Everything starts here from a mentally constructed image, formed in the deeply personal recesses of the reading experience, to ultimately bring forth a photograph. Patiently and painstakingly staged in an elaborate set, this imaginary painting imagined by Jeff Wall is none other than the “image” of the prologue to Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison’s novel published in 1952. The set—or the way the Canadian photographer imagines it—is that of a New York basement secretly furnished by the African-American narrator, where he lives as a recluse in the company of his 1,369 light bulbs illegally plugged into the city’s electrical grid.
Created in 2000, After Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue, immediately promises to offer a (re) interpretation of the monumental work of literature, a veritable photographic abyss of a different fictional narrative. Be it novels, street scenes or works of art, Wall draws on everything and anything to fuel his own creativity, giving each source a new dimension: not only a photographic one, but also and above all an interpretative one. From a first work is born a second one, the product of extremely rigorous and meticulously referential staging that leads to a new way of viewing the original—enhanced with aspects of our contemporary society.
Isolated in his rudimentary bric-a-brac, this man made invisible by his origins and his place in society takes refuge in the light of his electric constellation. This collection of small globes almost adds to the ambient confusion, even though it was researched in detail to highlight the most significant elements of the narrative. Such is the case, for example, of the two record players, which, like the light of the light bulbs, become, for the narrator, akin to a poetic form that pushes back the rampant racism that devours him. Acting, like Jeff Wall’s medium, as a revealer.
By Anne Laurens
18 june2019 – April 2020
The George Economou Collection, Athens, Greece