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Denis Darzacq’s Suspended Animation: La Chute and Hypermarché
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Denis Darzacq’s Suspended Animation: La Chute and Hypermarché

Picture of Mirac Rasch
Updated: 14 November 2015
‘Up in the air’ is a familiar idiom that denotes a dubious situation or fate. If ever an artwork could embody these words it would be Denis Darzacq’s oeuvre of falling individuals from his La Chute (The Fall) series and the Hypermarché (Hypermarket) extension series. Darzacq’s subtle yet witty political and social commentary only serves to consolidate his work in public and cultural discourse for many years to come.

Darzacq’s success both domestically and internationally is testament to his talent, and has galvanised quite a following throughout his distinguished career. He mastered his craft in the burgeoning metropolis of Paris, eventually graduating from the Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in 1986. He then dabbled in set and rock scene photography, precipitating his inevitable household name status and success.

However, Darzacq’s experience as a press photographer in the early 90sis what shaped and moulded not only his talent but his perception of society. By the late 90s he was commissioned to a produce a body of work on French youth by the French Ministry of Culture, which was the conceptual driving force behind arguably his most famous series, La Chute.

It would only be after the La Chute series in 2006 that Darzacq would achieve hitherto unprecedented mainstream success and critical acclaim. La Chute, true to its translation, centers around suspended bodies, seemingly arrested in time with their fate undetermined. Many familiar with the complexities of quantum mechanics could appreciate the fact that La Chute is the Schrödinger’s Cat of art. Not knowing whether the individuals are safe or susceptible to the fall, we must therefore entertain the notion that they are both safe and susceptible.

La Chute followed the 2005 riots in local housing projects, allegedly perpetrated by young, disenfranchised immigrants. This series espouses a political and social message, bridging and simultaneously transcending both photojournalism and contemporary art. Darzacq communicated to Angelique Chrisafis that he wanted to capture ‘an entire generation in freefall with no one to catch them’, indicating the abandonment and mistreatment of the French youth by government and society.

Hypermarché from 2007-2009 is the extension of La Chute, and depicts a similar body of work. However we should not let this affect our judgement; the social commentary is dialectically different and in turn deserves equal appreciation. The title of the Hypermarché is simply translated to ‘hyper,’ but the series is anything but simple, as Darzacq delves into controversial consumerist motifs. Unperturbed by the potential backlash this series could yield, Darzacq exhibited his work and the series performed well.

The measurement of success is typified by several determining factors, including the variable longevity of relevancy and critical acclaim – not simply the profitability of a project. Darzacq might have been a successful set photographer earlier in his career, but his artistic prowess now considerably exceeds that of his nascent photography. After compiling his watershed series, La Chute, Darzacq became the recipient of the World Press Photo Prize in 2007 and a laureate of the Niépce Prize in 2012. Moreover, he has the distinct honour of exhibiting in some of France’s most revered contemporary museums including the Pompidou Center and Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Immigration, to mention only a few. Darzacq’s other work include ‘Only Heaven’ (1994) and most recently‘Act’(2011). He is represented by Laurence Miller in New York and Galerie VU’ in Paris, France.

By Mirac Rasch