“Starting with their naturally gaseous state, Bourret turns the skies along the crests of the Himalayas into powerfully material images. At an altitude of anything from 4,000 to 7,000 metres, in Zanshar, Paldar or Changtang, he walks between sky and earth. He’d never before gone so high, and the sky had never seemed so low. In Baudelaire’s words: “I love the clouds… the passing clouds… there… there… the wonderful clouds!” It’s as though the clouds were within touching distance. And Bourret, walking, photographs them with his device for capturing time. The results are strange views of matter in a state of fusion, like metal basins in ebullition. Rays stream outward, as from a lightbox. These skies display a truly cosmic relationship to space, like a primal solid body, a magmatic form drawn from the dawn of the ages. But ageless. A memory of world time from before the world. The presence of a stellar body as old as any photograph of a star which, at the instant of taking the picture, is known to be hundreds of years old, if not thousands. But are they really photographs? Sculptures, rather, as demonstrated by the Diasec transfers and the flush framing, which confer on them a mental mass.
Standing before the canvas, brush in hand, Roman Opalka projected numbers out towards infinity, in white, on a white background. But as he said, his work wasn’t just an idle stroll. He was sculpting time. And Eric Bourret, in his way, does likewise.”
strata of time (extract) – Philippe Piguet, 2015
Born in 1964 in Paris, Éric Bourret lives and works in the South of France and in the Himalayas. His work as an “artist-walker” participates in the tradition of Land Art and land surveying photography. Since the early 1990s, he has been traveling the world on foot, hiking over all kinds of terrains and at all altitudes, shooting photographs that he refers to as “experiences of walking, experiences of the visible.” His photographs evidence the deep physical and sensory transformations that the act of walking over long distances triggers, as it heightens perception and receptiveness to the surrounding landscape.
During his walks, which last a few days to several months, the artist superimposes different views of the same landscape on a single negative according to a precise conceptual protocol that stipulates the number of shots and the interval between them. These sequences intensify and accelerate the imperceptible movement of geological strata and freeze the ephemeral temporality of human beings. The accident and the unexpected are integral to this concept of random photographic shots. This photographic ephemeris breaks down the structure of the initial image and creates a different sensitive, shifting reality. The image born of this “temporal layering” is vibrant, oscillating, practically animated.
More factual series include date, place, duration, distance travelled and thus convey the rhythm and the space of this walking log (carnet de marche).
Éric Bourret’s images can be seen as photographic notes in a surveyor’s score. They attest to a subjective experience, as he himself has admitted: “The landscapes that I travel through and that travel through me constitute me. I see the photographic image is a receptacle of forms, energy and meaning”.
Since 1990 his work has been the subject of many exhibitions and has entered the collections of numerous museums and art centres in Europe, North and South America and Africa, including notably the Finnish Museum of Photography in Helsinki; the Museum of Contemporary Art of Tamaulipas in Mexico; the Musée d’Art moderne et d’Art contemporain in Nice; the Musée Picasso in Antibes; the Maison européenne de la photographie in Paris.
In 2015-17, he participated in several group expositions: Paris-Photo; Dallas Art Fair; Seattle Art Fair; Joburg Contemporary African Art ; AKAA in Paris; the Venice Biennale; and Start at the Saatchi Gallery in London.