In conjunction with the exhibit René Burri, l’Explosion du Regard which took place at the Musée de l'Elysée (suspended due to the Covid-19 epidemic), Blind deciphers an image from the multifaceted body of work of the Swiss photojournalist, whose little-known diversity is featured here.

A self-portrait, but which one? When René Burri updated his self-portrait after ten years, it was to multiply its facets and blur the lines of interpretation. There are three characters in the image, for a single self-portrait: three distinct representations of the artist, or the mere staging of his self-representation? Such is the question that arises for the Burri posing with camera in hand, standing next to a companion of ink and paper, both of them captured by the viewfinder of another photographer, who himself is anonymous but clearly identified by his camera.

Autoportrait Coronado, Nouveau Mexique, 1973-1983 © Rene Burri, Magnum Photos, Fondation Rene Burri, Musée de l'Elysee

The mise en abîme, however, does not end there. As a watercolorist, illustrator and collage enthusiast, René Burri has more than one string to his photojournalist bow and a sharp eye that has produced as many historical snapshots as it has images featuring such graphic quality that they seem to come from the world of photomontage. The self-portrait becomes even more intense, then, populating itself with a decor of glued sheets of paper and heterogeneous drawings. The eye spends its time going back and forth between elements, in a movement that Burri likes to thwart by using zany and introspective associations.

Hailed in many art forms, the self-portrait genre is probably the most commented on, the most codified. By adding to it this figure of an anonymous photographer in 1983, René Burri enhanced his first collage already full of references in the form of reflections on the photographic medium and on the dance of the eyes. In his frame, the observer hidden behind his camera becomes the one observed, as does the photographer who, having lowered his camera, allows himself to be gazed at. A self-portrait, but which one? More than just René Burri, it is perhaps that of the photographer in and of himself.

By Anne Laurens

René Burri, L'explosion du Regard

Through May 3, 2020

Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland

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