Jean-Marc Bustamante has described the works in this display as a 'walk through the world', a series of personal encounters with different sites on different continents. The title, Something is Missing, refers to the artist's continuing search for material, indicating the open-ended nature of his approach; it also suggests that his photographs, though highly detailed, must inevitably remain a provisional or incomplete account of the places where they were taken.
These photographs, which were taken in various unnamed cities across the world between 1995 and 1997, extend a series of photographic projects which Bustamante has worked on intermittently since 1977. In that year he exhibited large coloured prints of semi-urban sites around Barcelona, taken in areas which he deliberately selected as having little innate charm or interest, 'where there has been a lot of destruction, where nature is no longer wild'. In more recent years he has used photography in his large site-specific installations, which also incorporate sculptural and relief elements. Bitter Almonds, a book of photographs closely related to the current display, was Bustamante's contribution to Documenta X in 1997.
Because the artist chooses to exhibit his work without any information about specific locations or chronology, it is the photographs alone that must provide all the information, as the viewer examines the minutiae of each printed surface. Often the eye is drawn first to the foreground, which provides a margin and sometimes a barrier between viewer and place, and a reminder that these are selectively framed, composed images. This no man's land may be a strip of curb or scrubland, a row of cars or a band of shadow, trees or wire fencing. All these elements coexist with an equal weight leaving the viewer free to make his or her own private journey through street, playground and parking lot. By bringing these fragments into the gallery and by painting the walls red, the artist has emphasised their separation from the exterior world. Seen together, the photographs are intended to suggest an alternative space beyond narrative or documentary.
Text written by Catherine Kinley
Born 1952. Lives and works in Paris