Artist Interview: Karine Laval

Above Image: From the Series 'Anatomy of Desire'

Tell us about the work we featured within the ‘Temptation Issue’

The images featured in the Temptation issue are part of a larger body of work entitled “Anatomy of Desire”, which engages with the performance of sexuality, but also identity and desire. I was also interested in a notion intrinsic to photography and lens-based media in general: the gaze, and its related questions of seeing and being seen, of revealing and concealing. I started this project in 2008 after a traumatic personal event triggered a long period of insomnia. During that time I explored and took part in New York City’s gay nightlife, including illicit sex parties, as a way to face my own dark side and find catharsis. Sometimes accompanying my gay friends, sometimes wandering on my own, I photographed exclusively with my BlackBerry’s camera — the first generation of cell-phone cameras, several years before the advent of Instagram and the proliferation of iPhone photography generally.

From the Series 'Anatomy of Desire'

The spectacular and almost theatrical aspect of the scenes I witnessed fascinated me, as did the tension between the observer and the observed/exposed, and the shifting nature of these roles. I was also intrigued by the way the extremely low resolution of the camera created texture and gave the bodies a sculptural quality while at the same time blurring the contour of the human figure and reinforcing its dissipation. The dematerialized surface of the image seems to mirror the fleeting aspect of the close and brief encounters I photographed. I see a parallel between the mechanism of desire and the mechanism of photography in the longing to retain a momentary experience that is already gone once the camera has captured it. It’s interesting that the same type of device I used has now become a tool to facilitate intimate and sexual encounters. Some of the images in the series are presented as fragments and significantly enlarged to the limit of abstraction, whereas others are printed at a much smaller and intimate scale, with the image visible in its entirety to allow viewers the possibility of closer inspection.

The images in this series also address issues of privacy and surveillance, which are particularly relevant in a society where governments, media (including social media), and individuals themselves record and transmit every moment, movement, and conversation. In this context, our intimacy is often “acted out,” or performed, and the boundary between the private and the public becomes increasingly blurred as the private sphere offers itself as spectacle.

From the Series 'Anatomy of Desire'

Where do you see your work going, what is next in the development of your project?

Into unexpected directions! I’m only half kidding as I have chosen to pursue an artistic path as a means of liberation to free myself from the expected and daily routine, and to constantly explore the world within and around us. I’m interested in experimenting and questioning pre-established conventions, our familiar sense of perception and the way we apprehend reality. Over the past few years, I have been increasingly interested in the process of image making — as opposed to image taking — and its relationship to surface, texture, and materiality. At the moment, I find it a more exciting and rewarding approach than “straight” or documentary photography. It allows me to experiment freely and to welcome mistakes outside of the medium’s regular conventions. It is also a more creative and instinctive process, closer to other mediums such as painting or collage. My recent projects have to do with the dissolution of the image or the fragmentation of the world or the human figure, and explore the tension in photography between representation and abstraction, as well as its relationship with painting and sculpture. I’m also working on my first monograph, which will comprise a long-term project on the theme of the swimming pool and be published in 2015. More specifically on Anatomy of Desire, I’m looking for exhibition opportunities and have also conceived it as a book.


What inspires you? Who, Where, Why?

I always have a hard time answering that question as I find inspiration everywhere: in the world surrounding me, in my travels, dreams, encounters, music, dance, cinema, painting, conversations and many other things…

Our theme was ‘Temptation,’ how do you relate to this within your work and how would you define temptation.

Crossing boundaries in both literal and metaphorical ways.

Musee Magazine

Karine Laval is represented by the Benrubi Gallery

From the Land of Everywhere at Victori Contemporary

Book Review: Unverbunden by Sonja Trabandt

Book Review: Unverbunden by Sonja Trabandt