “is it of the slightest importance?” In fact no, it doesn’t matter at all. It is like knowing how a photograph is fixed on paper or how beaten egg whites manage to float on vanilla sauce. It would be quite impossible to use the scientific accoutrements of art history. There must be a myth of a young girl lost in a forest and this fable
is bound to have been painted at least a dozen times over the centuries. We could equally use psychoanalytical methods, consult a dictionary of symbols, launch a criminal investigation, etc. This
is one of the problems with art criticism, as we are tempted to explain things that do not necessarily require it; we offer interpretations and seek to be convinced, we orientate the reader’s vision. And this text could only ultimately provide leads for the enquiry, paths which could equally lead nowhere. Thus in order to launch a proper investigation in relation to these three portraits, we would first have to manage to precisely identify the white object which the girl is holding in her right hand and which disappears as soon as the image is reframed in the second photograph. Our eyes are formed such that they rarely look where they should and, what is more, regularly misconstrue the shapes they have to identify. Worse still, we are sometimes unable to put what we observe into words. We simply have to read On Certainty by Ludwig Wittgenstein to understand the immensity of the problem which arises. In his book, the philosopher describes the following short scene: “I once said to someone – in English – that the shape of a certain branch was typical of the branch of an elm, which my companion denied. Then we came past some ashes, and I said: “There, you see, here are the branches I was speaking about.” To which he replied: “But that is an ash” – and I said: “I always meant ash when I said elm.” Not everything is merely a matter of vocabulary, looking and knowing how to pronounce and use the right words to describe what we see. This is perhaps an initial avenue worth exploring and the beginnings of an answer: the important thing here is not in an image but in the linking together of the three, in what disappears between each version, in what is hidden from our view and which we can not give a name to.

The little girl therefore remains silent. And it is probably the eye, this pitiful, biologically imperfect organ, which explains why the camera had to be invented. It was not to fix time or to transport information from one continent to another, but instead to frame, reframe, nuance, colour, fade and correct the imperfections of our vision.
Rituals of looking (Thibaut de Ruyter, independant curator, Berlin, Germany)